|Yes, the usage of "A.D." is quite intentional, thank you.|
It wasn't until many years later that I heard a sermon that things began to change. The preacher made a passing reference to the "Feast of Dedication" in John 10:22 actually being Hanukkah. The thought that Jesus celebrated the feast fascinated me. The basic facts of Hanukkah made it a great holiday to observe for anyone connected to the Temple at Jerusalem. Even as a Christian, I find that the themes are certainly worth celebrating.
Dedication... When Antiochus IV attacked Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple mount, forbidding sacrifices and erecting statues of Zeus, the Jews had to make some hard decisions. Being inferior in military power and under the demoralization that comes from such humiliations, they could have been passive and gone along with the status quo. But Hanukkah celebrates the passion and faith that inspired and informed the Maccabean Revolt which eventually led to the reestablishment or dedication (that's what the word Hanukkah means) of Temple worship. Psalm 69:9 makes it clear that it is a good thing to be zealous for God's house of worship and to be personally insulted whenever God is dishonored.
Light... God's divine power was not only seen in granting victory to the Maccabees in their revolt. The miracle of Hanukkah was also in the supernatural provision of 8 days worth of light when there was only one day's worth of oil. It is evident from this divine occurrence that God was enabling the work of re-dedication for His glory and for the good of the nation. Jesus declared Himself to be "the Light of the World" (John 8:12 and again in John 9:5) and in the beginning of John's gospel we are told that the life within Jesus is, in fact, the light of men (John 1:4-5). Jesus also makes reference to light as being necessary to do the work of God which flows well with the significance behind the need for light in the re-dedication that Hanukkah commemorates (John 9:3-4).
Historical Context... I used to struggle with the idea that Christmas itself was never something believers in Christ were mandated to celebrate. However, Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, which, by the way, is not a festival mandated in the Old Testament. What can we say? Is Jesus acting against the word of God? Safe to say, that's an impossibility. But it seems to me that Jesus, in the historical context of His humanity and national identity, saw fit to celebrate God's faithfulness to His people in the miracle of Hanukkah. If this is true, then I think I can safely say two things:
1. Christmas is certainly worth celebrating though as a festival it is "extra-biblical". What could be more worthy of celebration than the Incarnation of Christ which fulfills the hopes of all those counted righteous by God since the Garden?
2. Happy Hanukkah!