Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lovers of the Light

A few days after I arrived back in Colombia, Diana, the administrative assistant at the vineyard, asked if I would like to join her for an afternoon in Tibasosa, a well-preserved colonial town just across the valley from Puntalarga. I was happy to have the opportunity to explore more of Boyacá, a place that continues to impress me with its beauty as well as the warmness of its people, los Boyacenses!  When we arrived, we were immediately invited to taste the local specialty, sabajon.  The traditional flavor is feijoa (guava-like) but my favorite variety was cafĂ©.  It was basically the equivalent of Bailey’s.  Yes, please!  We watched as Boyacenses gathered around the town square for the festivities leading up to the lighting of the square.  The highlight was a dance competition between 4 sweet couples, most of whom appeared to be in their 70’s.

The dance was regional and the crowd loved it!  Then we hiked up the hill to an awesome restaurant called Salvaje Amistoso that had great views of the town.  

We arrived just as the rain did and so we had time to share stories.  Diana’s is one of hard work and determination.  She has a spirited 6-year old daughter named Mariana but goes by Luna.  She lives with Luna and her equally-spirited mother Miriam, in the house 50 meters down the hill from the house I’m living in.  But she spends most of her time in the office in the main house, keeping up with the business of the vineyard.  I was thankful for this time to get to know her better.

Just as the rain lifted, the lights of Tibasosa were illuminated.  It was quite a scene!  Rows of lights draped the entire town square.  The bright white cathedral was now brilliantly white with lights.  

And the “winterscape” on one side of the square made me miss my snow blanketed Vail Valley.  

That would be Santa, chilling in a hammock in a tree

As we were leaving the town to make our way for another city of lights, Nobsa, we exited through a block long tunnel of lights.  And it got me thinking. 

What is it about lights that we love?

Think about it.  There is an amazing fascination with lights, especially this time of year.  Many cities and towns across the world celebrate the lighting of a tree in the center of town and everyone “Oooohs” and “Aaaahs.”  We decorate our own trees and then wait for the moment of truth when someone has the honor of plugging in the lights to illuminate the painstaking work that has been done to cut down the tree and bring it home… or dig it out of storage and carefully attach the right branch to the right hole.  We attend parades of lights and visit festivals of lights. 

And it’s not just in the United States.

Colombia has fully embraced Christmas lights.  Tibasosa is an example.  And then we made our way through Sogamoso and on to Nobsa for their, more tasteful light display.  All of this was during “La Noche de las Velitas” or “The Night of Little Candles” when everyone lights candles outside their home to express their belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.  I’m amazed I only saw one paper bag burning from the candle inside during the evening.  And then I saw the highway that runs through Puntalarga transform into a tropical winter scene as I understood the purpose for the palm trees made from plastic bottles.  It doesn’t look so great during the day.  But at night, it’s really pretty cool.  (Sorry...no pic of this.)

And our love of lights isn't just a Christmas phenomena. 

Consider Paris – the City of Lights – where I began the journey in September 2013.  The lights in the city create a glow like no place on earth.  And of course there is the Eiffel Tower that now sparkles with lights for a few minutes at the top of every hour – drawing the attention of millions of tourists and locals each year. 

Speaking of Paris – we love candlelit dinners, when that someone special sitting across from you is illuminated by a candle and everything else seems to fade away.  Or cozy campfires where the light also gives warmth to those huddled around it.  Or fireworks displays that dazzle us with the light that seems to rain down on us. 

What is it about light that we love?  

As I’ve pondered this question, I have found, for me, the answer is I love the light because it is symbolizes that which I am seeking after in my life – Jesus, who said “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)

As I was thinking about the love of light, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a woman in Pokhara, Nepal last November.  She had spoken to a group of Nepali women about how “light” appears in the Bible.  I don’t remember much of what she said so I decided to do my own little study of “light” in the Bible. 

Here are some of the things that were brought to light. (Sorry… I had to.)   

“Light” is in the very first and the very last chapters of the Bible:
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)
“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  And night will be no more.  They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:3-5)

God has used “Light” to save people from death and destruction:
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.” (Exodus 13:21) – referring to the Israelites as they were fleeing the captivity of the Egyptians.

David, a man after God’s own heart, knew the power of the “Light” that was the Lord:
“There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good?  Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!’” (Psalm 4:6)
“For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28)
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)
“He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” (Psalm 37:6)
“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!” (Psalm 43:3)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130)
“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:11-12)

“Light” is sweet:
Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.”  (Ecclesiastes 11:7)  Amen!  As I trudged up a mountain in the middle of the night a year ago, I kept telling myself, “Just wait for the sky to get light… you know you can do this.”  I’ve never seen a sunrise sweeter than the one from the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
The “Light” transforms people:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”  (Isaiah 9:2)

The “Light” comforts:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:6-7)

 The “Light” shines brightest in the darkness:
No one knew this better than Job.  Did you know that the word “light” appears the most in the entire Bible in the book of Job, 29 times?  “Job” is considered to be the oldest book in the Bible.  It is the epic story of the faithfulness of a man to God in the midst of being tested by Satan – as in losing EVERYTHING – and ultimately trusting in God as his creator.  Job knew and lived in light.  And then he knew and lived in darkness.  To him the difference was real and great.  At the beginning of his trial he asked: “Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?” (Job 3:16)  But then Job defends his God to his friends, “He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light.” (Job 12:22)  Job later explains to his friends “How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone on my head and by his light I walked through darkness.” (Job 29:3)  Then Job’s friend Elihu reminds Job, “God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.” (Job 33:28)  And then the Lord speaks up.  He reminds Job of the true nature of the creator God.  “What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?” (Job 38:24)

(The most interesting description of light might be when the Lord describes his creation of the Leviathan: “His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn.” (Job 41:18) His sneezes flash forth light?  I’m sorry, but that’s just funny to imagine.) 

And as I consider the darkness in the world that I read about in the news, or that I know others are experiencing in their own reality, I know I am looking for some light in the darkness, for the “good news” instead of being pummeled by bad news and sad news. 

The “Light” is the Good News:
The Good News is that “Light” came into the world when God became man in the form of a baby named Jesus.  “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:4-5,9-13) 

The “Light” taught us of the power of “Light”:
The following are words spoken by Jesus about light…
“You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14-16)  I know I have failed at this many times.  My light has gone out many times.  Lord, thank you for reigniting my lamp.  May I be faithful to keep it shining. 
 “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27)    
“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.  For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.  Therefore consider carefully how you listen.  Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.” (Luke 8:16-18) 
“Your eye is the lamp of your body.  When your eye is healthy, your whole body if full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.  Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” (Luke 11:34-36)
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)  Amen?  Amen!

The “Light” convicts:
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes in to the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”  (John 3: 19-21)

The “Light” gives hope for a New Day:
“For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.” (Luke 17:24)

As you see the lights throughout this Christmas season, my prayer is that everyone would know the loving power of the “Light of the World” who wants to bring all of us from darkness into light. 

I’ll leave you with Linus and his words… after he said “Lights, please!”

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