In 2020, the Jewish festival Hanukah, or Festival of Lights, begins on December 10. On this night, Jewish families will use the central candle of the menorah, the servant candle, to light the first of the eight candles that represent the eight days of Hanukah.
As a child, Jesus probably celebrated Hanukah. Like many Jewish traditions, this celebration points to the coming Messiah. But while most Jews probably had no difficulty in seeing the light the Messiah would bring, visualizing Him as servant might have been more challenging. Did Mary imagine her son lighting up the world as the candles were lit? Did she realize that His role included the harder role of service as much as the more glorious role of illumination?
Jesus came as Messiah, a role that includes His kingship, but one that also includes servanthood. Isaiah 53 describes the coming Messiah as a suffering servant. At the last supper, Jesus assumed the role of a servant as He washed His disciples’ feet. Paul speaks of how Jesus took “the very nature of a servant.” (Phil. 2:7) The light Jesus brings into the world comes in the form of service. In coming as a servant, Jesus set an example for us. As the light of the world, He is the source of the light He asks us to be in our dark world.
The servant candle is an appropriate symbol of Jesus’ work in our lives. Like the unlighted candles of the menorah, we wait for the fire of Jesus to set us ablaze, to bring us light and life. As His Spirit brings light to us, we in turn act as servant candles to those around us.