Advent in Art is a project of World Vision New Zealand for the spiritual nurture of staff. Mark Pierson and Alison Squires curate and produce beautiful sets of cards with reproductions of paintings, Scripture readings, questions for reflection and a ritual to perform.
This year Advent in Art features the art of Wayne Forte, reproduced in this series with kind permission.
‘Hunger is the best sauce,’ as Ma Ingalls modestly says whenever someone praises her cooking.
Those of us born after the time of Christ struggle to imagine the desperate hunger Israel felt, waiting for Messiah to come.
One of the gifts of Advent is the chance, the space, to imagine living in the literal BC period. What would it be like to long for Messiah?
My favourite Advent movie is Alfonso Cuarón’s grim dystopia, Children of Men. As I wrote last year at this time:
It’s ‘the recent future’ and infertility has swept the human population so completely that no children have been born anywhere for some years. Without the hope that a new generation brings, societies have imploded and become worse versions of themselves. Britain is a police state with closed borders. There are public campaigns to dob in refugees and concentration camps to house those caught.
It’s a world in need of a baby. (See?)
The movie abducts us into the reality of desperate longing for a baby to bring hope to the world. But of course that’s less than half of Israel’s experience, since most weren’t expecting a baby at all.
This year, the theme of the first week of Advent in Art (yeah, that’s a fortnight ago, sorry… but I don’t think we’re too late to start!) is ‘Expectation,’ and features Wayne Forte’s Hail O Favored One.
An open book. Writing materials. A bunch of white lilies thrust into the light. What do you make of this?
Whatever Israel expected about the coming of the nation’s champion, it was not the conversation reported by Luke at the start of his gospel:
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ 35 The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.’ 38 Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.
As well as the painting and Scripture reading, the Advent in Art cards provide reflection questions and a ritual for lighting Advent candles. You can see these on the Advent in Art website, or sign up there to have them emailed to you.
In this Expectation week, the cards say this:
What expectations of yours were met or not met in the past year?
Offer them to God with gratitude or sadness.
What expectations do you have of this Christmas season? Of the new year?
Offer those to God as well.
The Advent candles have been very helpful for our family worship this year, not least because explaining concepts like ‘Jesus is our hope’ for a two-year-old is a theological workout.
He’s got it sussed, though, now that we’ve been lighting the candles each night and repeating the words:
Me: What candle do we light first?
SBJ: The green candle!
Me: And that reminds us that…
SBJ: Jesus our hope!
Me: And what does ‘hope’ mean?
SBJ: Things get better.
Things may or may not turn out as we expect. But what we know is what my boy knows: Jesus is our hope. Things will get better.
May it be so, for all of us.
Wherever you’re up to in your Advent reflections (possibly well ahead of me, in terms of the art!), please feel free to share your thoughts on the painting – not the usual depiction of Gabriel’s visit to Mary – and the expectations that make up your world or the world of Israel, BC.
You can find the rest of this year’s Advent in Art series, and previous years’ Advent in Art posts at Sacraparental by following these links:
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