Advent calendars that do not represent Advent

Advent calendars that do not represent Advent; Christmas without a Christ story; so much for intolerant censorship in the name of political correctness. And in its place? Black December. Appropriate really, because for all its glitz there is no light in the religion of consumerism. Don’t misunderstand me; I really like Christmas, the fun, the family, the feasting; but I want the authentic reason for the season, too. I want the magical atmosphere, the mystery, the marvel of God coming to join us; the Light of the world illuminating the path of love, joy, peace and hope for everyone who wants it.

This last year I wrote a study guide called Mary, the mother of Jesus. In it I tried to avoid the sentiment and superstition and trace the authentic story from the source materials. Go to the Library/Biblical Studies & scroll to the link on this website to find out more. 

I also painted in oils an interpretation of the virgin conception that avoided the dated renaissance stereotypes. So, a bit controversial! You’ll find it on this website called The Virgin Conception under Gallery/Biblically Themed. Take a look and tell me what you think. Here is my own commentary on the work recorded on the back of the canvas.

‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God’ Luke 1:35.

The birth narratives of Luke’s gospel are written in idiomatic Palestinian Greek, likely reflecting Luke’s primary source in Mary herself, but certainly expressing the earthy reality of the virgin conception as well as its miraculous nature. Mary is a devout but real young woman. Jesus is the Son of God but also one of us – a human being birthed and nurtured at a definite time and place in history.

The painting carries symbolic meaning. Young Mary is undergoing baptism and baptism in the Spirit as she conceives the Christ child. The floating lily and her nakedness indicate her virginal purity and identity with Edenic innocence. Her baptism is a death and resurrection experience; Mary dies to her childhood to live anew as a mother, as indicated by her physical maturity.

The dove, representing the Holy Spirit, hovers above her at the moment of conception yet the light casts a cruciform shadow across her belly, for her Child is destined to suffer and die for the sins of the world. The light is ambivalent for this is a liminal moment of unique transition. The barely visible underpainting of fire lights the far shore; air, earth, fire and water – all creation begins its redemption from this moment on.

Mary is at peace, for as the rain passes, the dove carries an olive twig reminiscent of  Noah’s dove whose olive branch signalled the cessation of judgement. She will not fear, for she is the new ark, the heavenly Jerusalem incarnate, the church of the firstborn, and the first of an uncountable multitude in whom Christ will dwell by faith.

Advent means an imminent arrival. It is related to adventure, and that’s what it’s about – a spiritual adventure that transforms all of life – and it all starts here with Jesus and Mary, if you want!


This message was added on Wednesday 2nd December 2015