Summer heat holds the air. The bronzing sun falls beneath the horizon. As the blanket of darkness is pulled across the sky people young and old flee their homes seeking wonder. Masses gather gazing towards the heavens anticipating the genesis of their amazement. The hush of the crowd is broken by a cannon-like burst followed by a breach in the night. The blackness of the evening’s ceiling is in a moment undone by the flash of multicolor pearls of light. One after the other, the sky is illuminated, leaving children and the aged awestruck alike. With mouths gaping and eyes fixed, everyone’s mind is filled with wonder and their hearts are carried away for a brief time. As the sky darkens once again the multitude hastens back to their dwellings, singing the praises of the glorious display of power and artistry they have just witnessed.
Two thousand years ago this would sound like an appearance of angels, possibly to shepherds on a hillside, but today this is a yearly occasion for Americans – any one of the Fourth of July events centered upon a fireworks display. The question that arises from such an occasion is why do we find such wonder and amazement in fireworks? Why do they, year after year, from our youngest days to the day of our death, cause us to stand in awe? I do no think it is not simply because they are loud to the ears or spectacular to the eyes, though they are. It is not simply because fireworks awaken the inner child within us all, who finds amazement in the simple pleasures of life, though they do. I believe it is something deeper. Something deep within us as well as something greatly outside of us.
The reason, I believe, we find such wonder in fireworks is their shadowy reflection of our Creator and mankind’s universal knowledge of Him. Just think about it for a minute. We were created by God, bearers of His image, to know Him and to enjoy fellowship with Him. Mankind was appointed as vice-regents of creation, to be under-creators, being made in His image. But something terrible happened. Mankind was not satisfied with his position and sought to become more like God through his own efforts. Rebelling against his Creator, the human race fell from its exalted position, marring the image of God though not destroying it. While, before the fall, all human creativity and work was to be a reflection of God Himself, bringing Him glory, now, after the fall, mankind creates and works for his own glory, though a tension or better yet an unfulfilled desire exists. Since all of creation was meant to point to and be a testimony to God’s glory and might, when we enjoy, find amazement in, or set our affections on something/one created our hearts cry out for something greater. Something greater than ourselves. Something greater that the world around us. Our hearts cry out for God.
So how do fireworks fit into this picture. Who is praised after the fireworks are over? The manufacturers, the firework technicians, or the proprietors of the place putting on the show are all the usual recipients, but rarely ever is God praised. Fireworks are a creation of man for the praise and enjoyment of man. Still bearing the image of our Creator, we create and continue to do so unknowingly as a reflection of Him. Fireworks are mere glimmers of creativity and power in comparison to God and His creation. Just look past the fireworks and you will see the wonder, the beauty, the power of God in the expanse of the heavens and the heavenly bodies that fill it. The Psalmist proclaimed, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). While fireworks come and go in an instant, God’s creation continues on. Stars continue to shine, planets perpetually revolve, and we, here on this earth, minuscule in comparison to all things, still live. It is He who in the beginning “created the heavens and the earth”, who spoke and said, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light”, and who at the very moment “upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Amazing! This, I believe gets at the root of our awe of fireworks. In those moments we catch a glimpse of the most spectacular fireworks display ever, God creating. To ignore this is to deprive ourselves of seeing and enjoying God’s glory in creation reflected through His image bearers. It is to deny the very reason we were created.
This God is still at work today, not only upholding all things but is at work undoing the effects of our sin in us as well as in the world. Not only do we need to stand in awe of the Creator of all things, we need that same God to illuminate our hearts through the work of the Holy Spirit, for our hearts are a dark void just as the world was before God spoke light into existence. We all need what Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Without this light given by the grace of God the only wonder and joy we will ever find in this world and for eternity will be in fleeting flashes, shadows of beauty, and quiet echoes of something more.
Enjoy the show, stand in awe and wonder, but remember that behind all that you see is the hand, the reflection, the presence of God.