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Shammash - the smallest candle at Hanukkah

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As a grandmother, you’d expect it from me, I know. To hear me tell you that my grandson was the best, the bravest, the inspiration to us all, does not surprise anyone. Even our David would roll his eyes at Gramma’s praise – for what did he really want, but to live, to be a boy, to grow to be a man and yes, to be a Shamash.

Neither David nor I are Jewish, but those of you who are know what a Shamash is - the servant candle of the Menorah – the one that is used to light the others.

I too had heard the story many times – of how the oil was lit to celebrate victory, and the pure oil sufficient to burn a single day lasted eight days. Yet we seldom think about the candle that lit the victory oil. The Shamash was the one kept ready - prepared to light the other candles. His brother Michael was quick to remind me what David said himself – he was just a man – one who did not want the pain he endured, but one who was willing to search for and find the worth in it – quietly, valiantly.

Whether small and reserved and ready at the right hand, or elevated at the center, the Shamash – the lighting candle on the menorah – reminds me of our David. It gives me courage in our struggling economy and soothes the fears of what may lie ahead for our country, for the world, for me personally, and for those I care about. It speaks to me of what God has already done, assures me of the unexplainable He is capable of doing, and gives me courage to guard my own little flame from the winds of unbelief.

Some might think David’s faith (and ours) was in vain, for didn’t he suffer, and isn’t he no longer with us? Others know better and continually testify as to his flame in their lives and now in others that continues to illuminate their paths and point the way to peace despite life’s turbulence. And isn’t this a miracle too, that one so young completed his calling while even his grandmother struggles with obedience and living love restrained only by unselfish motivation. So what can I do?

I can listen and then I can speak. Softly, to fan the flame of hope in others who bear similar pain. I can weep. In joy as well as sorrow, I can weep with others for like-experience brings comfort and living-evidence brings assurance. That “knowing” like the purest oil, brings health and strength from within when the clear vision of victory and purpose is held aloft. I can accept. Understanding the darkness and unknowing, I can accept others fears and doubts, relieved no one need depend on me to do what I cannot, yet rejoice that David’s candle has lit my heart so that its flame can spill over onto their path. I can give. The knowledge we gained researching his disease was for him, and also for others yet to live. The bonding of our hearts is a gift impossible without the mutual journey through deep waters. The receptiveness to others’ needs I would not feel as deeply had I not known both desolation and the joy of receiving.

Times of hardship are here for some and coming for others. Things will get hoarded and spoil or shared and used up. We may run out of heating fuel or gas for our cars, power for light or money to purchase those supplies, but the enemy only conquers when hope is gone.

I hoped to carry that flame to our offspring; instead David passed the torch of hope to me. He carried a flame that ignited the source - creating greater light than by glowing on his own. Sometimes for me the cold wind of fear accompanies sharing myself, wondering will my light go out? Will my light diminish? Will I have the strength to survive? Surprisingly, I continually discover that instead of depending on my own light to guide others, every small selfless act (giving-up and trusting in the Source of miracles for the strength) begets a flame that is fed by the breath of life, designed and destined to reignite warmth and hope from generation to generation. Left to itself, my light flickers at every breeze and cringes at every weather report. But God’s eternal light does not fail. Giving in His strength does not fail to give hope to the receiver as well as to the giver.

Fear of loss outlines our future, for none of us are exempt. Already our pension has been lowered; our bank account is smaller. Greater losses than possessions - of someone dear, of our own health, our freedoms, loom on the horizon. Remembering what God has done through David helps me to know that whatever my experience will be, it can also be a Shamash for those in my circle of influence. I can speak the words of eternal hope. I can weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. I can accept fear in others because I too ran to God in weakness and found that He will be my strength. And whatever I lose in this uncertain future, I will still have whatever I gave away.

As Dave shared through his 5 years of trials and pain, his questions always ran the same pattern – What are you doing, God? What can I learn from this? How can I help others through this?

His answers were revealed through his daily life and faith as one kind person wrote that ‘many are watching and wonder’.

Here’s to you, Dave. May my questions be as unselfish as yours, may my life be a light of willing service, and above all may others see in me your gift of unexpected hope. May I be a light in the darkness.

Celebrate Hanukkah at: www.bethmessiah.us/about.htm

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