>I have a smoldering fire in my soul to do…something. Pray that God hits the ignition switch and that He speaks and acts through me, whenever and wherever that opportunity may appear.

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. SEND ME.” Isaiah 6:8


>A short preface: When we left Houston yesterday, it was 74 degrees and painfully muggy…to the point where loading presents into the car left me glistening with what I assume was sweat, but it felt more like funk from the air settling on to my body. Needless to say, escaping Houston was the best gift of all this holiday.

When I woke up this morning, Abby looked out the window and exclaimed excitedly: “It’s snowing!” And sure enough, there is a howling, wet, cold, snowy mess congregating in the great city of Abilene. Cars, houses, roads, and people who stand still for too long end up covered in the white stuff, giving A-Town an ethereal look to compliment my first Christmas Eve as a married dude.
The funny thing is, I would go outside and walk around in this and revel in the goodness all morning. Coats and hats are beautiful things. My wife, and the rest of my family, would rather sit inside and watch it through the windows, almost like a zoo where it’s fun to look but not touch. The snow is an inviting, beautiful gift from God to me, and a wet nuisance to everyone else. It’s all in the perception.
So imagine you are a member of the 1st century Jewish elite (I know, not a hard stretch is it?) and you’re waiting for a sign from God, ANY SIGN, that His promised Messiah is coming. You start to hear reports of a child being born, angels visiting, and strange cosmic harbingers that maybe, just maybe, will signal the end of the suffering and oppression. And then, you finally make it to Jerusalem and find this child…and he is a poor child born in a barn to an unwed mother who supposedly is a “virgin.” You may be a Jewish priest and not a physician, but you know thats unlikely at best.
You would be crushed! This isn’t a king, a warrior, a Savior! This is a weak, poverty stricken child whose father is a carpenter! And then later on, he becomes a carpenter, meaning he took up his family’s trade and probably passed on being a true rabbi, which at the very least should be a necessary step in leading the Jews to salvation. This is a waste of time and a waste of hope…another year gone without help from a supposedly caring God.
On the flip side, imagine you are a poor Jewish person, or even later on, a Gentile believer, who has been excluded from society and never given an inch of anything in your life. You are under the regime of a tyrannical king who would just as soon kill you than actually fix your problems. You’ve been told there is a Savior, a new King, who has come to save EVERYONE. He specifically mentions the poor, the meek, and goes out of His way to love those who may have never felt love. This is a ruler, with power and authority, who gives His life in order that everyone may spend eternity with Him. This is an amazing gift, and a sign that God truly cares about us all!
Jesus’ life is all about perception. Those who had a set idea of what a Messiah was “supposed” to be were disappointed and gave up. Those who saw the gentle carpenter for what He was–the embodiment of love and peace–had abundant life.
So when you see Christmas, and specifically see Christ in other people, do you see a nuisance, or do you see love? What is your perception of Christ and His sacrifice?
“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” Luke 7:22-23


>For a long time, whenever I discussed art history I basically skipped from the earliest known records (like the Venus of Willendorf…woof.) right past the Middle Ages and straight to the Renaissance. The Renaissance harnessed the Classical power of the human form noted in amazing Greek and Roman sculpture with a new-found respect and love of color: vibrant, rich, passionate hues that give life to those lucky enough to be captured by them. From then on, it was always Renaissance, Baroque, Romantics, Impressionists, etc., etc., until the Fauvists and Modernists made me aesthetically unhappy.

Upon further reflection, however, the art of the Middle Ages possesses more than I ever wanted to give it credit for revealing. There is something to be said for the passion and love of showing a rudimentary, yet loving, Christ. The Middle Ages produced art that was flat, fairly monotone in color, and completely lacking of dazzling depth or style. Even the composition was a bit stunted. And yes, it’s 2-D, something James Cameron would surely scoff at and mock. Yes, the colors leave something (or everything) to be desired. But in those simplistic drawings and paintings, there is love. There is the pain of a Savior in anguish, compassion of a Lord who loves the unloveable. I’m not sure Jesus would be comfortable with his powerful radiance in Raphael’s Ascension or even being the center of attention in The Last Supper.

There’s something to be said about a King who preferred peasants over worldly royalty, who picked poverty over wealth, who chose death over what the world sees as power. I think the various artists of the Middle Ages got that message–Christ was someone who preferred to be in the background, loving, serving, and giving. His message wasn’t contained in the show, the color, or the presentation, but in the emotion and devotion behind the scenes. I think He would have been drawn to the flat, colorless, almost cartoonish pieces of art because they came from the heart.

In the same way, we need to get back to the heart of the matter in our service of God. Whether songs like Heart of Worship or the story of the Pharisees in Luke 11:

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.

Jesus is calling the Pharisees out because they care more about the show than the action; more about appearances than the heart. We have that problem today, the same problem I suffer in Art History: we care more about the outside than the inside, more about the pretty colors than the meaning. Jesus rages against that machine more than once, but its a message we let slip through our fingers all the time.

So here’s to a flat, bland, disproportionate Savior, willing to do the dirty work and die so that I might live a deep, colorful, full life in His service. Amen!

“I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
I cannot stand your assemblies.

Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.

Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.

But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:21-24