After a two-week hiatus, I finally have a new spontaneous drawing to share! At least one person in our household has fought an upper respiratory virus, but it’s finally out of the house.
We’ve started a new series for the Christmas season at North Ridge, Carols. The theme focuses on common Christmas carols, their origin and their meaning. Our study of carols will take us through the book of Matthew.
The carol of today is ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ 12th Century, translated into English by John Mason Neale 1851:
O come, o come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel
Read full lyrics here.
Verse one was our main emphasis, leading into Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus in chapter 1. O Come Emmanuel is a carol that summons the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the blood exchange for our souls.
Matthew 1:18-25 covers an early part of Jesus birth. Mary had learned of her immaculate conception and the significance of the child she carried. In today’s passages, Joseph learns of the coming child and must make a decision; stay betrothed to Mary and adopt the baby as his own or cut his losses and leave Mary to raise the child on her own. Joseph’s character guided his decisions through the process and, like many men hearing his fiancée was pregnant and it was physically impossible for the child to be his, decided to end the relationship. Engagement in this early culture carried with it the weight of legal marriage today. The only detail separating the betrothal period from full marriage was physical consummation. To end a betrothed relationship was to file for divorce. Adultery, in this culture, was also treated much more seriously than it is today. Any woman caught in adultery could face execution by the state. The decision Joseph makes at this point either establishes or eliminates Christianity. Joseph decides to balance justice with mercy and divorce Mary quietly, breaking his responsibility to the relationship but saving Mary’s reputation (and most likely the life of both her and the child).
Obviously, the story does not end here. God understands the importance of a two-parent family and will not allow his son to grow up without a physical father present. An angel visits Joseph in a dream and explains the situation, confirming Mary’s story (v.24). Hearing the supernatural circumstances of his situation from a supernatural source, Joseph decides to remain committed to Mary and effectively adopts the son of God as his own flesh and blood. The imagery here speaks significantly to our relationship with God, where we make the same decision as Joseph to adopt Jesus or not and Jesus, in turn, adopts us as his by stepping in as the ransom for our sins.
My initial inspiration for today’s drawing came from the title of the message, ‘Our King is Here’. I first wanted to visualize what the arrival of a character as significant as Jesus looked like, from an abstract point of view. I chose light to represent the arrival of the Messiah. My next step was to choose the setting. I tossed around ideas of a neatly wrapped Christmas gift, a simple star, or a secluded shack but none of these felt right. Dave Matthew’s Band’s Christmas Song floated into my mind and supplied the inspiration I needed for the setting. One phrase from this song specifically generated the mist of light creeping through the streets of a dark city:
His heart was full of love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love is all around.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place this way.
The word originally used for ‘birth’ here is the same word used to recount the creation of the universe, genesis. This word is not being used coincidentally, Jesus was as alive at the creation of earth as he was at physical birth and as he is now. Jesus’ main emphasis throughout his ministry can be summed up in one word, love. His heart was, and still is, full of love and his goal is to fill each of us with that love. Love, love is all around.
The light that represents Christ drops into the middle of the city then proceeds to seep its way in and out of every street, every corner, down every dark alley, slowly filling the city with its presence and replacing darkness with light.
This is why we celebrate Christmas. Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us’, the King is here.