This is my first year without my Hanukkiah, the special menorah for Hanukkah. It’s packed away someplace in our garage, waiting to move up to the mountains. I don’t even have a way to get to the store to buy candles … and the only candles I have on hand are a package of birthday candles. Short of a genuine Hanukkah miracle, those will only last a few nights. But I’m determined, not just because Hanukkah is a fun tradition, but mainly because it’s a powerful reminder. A reminder that I often need, perhaps more today than ever:
The enemy may be strong, but God is stronger. And He is always, always, ALWAYS victorious.
Who would’ve known that a ragtag group of Jewish guerrillas could defeat the Greek army? Who would’ve known that a controversial Jewish rabbi could conquer sin and death? Who would’ve known that the Spirit of that rabbi could live in and work through a common girl who screws up time and time again? (Yeah, me.)
Yet here we are. Redeemed by a miracle that far outshines a matter of 1 day’s oil wondrously lasting for 8 days. (Which is no small thing.) Here we are, and not only has our Redeemer shown His great and miraculous power, but He has shown it in and through us at great cost to Himself. He is not only the One who brings unexpected victory to small nations rising up in their holy passion, but also the One who brings victory to small individuals struggling to keep their heads above water and their spirits from drowning in the darkness of despair. He’s not only the One who kept the oil burning 8 times longer than it naturally should have … He’s the One who keeps my spirit on fire when the storms of life threaten to prevail, when the wind refuses to fan the flame and threatens to extinguish it, when the rain and the waves strive to destroy all life within me. He is the One!
There are those in my life who would like me to believe that I am worthless, unforgiven, unworthy, and no way can God use me. The only thing that’s true about that is that I’m truly unworthy. (Does any of this resonate with you? Are there people — or maybe your own thoughts — who tell you these same things?)
You are not worthless. My husband used to sell real estate and you know what I learned? A property is only as valuable as what someone is willing to pay for it. Well, honey, the Creator of the Universe came to Earth 2000 plus-or-minus years ago to live the miserable life of a human being and then suffer a horrendous death in order to bring you life. Tell me you’re worthless again?
You are not unforgiven. The only thing that can keep you from being forgiven is refusing forgiveness. Beyond that, forgiveness is all-encompassing, overwhelming, and can cover any and every wrong you have ever committed. To say you cannot be forgiven is to say that Jesus’ blood was not effective. Is that what you meant to say? I thought not.
Unworthy? Well, yes … AND YET. He chose you, He clothed you, He called you. He made you worthy. Neither you nor I are worthy in and of ourselves, but He has decided to make us so. And really … do you want to argue with God?
No way can God use you? Beloved, if God could use a King who was an adulterer and murderer (hello, King David), allow his songs to be sung for 3000 years and call him “a man after God’s heart” … if He could use a fisherman who had a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth and even denied Him (3 times — hello, Peter, the Rock, the first Pope) … don’t you think He is powerful enough to use even you? Or do you think that you’re so important and your sins are somehow great enough to overpower the dynamis that brought life from death?
The Hanukkah story is that of the underdog being championed by the greatest, most glorious God ever. It’s the story of “those who rise up against us” learning that we don’t stand alone. It’s the story of impossible possibilities.
And yeah, that’s worth scrounging up a few birthday candles if that’s all I can come up with. It’s worth burning them in a glass jar if that’s all I have to hold them. Because if God can use me in my unworthiness and imperfection, He can certainly use birthday candles in a glass jar. (And maybe that’s more fitting than a fancy Hanukkiah.)
Tonight you need three: Two candles because it’s the second night of Hanukkah. A third candle, the servant candle to light them with. Let them burn until they are completely melted. You will need 44 total over 8 days. Trust God to provide. (Because that’s also what Hanukkah’s about.)
It’s worth scrounging up candles not only to remind yourself that God is greater … but also to say, Whatever it takes, whatever I have to do, Lord, I refuse to let anything stop me from bringing honor to Your name.
PS – Regardless of your candle situation, you can’t celebrate Hanukkah without the Maccabeats. Just saying.
PS – Here’s my makeshift Hanukkiah. And yes, that’s dog kibble. (Our cat litter is made from pine and I was afraid that might catch fire.) You do what you gotta do.