The Greek ruler of those days — Antiochus Epiphanes imposed very harsh new laws and rules when he first came to the land of Israel. He began changing and transforming Israel to suit him.
He oppressed the Jewish people by outlawing the Jewish faith, rites, and traditions that were kept by observant Jews, and instead ordered the worship of Zeus as the supreme god.
The boiling point for the Jewish people came when he deliberately defiled the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Matatiyahu, a young Jew from the priestly family of Maccabees stood up and organized a revolt against Antiochus and his rules that went against the God of Israel, desecrated the Jewish faith, and holy scriptures.
After the successful revolt, led by a small number of Jews against a massive empire, they entered Jerusalem, liberating the city as well as the temple, finding it absolutely desecrated.
They had to reconsecrate the defiled temple of God in Jerusalem. Aside from the Hanukkah miracle of the oil that was supposed to only last for one day, lasted for 7 days, cleansing and rededicating the temple to God once again, the miracle was also the freedom God had given them to worship Him once again without oppression and persecutions. It is a privilege we tend to take for granted, but it is a freedom that oftentimes had to be fought for and bought with blood.
Hanukkah in Hebrew means “dedication”. That is what it is all about, chasing the darkness away and bringing back the light through the rededication of something that you might have considered lost or too defiled to be used again by God.
Hanukkah was about the courage of a few to stand up giant darkness, fight against it, take out the idols from what belongs to God, and rededicate it to God once again. The freedom they gained in return was priceless, to be able to worship God once again was a tremendous victory and worth everything they had to fight against.
In Israel today, whenever someone moves into a new place, a housewarming party is called “Hanukkat Ba’it” (House Dedication). Sometimes a family will invite a local rabbi to say special prayers over the new house, and they will put up a mezuzah on their doorposts (that contains a little scripture scroll). That is the ceremony of Hanukkat Ba’it in Israel, the dedication of the house.
God made us His living temple. Regardless of our past, what we have done before, or the ruins we were when God first found us, He bought us out by His blood, cleansed us from all darkness that we were filled with, and rededicated us to Himself.
That is the true significance of Hanukkah, which I invite you to celebrate these days along with the house of Israel.