Monday, December 3, 2012
Advent has long been a time of preparation for the celebration of Christmas. Yet the road to Christmas is anything but easy. It twists, it turns, and there are strange figures along the way. Through divine encounters with his word, God changes our ways in the world. At first these encounters are strange, even mystifying. Upon closer examination, however, they deepen our awareness and awaken our senses to the gracious work God is doing in the world.
In 1961, a man carrying a brick walked into the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Scotland. He found a painting of the crucifixion, took the brick, and proceeded to destroy the painting. This vandalous visitor objected to the way an artist had portrayed the crucifixion of Jesus.
Salvador Dali was the artist and the painting was Christ of St. John of the Cross. In it one sees Jesus, hanging on the cross, over the world. The problem for the man was not the crucifixion but the way in which this crucifixion challenged him. Dali had changed the traditional perspective people have when they look at a crucifixion. We are all used accustomed to looking up into the face of Jesus on the cross. Dali, however, took the perspective from above the cross for his painting. The viewer looks down on Jesus, who himself is looking down upon the world. For some, this stance was sacrilegous and unholy. For others, this painting’s strange perspective invited them to use their imagination to see the all-encompassing mission of God the Father.
Dali’s painting challenges preconceptions of how a crucifixion has to be seen. It creates an encounter that changes your vision and invites you to see things with new eyes. Dali invites the viewer, for a moment, to see the crucifixion through the eyes of God the Father. Our heavenly Father looks down upon the fallen world and sees it through the eyes of his Son Jesus, dying on the cross, for all people. Seeing the crucifixion that way can remind us of the larger mission of Jesus. This mission certainly includes us, but it is also a mission that doesn’t end with just us. God’s love in Christ reaches to the ends of the earth.
Divine encounters are like that. They change the way we see things. And that's what Advent is all about.
Advent has long been a time of preparation for the celebration of Christmas. Yet the road to Christmas is anything but easy. It twists, it turns, and we meet many strange figures along the way. Prophets cry out in visions. John the Baptizer preaches in the desert. Angels appear whether you are asleep or awake. The voices are varied, the places are strange, but one thing is certain: in each encounter, God is preparing us for the celebration of the greatest encounter of all, the birth of Jesus, his Son, our Savior, the Redeemer of the world.