14 Dec 2010

Advent Through Art, Jesus as Light of the World

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Last Wednesday for our Family Night Supper program we explored some classic themes of Advent through the lens of art. I had some very favorable responses to the program and was asked to put it on my blog. So, between now and Christmas I will be sharing with you some classic pieces of art that express Advent themes core to the Christian Faith.

Here are the first two paintings.

These two paintings are by the dutch masters Geertgen tot Sint Jans (left) and Gerard Van Honthorst (right) and both date from the 15th century. Take a moment and notice what is similar in both paintings about the use of light.

In both paintings the infant Jesus is the focus of the painting because he is the source of light. The light that is filling both night scenes actually comes from Jesus Christ. I selected these two paintings because they beautifully express what John’s gospel proclaimed about Christ’s advent.

“1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it. 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” (John 1:1-9, NIV)

I look at these paintings and consider John’s words and realize that the light in my life is not dependent upon my circumstances. The gift of Christ is the gift of freedom from circumstances. The source of light in my life is Christ. Having Christ in my life doesn’t necessarily mean that I will not have times of night. However, having Christ in my life does mean that I have all that I need to safely navigate through that night until dawn comes again.

What does it mean for you that Christ is the light of the world? When you stand in the light of Christ how does it reveal who you are? What does the light of Christ reveal about your surroundings right now?

Tomorrow’s painting– Mystic Nativity by Sandro Botticelli, 1500 a.d.

3 Responses

  1. Sarah

    Thanks, John for sharing these. I love the idea of a series on art for the season (filing that away in my brain). I know you are looking at classical pieces in this series, but thought I’d pass this link on to you as well from the Episcopal church. A good deal of this is more modern, and some speaks to me more than others- but I really appreciate the way the artist ties in the work with familiar Christmas/Advent hymn texts. Enjoy!


  2. admin

    Thank you for the link Sarah. I had such a positive response at my church that I am going to extend what I intended an extra week. So, the link may be a God-send. Almost all of the images I am currently using are classical works of art, but I will be sharing one that is a really intriguing nativity being used on over 1000 bus stops in the UK. It’s actually the piece that most inspired the series I am doing. Again, thanks for the link I look forward to exploring it and I always appreciate feedback. Christ’s peace to you.

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