Christina's World (1948)
by Andrew Wyeth
MoMA, copyright 2010

Christmas Dawn, Titus 3:4-7

Historical Description:

The 1948 painting Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth is a famous and well-known piece of American modern art. This tempera painting was inspired by a particular moment in Wyeth’s life. While on vacation in his summer home in Maine, the painter spied through a window the unusual sight of a woman crawling across an open field. The woman was Christina Olsen, a friend who had survived polio and subsequently suffered paralysis in her lower body. Wyeth recreated this moment in this painting, this time rearranging the scenery and using his wife as a model. The piece is currently in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Devotional Reflection:

Christina’s World is all about perspective. Instead of the usual perspective, the painter draws the viewer down to the worldview of a disabled woman forced to exist in a vast and open world. The woman in the scene lies on her side, crawling with her arms while her legs drag helplessly behind. Her head is turned towards a building in the distance as if she is looking for someone. The horizon in the scene is situated at the top of the painting, not only showing the low angle of perspective but also enhancing the atmosphere of distance and separation between the woman and her goal. The landscape is barren, bland, and huge, with only two farm buildings off in the distance. The woman in the scene crawls upwards towards one farm building. The surreal nature of this minimalist scene provides both the air of a brooding hopelessness of the situation and a dogged determination on behalf of the woman.

Christmas morning is all about perspective. The Christmas season is often dominated by images of the holy family gathered in a sentimental scene around a glowing manger. The perspective in such images is generally standard and expected. This traditional crèche is beneficial and necessary to understand the story of that first Christmas morning, but Paul in Titus 4:3-7 dares us to look differently at the Christ event. Instead of dwelling with the shepherds around a manger we get down to the view of a broken humanity. This humanity is stranded and helpless, much like the woman in Christina’s World. This humanity is lost in the vast reality of its own sin, with little hope of help. This humanity looks away to the vast horizon for help. Who would come to rescue an infirm, paralyzed race? Who would gaze down from a position of privilege upon a weak, weary and undeserving mankind? Christmas dawn is a time to gaze at that horizon, with the untold host of saints who have gone on before, and see that the hope of a broken and undeserving mankind came through Christ alone. With the Apostle Paul we know that the time of wishing and waiting for rescue from sin is over, and that when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy. The waiting is over, the Christ is come, and so being justified by his grace we have become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Though our stations in life may still at times seem bleak, and the Church still must live in a broken world, we do not ever stop watching and waiting. The Christ has come, and he will come again to grant eternal life once-and-for-all. At Christmas dawn we remember this, and so look back at the hope that has come all the while looking forward to the resurrection that is to come. This hope is worth waiting for.


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