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The incarnational work of an artist

by | Dec 21, 2020 | Arts & Culture, Reflection | 0 comments

by Nathan McDonald | 3-minute read

These thoughts are inspired in part by Madeline L’Engle and N.T. Wright, and when I refer to the “Artist,” I am referring to the general sense of the word as someone who creates and holds some skill (or skills) in an art form.

“I am the Lord’s servant, ready to serve.  May it be with me as you have said”.

–Luke 1:38

Mary had just received the most mysterious news. An angel declared that she would give birth to a son by the Holy Spirit. She responded with the humility of a servant and the open heart of an artist: I am the Lord’s servant, ready to serve. May it be with me as you have said.

God was doing a new work and Mary would be his first collaborator. She would be his partner in the creative and mysterious work we now call the incarnation: God taking on flesh and breaking into our world.

Incarnational work

The work of an artist has an incarnational quality to it. We create things that at one time did not exist. We give “flesh,” so to speak, to a story, an idea, an emotion or simply an impression we have.

The work of an artist is the work of a servant. Like Mary, who was ready and willing to give herself to the hard work it would take to bring God’s own son into the world — his true light — we too, bring something of light into the world when we offer ourselves for the work.

Embracing mystery

This incarnational quality also brings the artist into a relationship with mystery. The work we are engaged with is often not clear to us at the time. And even when it is complete, new layers of meaning can emerge as time goes on.

Likewise, Mary found herself in intimate relation with mystery. She accepted it with awe, letting it fill her heart. How could she have ever known all that God was going to do in and through this baby she was carrying? How could she have even imagined that people like us, centuries later, would be encountering the life of her son in a way that would make us more fully alive? She embraced the mystery, just as an artist does in their own work.

His kingdom born in us

So hear this: God’s good work is to birth his kingdom, and his very own life, in and through each of us. This is the gift we receive at Christmas.

Whether we work as artists, painters, musicians, photographers, homemakers, business owners, teachers, administrative aides, music directors, window washers or anything else, God has come to us with his good news. In fact, it’s his coming that is the good news.

Let us embrace afresh the beautiful mystery of Christmas, and offer ourselves for his incarnational work to be done in our families, our churches, our workplaces and in this city. May we respond to God, as Mary did: I am the Lord’s servant, ready to serve. May it be with me as you have said.