Last night, my wife and I had the pleasure of partaking in an amazing light show in English Bay. For almost two decades, each summer has seen an international competition called Celebration of Light, in which pyrotechnic devices are launched from a barge anchored between Stanley & Vanier Parks. On any ordinary summer evening, just being at any of these or other beaches in Vancouver is already a great experience, but the fireworks certainly are good at drawing a crowd. However, this particular evening was different for a number of reasons. This time we were invited by a friend to join him on his parents' residential sailboat, which afforded both an excellent view and separation from the crowds. On two previous occasions, we had taken transit and enjoyed flowing with the masses on streets, SkyTrain, and docks connected by the False Creek ferry network. And unlike a typical summer day in Vancouver, it was raining. But this was not the usual dark and dreary drizzle experienced continuously (as it sometimes seems) from November to February. We were, instead, in the midst of a majestic thunderstorm.
Thunderstorms are rare in metro Vancouver. However, since we grew up in southern Ontario, and also spent a summer in Florida and eight years in the midwestern US, thunderstorms were not new to us. Nevertheless, this one was spectacular. Unlike most weather systems on the south coast of BC, this one traveled from east to west, and featured lightning and thunder at varying levels of intensity for about four hours. While waiting for the fireworks put on that evening by South Africa, we sat under the sailboat's nice new tarp and counted the seconds between the brilliant bolts and the thunder which followed (three per kilometer), and wondered if the event would be washed out or if the occasional clear patch of sky might make it our way. As darkness approached, the sunset presented a magnificent orange and pink backdrop for the occasional flash of lightning (followed by oohs and aahs of admiration), while boats and crowds braving the only somewhat abated rainfall approach the scene. But, despite the preparation, no one was ready for the kind of display we next experienced.
Just moments before 10pm, when the show would begin, hundreds of thousands witnessed the most amazing lightning episode of their lives. An exuberant streak of dazzling yellow-white light raced across the sky from right to left on its jagged course, forking into multiple prongs. The congregation on the beach and on the Bay cheered in matching exuberance. At 10pm sharp, South Africa's show opener was greeted with relatively muted applause. Shortly afterward lightning streaked again, equally energetically and also horizontal and forking, but this time from right to left. The crowd erupted with thunderous applause!
The fireworks went on for 25 minutes, and were spectacular. But whose fireworks won, some asked: God's, or South Africa's? Clearly, everyone was impacted by the glorious display of nature's power in conjunction with the fireworks. There is a different aesthetic between the handiwork of God and that of man. The man-made show exhibited symmetry, synchronization, and harmony, in comparison to the raw unpredictable power of lightning. In each case, ultimately God deserves the credit, not only because He created and sustains the cosmos in all its detail, including the physical and chemical transformations which took place that night, but also because He has created humanity with the context, ability, and curiosity to probe into the structure of created reality as well as with the creative ingenuity to fashion a dynamic demonstration of brilliance and beauty. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!