Four paintings for the four weeks of Advent

Four paintings for the four weeks of Advent

It will soon be Advent, the most beautiful of church seasons, celebrated over the four Sundays preceding Christmas. You might not be part of a liturgical church tradition, but marking each Sunday with a reading and the lighting of a candle can be a rich way to prepare yourself, your family, your congregation for the true meaning of Christmas amidst all the tinsel and commercialism of the season. You might like to use these four paintings, each from different eras, as stimulus for thinking about the well-known story. Here’s how you might do it: Light the candle (you’ll need three purple and one rose candle, and a white one for Christmas). Read the Bible text. Take time to examine the picture. Read the reflection below each picture. This could be done in your Sunday service, or around the family meal table, or as a personal devotional practice. I hope this small resource helps to focus your heart and soul on the true things of Christmas – hope, faith, joy and peace – and forms a brief respite from shopping mall Santas and Jingle Bells and gluttony and avarice. Oh, and merry Christmas. __________________________________________ WEEK 1 — HOPE Light the Prophets’ Candle (purple), symbolizing hope Reading:  Luke 1:26–38 Artwork:  The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner  (1859-1937) In Henry Ossawa Tanner’s depiction of

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The Gifts of Advent 4: RECONCILIATION

The Gifts of Advent 4: RECONCILIATION

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks is an Amatjere woman, born in the outback in 1937 at the height of Australia’s so-called assimilation policy. At that time, it was believed that Aboriginal peoples were so vastly inferior to the culture of white settlers that they would soon die out altogether. The government adopted a policy of forcibly removing indigenous children from their families in order to be assimilated into white society, for “their own good”. (Think Rabbit Proof Fence, if you’ve seen that film) Children were taught to reject their indigenous culture and history and to adopt the ways of white society. Their names were often changed, and they were forbidden to speak their traditional languages. Some children were adopted by white families, and others were placed in institutions, many of which were run by Christian denominations, where abuse and neglect were common. Little Rosalie Kunoth was nine-years-old when her father naively took her to Alice Springs, 260 kilometres from Utopia Cattle Station (Arapunya) where she was born, to “get some white education.” To his horror, his daughter was taken from him permanently and made a ward of the state. “We put our heads in the noose, and it tightened very fast,” is the way Rosalie Kunoth-Monks describes it. Little Rosie was assimilated. Raised and educated in a Christian boarding school, she went on

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The Gifts of Advent 3: WHOLENESS

The Gifts of Advent 3: WHOLENESS

[This is the third in a four-part series on the gifts of Advent. The first post explored BEAUTY and in the second I looked at JUSTICE]   Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in. ~ Leonard Cohen The song Anthem first appeared on Leonard Cohen’s 1992 album, The Future, and quickly became one of his most enduring and oft-quoted lyrics. Typical of Cohen’s work, it contains allusions to his Jewish background, as well as references to the Buddhist religion of his adulthood and the Christian faith that continued to intrigue him. These are the words of a man searching for human wholeness. It’s this, the healing and renewal of human beings, and indeed all of creation, that I want to explore in this post. Wholeness is the third gift of Advent.   RING THE BELLS THAT STILL CAN RING When Cohen calls on us to ring the bells that still can ring, he’s urging us to keep searching for the holy, to not give up the hope that there is healing in the offing. In his book Diamonds in the Line, he wrote of this lyric, I mean, you have to come up with a philosophical ground. We’re in a dismal situation… and the future

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The Gifts of Advent 2: JUSTICE

The Gifts of Advent 2: JUSTICE

[This is the second in a four-part series looking at the gifts given to us in the coming of Jesus. The first gift I explored was BEAUTY. You can read it here.]   One of the most powerful ways to show people the truth of Christianity is to serve the common good. ~ Tim Keller   In his first advent Jesus promised justice for the oppressed, something that will be ultimately and completely dispensed in his second advent. In this vein, at Christmas we often hear preachers refer to the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah, such as those in Isaiah 9: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. (Isa 9:6-7) The first advent of King Jesus heralds the establishment of a just and equitable kingdom of God on earth. NT Wright calls it “…the explosive news of a different empire, a different emperor, a different kind of emperor.” He continues, Jesus isn’t simply another politician on whom everyone can pin their hopes and who will then let them down. His way

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The Gifts of Advent 1: BEAUTY

The Gifts of Advent 1: BEAUTY

Beauty – Katrina Lambert Beauty lives In the hollow of the itch you can’t reach. Its first gift is a jolt of recognition – A reflection of something Deep and hidden within us.  Beauty lies In the stitched line of the horizon. Its second gift is the joy of communion – A joining of our inner world  With the boundless sky of billions of heavenly bodies. Beauty inhabits A time beyond time. Its third gift is the glory of eternity – As we are pulled through a pinhole in the present To the infinite beyond that is our true home coming.   The best poetry doesn’t need analysis, but the author of this poem is also a preacher and her thoughts on beauty are as sharp as they are splendid. Katrina Lambert recounts the three gifts of beauty and I want to use her thoughts to explore beauty as a gift in itself, that is, as a gift of God, given in the first advent of Christ and promised in his second.   1. THE JOLT OF RECOGNITION According to Lambert, beauty presents us with that taste of something delicious we’ve been hungering for, or as she describes it “a reflection of something / Deep and hidden within us”. When we encounter beauty it tugs at our spirit. It triggers a sense

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