I'm sorry you're offended.
No, actually, I'm not. I really, truly, with the utmost sincerity, couldn't care less.
You see anything we touch, anything... everything, is tainted and adulterated by human selfish pride. There's not a good thing, not a great thing, that hasn't been utterly, scandalously manipulated with evil intent. That's just who we are. It's what we do best.
Paul tells us in Romans 3:10, that there is, "...none righteous, not one. There is none that understands. There is none that seeks after God." We have all gone out of the way, and together have added a cumulative value of nothing: there is none that does good, not even one."
Get over it.
In Isaiah 63, the character of God is described for us, as giving beauty where there are ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that we may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, so that He might be glorified.
I love Christmas.
And it is no more a pagan ritual than Superbowl Sunday (though, I suppose that argument could be made). Christmas is a season for giving. It is the story of God in heaven giving His only Son as a sacrifice of atonement, of forgiveness, of all the sin debt accumulated in the world for all time. It is the fulfillment of God's Promise to Abraham, that in his Seed, all nations of the earth shall be blessed.
The Christmas Tree is no more a druid ritual than fresh cut flowers. If people would study their history instead of jumping on mindless witch-hunts, they would know that the pagan ritual was to dig up a young deciduous sapling and care for it throughout the winter, not hack down an evergreen and decorate it with lights and orbs. The lights came from Martin Luther, to remind us of God's Promise to Abraham, that his descendants would outnumber the stars in the sky. The orbs, traditionally represented fresh fruit. Poor people couldn't afford real fruit, so that made wooden or clay orbs and painted them. Inside each orb, in the earliest days, was a gift for the children: usually something sweet to eat (a very rare treat). The evergreen started as a representation of the Trinity from an early German pastor. It has three distinctive points, when you look at it one way; but is also perfectly round when you turn it on its side. Gifts are exchanged on Christmas because it is the birthday of the King. And since, the mortal kings didn't really want or need token gifts every year from his subjects, they would exchange gifts to one another, in honor of his birthday.
Christmas is the busiest season for American retailers. Over than 80% of all sales occur during the months of November and December: Christmas shopping. When people bemoan the commercialization of Christmas, they miss the point all together. Christmas is about giving. That 80% of commerce is mostly buying stuff for people we love. That's a good thing.
I love Christmas. I love the opportunity people take to reach out to one another with compassion, to offer a cup of something warm to someone who is cold, to give beyond our natural means, to offer greetings of hope and cheer to perfect strangers, to talk about the Messiah to people who would never otherwise be willing to listen.
Is there bad stuff that goes on?
Do people use the good will of others to their own advantage?
Why should that change?
But, at Christmas, people are willing to see good and do good anyway.
I love Christmas.
But, I need Chanukah.
It's funny that the Jewish celebration of Hanukah is never found in the Jewish Bible. It's a story about something that happened 300 years after the Book of Malachi (the last book of the Jewish Tanakh/the Christian Old Testament) was written, and about a hundred years before the Messiah was born. It's in the Apocryphal books (part of the Catholic Bible) but Jewish sages and early Christians considered it good history, but not theologically reliable, and was not included in the most common collections of Sacred Writ.
The story of Hannukah is about the Maccabees, (in Hebrew, it means, "the Hammers") and their revolution against oppression and the indifference that empowers those who would oppress.
The Syrian King, Antiochus, had made Jewish worship illegal, plundered the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and demanded that everyone under his rule worship him as their god. He forced sacrifices of pigs in every city and village. He destroyed every Hebrew document his armies could find, he killed anyone who did not comply.
What's astounding is that, for most people in Israel, during this siege, it wasn't really any big deal. Most of them couldn't speak Hebrew, anyway. And, since the conquest of Alexander the Great, Jewish worship was little more than a novelty for most.
Seeing how Greek philosophy was changing the world, many Jewish scholars started to look for ways that they could justify incorporating Greek thought into Jewish culture. They decided to interpret the Bible in a placid, literal way, redefining terms (when necessary) to accommodate Greek ideas. This method of biblical interpretation was led by a group of priests and scholars who called themselves, "benai Tzaddockim," or, "The Sons of Zaddock", after the High Priest who shared leadership over Israel with King David. In the New Testament, the Benai Tzaddockim was transliterated a little easier for Greek speakers to say, "the Sadducees."
In the hill country, North of Jerusalem and East of the Dead Sea, there were still some believers who followed the Bible. And when Antiochus' men came to force their allegiance, they mounted a revolt. For three years, the Maccabees fought against the Syrian forces. They eventually wore down the Syrian forces, making the campaign too costly to continue.
The Maccabees repatriated Jerusalem.
They made their first and highest priority to restore biblical worship on the Holy Mountain where the Temple stood, empty. Sacrifices were offered. Worship began; but one of the most sacred elements, the Menorah, the candle of God's Light, needed to be lt.
The Menorah represented the Shekinah, the Divine Presence of God. It lit the sacred chamber of worship in the Temple, where the priests would come, daily, to offer incense and arrange the sacred loaves of bread. It was believed that, as long as the Holy Light was burning, the Presence of God was among the people of Israel.
But, there was a problem. The precious oil used to burn the lamps of the Menorah had been stolen or destroyed. They managed to find one cruse, enough to burn for one day; but the process of making oil to sustain the candle would take eight days. It was a violation of God's commands to let the candle burn out, but it was also a violation for not to have it burning. They had a big argument. The winners of the debate formed a new theological order or separatists. No more would they cower to the flow of indifference; but they would live in dedication to God, applying every aspect of their lives singularly as worship. They became known as the "Parushim" (separatists), later, transliterated as Pharisees.
It was finally decided that delayed obedience is disobedience. They would light the Menorah, knowing that it would only burn for one day. They would relight it again when the replacement oil was finished; but they couldn't delay in doing what they knew was right with what they had that moment.
According to the miracle of Chanuka, the candle burned for the entire eight days without needing more oil and did not go out, even though there was not enough oil to sustain it.
The Hebrew word Chanukkah means "Dedication." We find the Feast of Dedication mentioned in the New Testament, John 10:22, when Messiah's disciples gathered in Jerusalem to worship. The Hanukiah, the eight candelabra used during Hanuka, became idiomatically known as, "the Light of the World." It is the pledge of the Jewish people, that "We will burn brightly against all tyranny and injustice because we serve the God who is faithful."
I need Channukah.
Because, while Christmas is about giving what I have to others, Chanukka is about giving myself to God. Hannuka is a celebration of standing for what is right and good against any and all odds, regardless of how impossible it may seem. Hanukkah is about being true to myself, my beliefs, my family, my country and my God.