It is hard to deny that this Advent season has some places of deep darkness and suffering within it—suffering of humans and nonhumans, suffering of the earth itself. If you can't ignore that suffering, but believe it important to acknowledge the great gift of light that we remember during Advent, I invite you to interact with the painting and piece of music that I share today. My hope is that they might provide some footprints to follow for those who seek to be grateful for the gift of Jesus, seek to trust in the promises made to us, and, at the same time, seek to keep their eyes and hearts open to the suffering that is present in and around them.

Both works of art have, as their context, a world that is rife with deep and terrible suffering. But they also both point to a center of joy and hope that exists alongside that suffering. Put another way, both witness to a great love that enters into the suffering world and changes the darkness through its presence.

Irenaeus Yurchuk (Іриней Юрчук), Nativity, 2022. Mixed media on canvas.

The Stars Shine Through

The painting, Nativity 2022, is from Ukrainian-born artist, Irenaeus Yurchuk, now living in the United States. A wartime scene fills the frame of the painting, but stars speckle the devastation with their bits of light. Within the rubble of the city's structures, the stars are bright enough to penetrate even the structures themselves. The brightest star, near the center of the painting, hangs above the three figures of the Holy Family, directing our attention to the hope that exists within that intimate scene, even in the midst of the destruction.

The father, mother, and child remind us of how Jesus entered this world—vulnerable and beloved. In spite of the danger, the family grouping seems to be sheltered amidst the rubble. One question that might be asked as we see this scene is, "If God did even this, how can we be without hope?"

Come, Find Rest

The second set of footsteps I offer is a song from The Porter's Gate worship collective. It, too, recognizes the present pain of our world, but asserts that Jesus was sent as a response to that enormous grief and suffering. Whereas the suffering of the current state of the world is easy to point to and name, it can be harder work to see and name the hope and comfort that God's presence and promises can offer to us.

I invite you to listen to the soundtrack and then read the words of the song, letting the hope and promises that the song voices sink into your mind and heart.

In a Land By Death O'ershadowed
by The Porter's Gate

In a land by death o'ershadowed
Life at last begins to shine.
Over our wars and losing battles
Peace spreads out its healing light.
Bring your weak and bring your wounded,
Lay them at the savior's feet.
Hearts by sorrows worn and plundered,
Find in him their strength complete.

Come then all you bent and broken,
He has seen all your distress.
Find the peace by prophets spoken,
Come to comfort, come to rest.
Every refugee and orphan
Will be welcomed and adored,
All our violence and oppression
Will be felt and feared no more.

No matter where you find yourself this Advent, may you see the ways in which Jesus entering this world has changed the reigning reality of the world. May the stars around you shine brightly through the rubble.

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