Adaptation of Norman Rockwell’s “Adoration of the Magi”
Acrylic/Colored Pencil 27 X 17 -
The inspiration for this painting comes from a painting created by my Illustrator hero, Norman Rockwell. – See more at: http://www.mjarts.com/port_1a.htm
I don’t create many of specifically “religious” images. There are two, at present. One for Christmas, one for Easter. I’m not entirely sure why I don’t create more “religious” images. Probably because I’m not very religious, in spite of the fact that I gave my life to the Creator in 1973…forty years ago. This isn’t entirely accurate; in fact I’ve given my life to my Creator several times, as I’ve grown in my understanding of what a Christ-centered life means. Mostly it’s not about religion.
Advent. The word had no meaning for me until my 4th year of college. I came to the realization that Christmas mostly isn’t about what Americans seem to believe Christmas is about. It’s not about giving presents, and more importantly, it’s not about receiving presents. It’s not about supporting the American economy by shopping, since there seems to be so little of the American economy that isn’t dependent upon shopping.
Christmas is about Grace. “Unmerited Favor.” For a moment in time [thirty plus years is less than an eyeblink, compared to Eternity], the Eternal and Infinite Creator entered time and space and lived in the form of a human being; starting as a totally helpless infant born to an unwed mother, sheltered in a barn. One really can’t get much further away from “modern American Christmas” than that image.
There’s a Roman Catholic radio station here in Portland that does not play Christmas music until Christmas Day; in spite of the fact that the rest of the media world has been ‘celebrating’ Christmas since a few days before Thanksgiving. The station does play Advent music, along with it’s regular playlist; but not Christmas music. “Advent” to me is best described by the unwritten journey of the Wise Men coming West to find the newly born Messiah–the Savior of Mankind. Jesus apparently wasn’t born in December; He was probably born in the Spring [another good symbol, if one wanted to use it]. The Wise Men probably didn’t show up at the manger. If memory serves, one thought is that Jesus was about two years old when they arrived. Unfortunately, no one thought to write this stuff down at the time; it would have saved a lot of arguments. Surprisingly, no seems to have kept any of the gold, myrrh and frankincense the Wise Men brought. Would have been great souvenirs…
Advent is a period of anticipatory waiting. Probably ‘anticipatory journey’ is a better description. Joseph and Mary journeyed in to Egypt, because they’d been warned that Israel wasn’t a safe place for them to birth Jesus. So they journeyed to an inn that had no vacancies, and Jesus was born on the floor of a barn, and was placed in a feeding trough for the shepherds and angels to see. In theory, there was a pile of smelly stuff that Joseph probably moved, about 6ft away from Jesus’ bed… that’s what happens in barns.
My wife and I journeyed rapidly in our car, to the hospital, early one morning on a 9th of January. I was prayerfully ignoring red lights and was determined that our second kid was not going to be born in the car. Our new son was admitted to the hospital 4 minutes after Judy was admitted [Rob was born in the ER, on a gurney, on his mother's bathrobe...]. The ‘no-frills,’ 2-door, 1979 Blazer does not have a sliding passenger seat; the seat is connected to a stationary hinge, allowing it to tilt forward to allow passengers access to the middle seat. It does not move backwards to allow birthing mothers to exit gracefully. The medical staff had to lift Judy up to the ceiling of the car, and bring her out head-first, since she couldn’t put her legs together… Rob is still driving the Blazer he was almost born in.
While I am not very ‘religious’ [kind of depends on one's definition of the word], I hang around with people who are. After 40 years, I’m not as perplexed about religious behavior as I used to be; but there are aspects of this season that are mystifying to me. My understanding is that the religious leaders of the day decided to turn the pagan mid-winter holiday into something “Christian” and consequently, we have Christmas Trees. I don’t have a problem with that; “A Mighty Fortress”, Martin Luther’s famous hymn, uses the tune of a beer-drinking song from the taverns of his day. I taught my kids about Saint Nicholas [Sant-a _Claus], the bishop who would leave gifts at the houses of the poor in his parish. However, the birth of Jesus has nothing to do with evergreen trees and packages and jolly old fat men in red suits.
I recently watched a Dr. Who episode in which an “earthologist” tour guide was explaining to the interplanetary tourists about the Earth celebration of Christmas… a celebration of war, where the inhabitants of UK went to war with the inhabitants of Turkey, and the people of UK ate the dead Turks… I wonder if the Followers of the Way [of Jesus], from the First Century would be just as mystified at how skewed our practices of Advent and Christmas have become.
Jesus was a Jew, and he was raised in the Jewish tradition. Most of his followers were Jews. One of His statements was that He did not intend to change one letter or punctuation mark of Torah; and yet.. somehow we Christians have the Church traditions [in their almost endless variety] of today. We have starving fellow citizens of our planet, brothers and sisters in Faith, living in boxes and typhoon-tossed shacks, across the world; while we “First World” citizens spend hundreds of millions [billions?] of dollars on toys. “Jesus wept;” and I think He’s still weeping. Yes; I realize that when I point my finger at others, there are three more pointing back at me.
Jesus came to earth as an infant human, and lived the same sort of life that so many of us have led, to let us know that He knows what it’s like to be human. He was arrested and convicted of a crime He didn’t commit; He was brutalized in prison; and was spiked to a wooden pole with a crossbeam, hung out to die. He knows about Indignity and faithlessness. He also showed the world that this wasn’t the end of the story. He came back. He left again, so He wouldn’t be hampered by human limitations; and left us His Spirit; that Spirit that enables us to occasionally recognize Grace, when He shows us that there is better stuff ahead.
Remember the victims during these holiday days. All of the victims. Perhaps especially those victims that we have helped to create, in the name of Peace.