“Firecracker. Firecracker. Boom. Boom. Boom.” I watch my little girl giggle and wiggle as she swings her hips and her sparkler pom-poms. As I’m mesmerized by the trail of swirling light left by the sparklers, I remember we are told by Jesus to be the light of the world. We are to shine like a city skyline at night. He reminds us that no one lights a lamp and then hides it, saying:
Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see,
so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
To paraphrase loosely, we are to be like the sparklers that my daughter uses to bring joy chasing away the darkness and cheering people on. Our good deeds are to “sparkle,” bringing glimmers of glory to others.
Unfortunately, I don’t always sparkle as I should. In fact, sometimes my actions might more accurately be characterized by a smoke bomb. Just today as I sat in my car behind a poky driver, who was daydreaming after the light turned green, I fumed red. I was running late for an appointment. The thoughts I have sometimes find words that obscure the light of Christ, much like the colored cloud of a smoke bomb.
St. Paul tells us when we became Christians, we became a “new creation.” This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. Paul explains that daily we need to put off the old things–the old sin (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our sin nature could be characterized by the charcoal snake my daughter watches grow from a little black disk. In the book of Genesis in the Garden of Eden, evil is characterized by a snake. Much like the charcoal snake disk grows when ignited by the flame, sin grows when ignited by the flesh, and left unchecked by the Holy Spirit. Just as the resulting toy snake is charred and ugly, the result of our sin nature is ugly. The dark spots on the pavement left behind by the snake are similar to the enduring marks that can be left behind by sin.
So while fireworks celebrate America’s birth, let good works commemorate your spiritual birth! Which would most accurately characterize your flesh today: a sparkler, a smoke bomb or a snake?