Day 15 – The Edge of Ruin: Reflection, Questions, and Art During Advent
About the Art: Sandro Botticelli, The Annunciation, 1489, tempera on panel, 150 x 156 cm, Uffizi, Florence, Italy. Click here to read more about this work.
Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) was an Italian painter from the early Renaissance period. His paintings typically feature minimal architectural details while relying flat colors and linear design to create a graceful, two dimensional look. Perhaps his best-known work is The Birth of Venus. Botticelli’s Annunciation was created for the funeral chapel in the church of Cestello in Florence. On it’s gilded frame are these words from Luke’s Gospel, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee” (Luke 1:35).
The Annunciation is the subject of countless paintings down through the ages because the it represents that mysterious moment when the angel Gabriel appeared to tell an ordinary virgin that she was favored by God and would conceive of a Son who would be the Savior of the world. The world would never be the same.
Botticelli used visual cues to convey the idea that while a heavenly being drew near to the earthbound Mary, there remained a separation between them. Mary is rendered as a solid figure while portions of the angel are translucent. Also, a series of red tiles on the floor create a visual separation between them. Heaven drew near, but the two remained distinct. Perhaps this separation is intended to highlight the Biblical teaching that Mary conceived the Messiah without being touched.
“Oh, that their Redeemer would come! But how, Isaiah wondered, could this be? How would his people even know the Messiah if they saw him?
“‘The Lord himself will give you a sign,’ the angel said. ‘Look, a virgin will conceive and bear a son, and she shall give him the name Immanuel.’
“A virgin would have a son called ‘God with us.’ This is what he would be—the word of God made flesh and dwelling among his people. And somehow, by his life, God’s people would find life too. Somehow, in some way, this son of the virgin would form some kind of union with the heirs to God’s covenant promise and he would become their salvation.
“What glorious implications! God was at work in his world, responding perfectly in the fullness of time to every need, every wound, and every desire.
“Someday, in a stable outside of Bethlehem, a child would be born. A son would be given. He would be wounded for his people’s transgressions. He would be crushed for their iniquities. Upon him would be the chastisement that would bring them peace, and with his stripes we would be healed.
“But first the Promised Land would succumb to the fires of Assyria’s exile, leaving things so desolate that old men would stand at the edge of the ruins and struggle to recall her former glory.”
Much of the story of the people of God is filled with sorrow and struggle. How much of that comes from God’s hand, and why do you think God allows his people to struggle in this life?
Can you think of a time when you struggled but now, looking back upon that struggle, you discover you would not do thing differently, given the chance?
What are some ways God has worked in the struggles of your own life? What are some ways God has delivered you out of struggles in your own life?