Let me tell you a story. One you may have heard before, but bears retelling none the less..
It is a story of Oppressing Armies, rebels, determination, the will to survive and perseverance.
Once upon a time there were some people who lived in a tight little community; they lived together, they worked together, and they all shared a belief passed to them through blood and through teaching.
They had a massive Temple , built for them with instructions of their God as passed through man.
It was a hard time in the world, and though they tried to simply hold on to what they had, they were overrun. Their temple was seized, and it was converted to the worship of the conqueror's God. This upset the local people, and though they wanted to fight and regain it, many felt the chance for reprisals too strong; the penalty for insurrection to harsh; in time the army made it punishable by death to even cling to the old religion.
Slowly, a small band of resistance fighters did emerge however - and the invading army gathered up the leaders of the community and told them " Worship our God!" and " Here, dine upon this swine" - both of which were strictly forbidden by their faith. One man, Matthias, was one of the high priests and he refused. It angered the invading army, and when a local villager said " I will do it for him" it angered Matthias so much that he drew a sword and slew him. Matthias then killed the man who had made the demands, and Matthias's sons and others from the village were emboldened enough to kill the remaining squadron of the invading soldiers.
They took to the hills, where others with the same desire to regain what they had lost banned with them. At some point they became known as Hasmoneans, or more commonly as "Maccabees".
The Maccabees were fierce fighters; they had both the will of their God with them, and a desire to see things set back as they had been. Matthias the Maccabee did not live to see it; most of his son's did including Judah, whose fierce fighting earned him the name "Judah the Hammer".They recaptured their sacred Temple, but it had been defiled with the worship of a false God as well as the sacrificing of swine. It was not fit for the service of their God, and needed to be purified and rededicated. To do so would require the burning of sacred oil, for eight days. They searched and searched the Temple, and were dismayed to find only enough oil for one day - one lonely day when eight were needed to prepare more. But with faith and determination they lit the Menorah with it's one day of oil, and it burned for 8 nights.
It was a miracle that happened there.
I love this little story - it speaks to parts of me I cannot explain - the firm determination of the Maccabees ; their faith that they could , would, and did see the retaking of that which was theirs; and the simple yet miraculous event that surrounded the one day's oil burning for 8 nights.
One thing I never understood growing up, in a Christian household - was why we did not celebrate Hanukkah too - we heard the tale each year in church, and these Maccabees were the Jews who from whom our Faith soon grew - to not celebrate such an amazing event baffled me.
Now, older, I have no field of religion upon which I pitch my tent; but so far as stories of hope, determination, faith and reward go, the story of Matthias and the Maccabees is one of the few that finds resonance in my bones.
Happy Hanukkah my friends, and remember - A miracle happened there...