Archive for the 'Christmas Day' Category

Christmas Day, John 1:1-14 (15-18)

November 26, 2011

Historical Description:

Sometimes words can take on a life of their own . . . literally.  In Behold the Man, the Word Made Flesh, the contemporary Christian artist Debbie Turner Chavers chose to have  scriptural texts shape the corpus of Jesus on the cross.

Chavers’ choice of medium was hardly done without thought.  How else do we know Jesus other than through His word?  And, maybe more importantly, how else do we know the word other than through Jesus?  In this painting, the moment of our salvation spoken of in the scriptures is acted upon in the body of Christ.  Word and flesh are one.

Devotional Reflection:

How can a Word become flesh?  In the West, we usually think of words as being symbolic.  A word is not often thought of as something physical.  A word is something that is said.  It comes out of the mouth, floats through the air, and then is hopefully heard by someone.  We usually don’t think of words as coming in the flesh.

Initially the prologue to John’s gospel may prove challenging to represent pictorially.  “The Word became flesh.”  How do you portray a “word” becoming flesh?  An artist could have just drawn a picture of baby Jesus in the manger since everyone knows the “word made flesh” is a reference to the incarnation, but in The Word Became Flesh, Debbie Turner Chavers chose another route.  She showed the Word literally becoming Jesus by having Jesus’ body shaped by the printed, biblical Word.

Chavers’ artwork is poignant.  God did not desire to speak to us in a long distance relationship forever.  God wanted to become very close to us.  The words God speaks to us don’t just float around in the air.  God’s Word walks on the ground, touches blind eyes, cries for friends who are dying, orders life out of death and, ultimately, fulfills His Father’s final Word by becoming a sacrifice for this world.  God’s Word did not become flesh so that He could offer idle chit-chat with us or share a cup of coffee.  God’s Word became flesh, Jesus Christ, so that God Himself could pay for our sins through His sinless death on a cross.

Today, the living Jesus still chooses to come to us as a Word.  I do not just mean in the Bible we read.  God certainly speaks through the Bible in mighty ways every single day, but there is another way Jesus comes to us as the Word.  Jesus is pleased to come to His church by means of a simple pastor who speaks simple words of unbelievably good news.  Just like in the Bible, Jesus is still coming to touch you, to heal you, to forgive you and He especially does this through the preached Word.  Jesus longs to be near you, not just in your ear, but to reside in your heart and soul as you cherish and hold onto the promises Jesus makes to you.

God’s Word becomes flesh every time the pastor speaks a word of release to us in the forgiveness of sins.  God’s Word becomes flesh when water bathes a sinner’s head and God declares that sinner to be a saint.  God’s Word becomes flesh every time a believer feasts upon the Words, “Given into death for the forgiveness of all of your sins.”  God’s Word becomes flesh as Christians faithfully exercise their vocations as mother, father, student or worker.  Some words in this world are very real and tangible and touchable, but the greatest is Jesus Christ.  The Word truly has become flesh and thankfully He is still living among us.

Christmas Dawn, Titus 3:4-7

November 26, 2011

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.