The 5th of November. What was once a politically charged day with reminders of terror, plots, and conspiracy has become a day that brings communities together full of happiness, awe and wonder.
Many schools across the country will open their gates after dark to welcome in students and families from the community. People who otherwise may never meet (bar the awkward standing next to each other as they wait to pick up children). Families from different walks of life are united over hot chocolate and the excitement of the firework display. These often free events, cross socio-economic boundaries and bring out the inner child in even the most reserved family member. Phones and cameras are put away, because fireworks just always look better in person. People gather tightly as a defence from the cold, which is a radical difference from the social norm of keeping as much distance from strangers as possible.
There's something deeply spiritual and I would argue deeply biblical about these gatherings.
Most of the other times of the year when these community events happen are tied to religious events; Christmas, Easter, Eid, Diwali... and yet here on a day that has no tie to a religious event, we find the deepest form of community and sense of awe and wonder.
The grandeur and magnificence of the fireworks point to something or someone greater. These views may not be of "natural" beauty like sunsets or mountains, but somehow its hard not to look at the night sky, with giant bursts of light, and not be drawn into awe, wonder, and a sense of the greatness of life. The fireworks also illuminate the night sky, something which people for millennia people have gazed upon and in its vastness seen something of God's creation. It's a time when we are all at equal value; equally excited, equally awe-stuck, and equally small in comparison to the greatness of these explosions.
This "Fireworks Night", whether you are meeting in a school, a park or at a home, embrace the community and spirituality of your evening.
Perhaps this night is a challenge to us all, especially those of us working in schools, to look for the spiritual where we may not expect to find it. To think of where we can find transcendence and unity in our lives, and how we can bring communities together.
Some ideas of what you could do this "Fireworks Night"
- Create signage or even a useful give-away (cups for hot chocolate, napkins for hotdogs etc) with something printed on it for the event - something like ‘Don’t miss the sky while you’re looking at the fireworks’. Encourage students to look at the sky, not just tonight on bonfire night, but every night.
- Run an assembly in a local primary school just before fireworks night talking about creativity. You could ask for a show of hands of who loves fireworks. Then explain how fireworks were created. You could follow this up with a reflection; if you could ask God, “What do you think our best invention is?” what might God answer? Would God like our fireworks? What else might God think is great that we have made? What might God think is not so great?
- Get to know three new people - use this moment of community to intentionally make friends with three new members of your local school community.
Psalm 133:1 "How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together"
If you have any creative ideas about how to notice God on 5th November, leave it in the comments below!