Saturday, December 11, 2010

Let there be LIGHT.

The beautiful thing about writing a dissertation - scratch that. There is, technically, NOTHING beautiful about writing a dissertation - but something super awesome about the process of writing my dissertation is that it has required a couple of research trips to New York City. Now, a point of clarification. I'm sure that, when you hear the phrase "research trip," you probably imagine my waking before dawn, so that I can sit outside and watch the sunrise over the library while sipping a Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice and feeling academically superior to all the other knuckleheads, because I'm the only person who'll be there when the doors open.

Yeah. Except for the Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice, that's not really how it looks at all. Well, maybe it is. Maybe that describes a research trip for, say, economics students or chemistry, but us theatrefolk, we keep what I like to call "actor's hours." By that I mean, the library doesn't even open until noon. Spend a couple of hours there before walking down Broadway for a show and, 200 pages later, you've got yourself a dissertation.

Having done this song and dance several times now, I've got the routine pretty well down pat. I sprint through the City streets - a spring in my step just from knowing that I am every bit as blessed as Sheryl Lee Ralph's character in Thoroughly Modern Millie. In other words,

"No one could ask for more -
kid in a candy store.
The jackpot has been hit!
I'm living proof of it

So while the dissertation - and the whole rigamarole of grad school, for that matter - are oftentimes far from beautiful, the reality of pursuing my teenage dream of learning all there is to know about the musical theatre is a beautiful, breathtaking, and abundantly bless-ed thing.

Also beautiful, however, is New York City at Christmastime. Also bless-ed is the fact that I've been lucky enough (thank you, parents who spoiled me and my sister) to visit the City during several Christmas seasons. Maybe that's why I found it so funny that the driver of the cab Daddy and I shared on our midday trip from La Guardia to 48th Street kept telling us to be sure to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. "It's better at nite," he said. His English was still broken, in spite of "tir-ty figh" years in the U.S. "See it at nite," he continued to suggest. "It all lit up."

Enter Smartalleck.

She, being me, wanted to say, "Yes, Sir. Thanks for the tip, but I'm familiar with the concept that, in order for light to be seen, there must be dark. That's an immutable law of nature. It holds true both in your native country and in mine, but thank you very much for clearing that up, just in case I skipped the first day of pre-school when all of my other classmates mastered this keen skill of grasping the blatantly obvious." Fearing an international incident, I kept my thoughts to myself. Well, I texted them to Daddy in the backseat beside me, but other than that, I kept my thoughts to myself.

It might surprise Mr. Taximan to learn that Rockefeller Center isn't the only place all dolled up for the holiday. The entire City shines. Red and green glow from the many Christmas trees. White lights sparkle through strands of garland, and the incessant flashing of stoplights and crosswalks keep the city sidewalks safe "as the shoppers rush home with their treasures." Naturally, all of these lights - and all of that time sipping Caramel Apple Spice while waiting for the library to open - left me with a lot of time to think about lights.

It's probably impossible to quantify this - in fact, it's nearly impossible for a non-mathematical mind like mine to even write the word "quantify" - but I'd bet my collection of "Forbidden Broadway" CDs that there are more lights lit at this time of year than at any other. It's fitting, isn't it? At a time when we celebrate the coming of Jesus, there is nothing more appropriate than lights. He is, we know, the Light of the world.

As I walked through the City - up and down, back and forth, library to Broadway to hotel and again - God gave me a fresh perspective on the tiny bulbs that, according to the World's Smartest Cab Driver, make dark nites brighter (EUREKA!). They were no longer just shiny objects - they were shouts of a Heavenly Father Who doesn't want us to miss the coming of His Son, "the Light of the world." Think about it - God is known for saying things more than once. Graciously, He always gives us more than one chance to get His message. For instance, in the Bible, He tells us more than 300 times some variation of "Do not fear."

One of those times was when His angel appeared to tell Mary she'd bear a Son. "Do not be afraid, Mary," he said. "You have found favor with God." The rest of Gabriel's message to Mary indicates that we have all found favor with God, for it is through her Son that all who believe have access to a kingdom that "will never end."

Just to be sure people didn't miss Jesus when He came into the world, God sent a messenger before Him. God, Who is "not willing that any should perish," sent John the Baptist as Jesus's advance team:

"He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through Him, all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light."

I don't at all mean to make "light" (HAR!) - or to equate Christmas lights with John the Baptist - but maybe we've missed the point. Maybe those lights are more than just a way to turn all of New York City into a Winter Wonderland. Maybe they're each a reminder from God of His good tidings of great joy: the Light of the world is come, and when it comes to this dark world, He makes "it all lit up."

Somebody call that cab driver; I've got a tip for him!

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