“And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations.” – Isaiah 42:6b (NASB)
In the Jewish tradition, Hanukkah commemorates a miracle witnessed during the reign and oppression of Antiochus IV. He placed Hellenistic priests in the temple and further desecrated the temple by requiring pigs to be sacrificed. He also massacred Jews and placed restrictions on the practice of their religion.
The Jews revolted and successfully overthrew Antiochus IV. Afterward, they wanted to rededicate the temple but only had enough undefiled oil to burn for a single night. (The law required that the menorah burn throughout the night, every night.) The oil, however, held out for eight days, during which time the priests were able to produce a new, clean supply of oil.
The gift of oil and light is miraculous, but it resounds with something much more profound. It suggests the God who never wearies, the God who accompanied the Israelites as a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. This God cannot be snuffed out; he is the great Light to whom darkness is nothing at all (Psalm 139:11-2). He is the Light the darkness can never overcome (John 1:5), the Light that gives our hearts unfailing hope (Romans 5:1-5).