Written by my friend Aaron Gann, reproduced here with permission.
Today we stare at the lights of Hanukkah, let us focus on one of the most important symbols of the Holiday. The burning of the candles or oil.
According to later Jewish tradition, after the Maccabees had made their way to Jerusalem and had begun to clean up the temple, they were stuck with another dilemma. In order for the Holy Place to be completely dedicated, they had to light the Menorah, the seven branched candle stick that provided the light within.
When Antiochus had entered into the temple, desecrating it, he also had allowed the oil to run out, causing the fire to die. This was something that The Lord had commanded not to happen, for it was to be Aish Tamid, a continuous fire. This fire was to burn perpetually inside of the Holy Place where the priests would minister, and it was to represent the presence of God in their midst.The dilemma came because they could not find enough oil for it to last the entire amount of time needed for new oil to be prepared. Instead all that could be found was one jar that still had the High Priests seal on it. This one jar would only last one day, whereas it takes eight days in order for the oil to be properly prepared. It was ultimately decided, however, that though it would go out the next morning, it would again be kindled regardless, for it had stood empty for long enough.
The next day however, when they came to check on it. The people found the Menorah still burning, this continued until the next day, and the day after that. The oil continued to burn for all the days that were required to bring to it a fresh supply, and thus it is traditional that we light candles or burn oil for the eight days of Hanukkah.
During the time of First century Israel, there was much debate on how to light these “Chanukias” a lampstand with nine branches, eight for the lights and one for the Servant lighter. One Jewish school of thought stated that one should start with all eight lit, and diminish one each night, signifying the counting down of the days and the shrinking of the miracle as the oil was being prepared. In stark contrast, another Jewish school of thought stated that one should start with a single light, and continue to add because the miracle grew day by day. Ultimately it was decided to add the lights rather than diminish, for God caused to the oil to burn for as many days as would be required.
Tonight as we stare at the lights, let us remember that The Lord does not require of us to have eight days of oil to give to Him. Rather He asks us to give, just as the Maccabees, all that we can, and He will cause it to last for however long He needs it too. That even when it seems that all that we can give is woefully insufficient, and that it will shortly go out, He will cause it to burn.