Making New Year’s Resolutions are a funny thing. Most of the time, you make them at the onset of the new year, excited with the potential that the new year brings and hopeful that you may be able to transform something which is merely potential into something Real.
But making things into a reality can sometimes take time.
And so it amuses me that it is the end of February — long past Christmas! — and I am researching artworks for the Jesse Tree, which is an Advent tradition. After all, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to create a Jesse Tree devotional — with plenty of art, of course! — for you guys for this year’s Advent — and that is a resolution I intend to keep.
(It’s gonna be so great! And it’s going to have so much art in it! For example! I have at least eight pictures depicting Noah’s story, and there is more art that I want to add to that day!)
It has been such a joy to embark on this project. For the past two years, I’ve been studying artworks of Jesus and Church tradition. But the Jesse Tree is not about the New Testament. It is about the Old Testament. It is about looking at God’s interactions with His People and seeing how Jesus fits in, leading all the way to Jesus Himself.
Because the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. Only, in the Old Testament, God is hidden when Adam and Eve turn away from Him. But in the New Testament, God reveals Himself when Mary says yes.
And so! I have been poring over artwork detailing the Old Testament, and honestly it’s been a bit amazing. There are some absolute masterpieces of the Old Testament, and I am so glad that I have this opportunity to just delve into these artworks and meditate on them, pairing them with scriptural readings of the Jesse Tree.
Here is one of the artworks that I’ve been musing over:
Isn’t it surreal and marvelous? After the popularity of his masterwork, The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the artist, James Tissot went back to the Holy Land to attempt to illustrate the Old Testament. This is his depiction of Creation!
It’s a beautiful picture which is supposed to capture the beginning moments of the universe in which God created the world and separated the sky from the water, as is written in Genesis:
6Then God said: Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other. 7God made the dome, and it separated the water below the dome from the water above the dome. And so it happened. 8God called the dome “sky.” Evening came, and morning followed—the second day.
And it strikes me hard to think that the whole of creation — which is so complex and beautiful in its complexity — started simply as a matter of light and matter, with God forming it all. What a simple beginning! It is still mostly potential — everything still has a new and formless quality to it all.
And yet, how beautiful!
And it strikes me that, as I begin this project — which began first as a hope and now is starting to take a real form — that, in a way, I get to share in this sort of experience as somebody who is creating something tangible. And it makes me wonder how much greater the love that God has for His Creation all the more. After all, I am working on a mere religious art devotional that, while it will be beautiful and hopefully move your soul, will be inanimate.
And God made us.
How much love must He have for us that He would create an entire world for us!
And how much love must He have for us that He would die for us on a Cross?