“The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light; on those that dwell in the land and shadow of death a light has dawned.” – Matthew 4:16
For Advent, I felt inspired to pray on hope and let the Holy Spirit arrange what that actually looks like. On the second day of Advent, I got to talk to a priest who means the world to me and he commented that the readings from Isaiah in Advent in particular are filled with hope, so I’ve been reading the daily readings each day. The readings from Isaiah are all about the coming of the Messiah. “So what’s the hope?” he asked me. I couldn’t really answer. Theologically I know that the hope is that Jesus came to save us from our sins, and I do know the freedom of that, but at the moment I’m right there with the Israelites—I just want someone to come and save me from all my problems! He said that’d be a good thing to meditate and paint on, and maybe to also reflect on my painting of the Visitation and the joy in Mary and Elizabeth’s faces.
Hence this painting. A couple weeks ago when I looked at the painting of Mary and Elizabeth, I had a hard time understanding their joy because all I could imagine was the turmoil Mary must have been feeling because of all she knew and loved being torn from her so soon. She must have felt the darkness. As the song Be Born in Me speaks in her voice, “Everything inside me cries for order. Everything inside me wants to hide.” Mary’s yes to the angel was nothing less than heroic. At that moment she must have seen the gravity of how difficult this had to be for her.
But the prophet Isaiah had said, “The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light; on those that dwell in the land and shadow of death a light has dawned.” This painting is of Mary sitting in the darkness as the great light in the sky points to the great light that lives and grows within her and will never leave. The angel had said, “Rejoice, so highly favored! The Lord is with you.” I can’t imagine being able to rejoice in that moment, but as I painted this, it became clearer and clearer that as Jesus grew inside her, she knew him with her, and the love she discovered for him was such that she couldn’t help rejoicing.
This morning the song Christmas Lullaby came on and I was struck by the lyrics, “How beautiful, how precious, the savior of old, to love so completely the loneliest soul. How gently, how tenderly, he says to one and all: Child, you can follow me and I will lead you home.” I actually teared up because his love really is the most cherished thing in my life and it hit me more particularly than it has before that the savior the Israelites thought they wanted is so hollow compared to what we’ve been given: Jesus, who LOVES each one of us so deeply and tenderly, who lives and longs to grow in each of us, who is never going anywhere. Rejoice! The Lord is with you!
That is the hope.