By Joel Hess
“In the beginning was the word and the word was God and the word was with God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made…
and the word became Flesh”
The nativity of our Lord begs artistic expression and has enjoyed it throughout the ages. From cuddly, if not frightening, scenes with precious moments figurines to Marxist manger murals, people have sacredly and sarcastically expressed its reality and meaning in every art form. Whether you buy into it or not, the incarnation forces a reaction!
And why not? It is the supreme work of art itself. The supreme Word becoming flesh is the greatest manifestation of an idea, the Idea, taking form! From the mind to the paper. Word to flesh itself! Hitler was ultimately an artist if he was anything (chew on that.) Humanity was his media and he desired to apply what was in his mind upon it! Forgive me for my exaggeration but the ugliness of his work summarizes the ugliness of sinful humanity’s mind. Evil is truly what lies in our heart.
Yet the nativity and of course the cross and empty tomb shows us what squishes and squirms in God’s heart. Love, not an abstract love, but a pulsing breathing burning bleeding desire which we enjoy in the gifts of this Christmas child’s work! Indeed we are His works of art, his workmanship; cracked and broken stained glass saints as we are.
Many say art is dead and I suppose it appears to be at least exhausted. However truth and beauty are alive and well. They can never be exhausted. And as long as truth and beauty are doing just fine, art still may be born in our sin stained minds!
For all those who claim to be avant garde, desiring to push the so called envelope, nothing new is under the sun. Yet the sun still shines and blows us away. What is more shocking, surprising, engaging, intimidating, and jaw dropping than the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ!? God in the flesh! God on a cross. Flesh, your brother by Mary, your brother by adoption, rising from the tomb!
Was ist das? It is where abstraction and realism collide, construction and deconstruction tangle, form and substance mangle. The infinite submits itself to the finite. All of the universe in a tiny box. The Idea contained in the flesh. Reality rudely broke into Plato’s cave; the image itself – the icon of God. The thoughts of God sufficiently delivered in human utterances! Never put down words!
The pure and intangible lying amidst dung, spit, sweat and blood, visited by the proletariat, adored by strangers, approached by the wise and dumb. And that was just the beginning.
Jesus is the epicenter of all creation, all art whether you like it or not. Through Him all things were made – and continue to be made. All things were created through Him and for Him, Paul writes in Colossians.
May the Living God shock and awe you again this Christmas!