And so, it begins.
The first of the fireworks. Small sporadic eruptions of noise mixed with peels of laughter from the children as they sing in the new year.
The beginning of a celebration to mark the old and new.
The fireworks progress over the evening changing in variety, tenacity, and tone. Booms echo in the distance, brilliant colors sparkle in the night sky, and the coconut trees seem to sway as they too watch the marking of a new year.
If you close your eyes you might just mistake the noise for war, like an unexpected battle raging all around with no sense of time or space.
I know exactly when midnight occurs, not by a ball dropping or the clock chiming; rather, from the crescendo of events displayed right outside my bedroom window. Whether I want to watch or not, the dazzling finale cannot be ignored.
Then it is over.
The peaceful chirping of the coqui frogs breaks the silence and the new year doesn’t feel any different than the old one.
So, what was the last hours of fuss all about?
I believe the answer is… HOPE.
The hopeful expectation that the new year will be better than the last. Pursuits of health, wealth, and happiness can recommence and we will the fulfillment of our hearts' desires.
This hopeful expectation reminds me of another time and place that can be found on this same island- Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau (“Place of Refuge”) which is a sacred site on the West side of the Big Island of Hawai’i that includes royal grounds and a hallowed temple.
Pu’uhonua was vitally important to the ancient Hawaiian people because it was the only place one could find absolution. You see, this society created many laws or “Kaup" that were strictly observed, and breaking them often meant immediate death.
A woman is caught eating with a man,
A fisherman catches a fish out of season,
Someone mistakenly wears red and yellow feathers at the same time,
A female happens to eat pork, bananas, or coconuts (all forbidden), or
The chief parades by and you mistakenly look him directly in the eye –
ALL offenses that are punishable by death!
The only way to escape punishment is to reach the shores of Pu’uhonua; the catch -- the swim that encompasses a great distance, strong currents, powerful waves, sea creatures, and sharp lava rocks. Those that were lucky enough to reach the shores found safety, forgiveness, and peace.
I maintain that we haven't changed very much; like the ancient Hawaiians, we live in a broken world and spend our lives struggling to either find or maintain harmony.
We want life to be perfect.
We want our needs to be met and exceeded.
We want safety, health, provision, longevity, and happiness.
And when life goes side-ways and everything falls apart-
We want hope.
We want refuge.
The real question is, how do we achieve it?
As I watched the new year begin again, I realized a real place of refuge does indeed exist; and it doesn’t require a desperate swim, rather it involves just looking up.
Looking up to the one that made the heavens and the earth.
Looking up and seeking the one that knit us in our mother’s womb.
Looking up and embracing our Savior, the only one to give His life, so that we may have life eternal AND life abundant NOW.
Looking up to the author of peace.
"May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise, and love. It is there for each and every one of us." St. Teresa of Avila
Friends, if you are struggling and uncertain what this new year will hold for you and your loved ones, if you need peace in your life, then I implore you to stop right where you are and LOOKUP!
When you seek Jesus, accept Him, and place your trust in His capable hands it doesn't matter what else is happening in this world you can rest on His shores of peace knowing safety and refuge have been found.
Focus on the one that can provide lasting hope!
But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31