By this nightfall the menorah has five lights burning. When the first lamp was lit in the Temple as the people returned to it for its rededication, there was only enough oil for one night’s light. But that one small amount of oil, sufficient it seemed for just one day, continued to burn, for eight more days. And Hanukah began. This light was a gift; a gift that continues to burn in the hearts of the faithful. They came with many prayers, hopes and even fears, weary from war, from exile and ready to be home again.
Light the lights of Hanukah and Christmas pray and praying continue to be gifts to us beyond a week or the season, but as the light burning in our hearts, that is the unceasing prayer of the Spirit that prays within us, with ‘sights too deep for words’ as Paul says in Romans (8:26-27). It is the Spirit of the holy days and holidays that light our ways now. The prayer of praise for the light, for the return home, for a light that came into the darkened heart of winter, to a remnant that awaited his coming because they believed the scriptures promised he could come. Come and become the promise himself. The Jerusalem Temple lives on in the hearts and imaginations of all who at one time or another called it holy and their home. Jesus of Nazareth called it his home too, Yahweh’s home (the gypsy-god no longer dwelling with his people in tents; Jesus said it was his Father’s home, a place of prayer. When Jesus left the world, he sent the gift of his Spirit so that he could remain and by his Spirit lead us back, back to the true home and temple of the heart.
Paul’s injunction to pray at all times was to take this Spirit to ourselves and carry it with us like a Light. A Light that was a miracle. A Light that is God-with-us. The gift of the Spirit is this gift of Light. And the gift of prayer.
For prayer, in this Light, is not just something we do. It is a way of being.