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Empty Lanterns

At first glance, it appears to be a medium sized gray trash bag, held open on one end by a wire ring.  However, mounted in the center of the wire ring is a smaller, thicker ring of combustible material.  From a science perspective, the khom loi, or sky lantern, is a cool concept.  You open the “bag”, light the ring, and as the flame gets bigger, the warm air fills the inside of the lantern, and like a hot air balloon, it begins to rise.

In mid-November, the whole nation of Thailand engages in one of their most sacred holidays – Loi Kratong and Yi Peng.  Loi Kratong involves the construction of a small float from banana leaves or even bread, in which food, flowers, a candle, and even coins are placed.  The participant releases the float in the stream to symbolize the release of any anger, resentment, or grudges they may have.  The second half of the festival involves the lighting and release of sky lanterns (khom loi) usually made of rice paper.  The release is a way to make merit for past deeds.

Although both ceremonies are beautiful with thousands of lanterns released into the night sky, the next morning is often greeted around the neighborhood by hundreds of empty, burned out, lantern shells that are scattered in trees, yards, and fields all over Chiang Mai.  As I biked around the neighborhood that next day, my heart was grieved by so many empty hopes represented by these lanterns.  Mind you, the participant released their khom loi believing that in some way their sin would be carried away and they could atone for mistakes of the past year.  But, in truth, we cannot, on our own, make merit for past mistakes and failures, and have no way of atoning for our sin.

The hope we do have, however, is the realization that Jesus Christ, the one true Son of the living God, came willingly to be crucified, to die, and carry the weight of our sins and failures to the grave.  The hope we have though is in His resurrection from the dead, triumphing over hell and the grave.  When we put our trust in Jesus as our personal Savior, we need not float our hopes down stream or into the sky – we HAVE the hope living inside of us.

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