Advent Art, Day 2: Hear

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About the Art: Rembrandt van Rijn, St. John the Baptist Preaching, c. 1634, Oil on canvas laid down on panel, 62 x 80 cm, Staatliche Museen, Berlin. Click here to see the full painting.

Many of the old masters who painted John the Baptist worked to capture a sense of him stepping out of the wilderness (and of obscurity) and into society where he would become known for preparing the way for the Messiah’s coming by calling the people to repent and believe.

Here Rembrandt captures this sense of emergence by filling the background with buildings and statues and aqueducts, while enveloping Christ’s ambassador and herald in the only true light. John the Baptist’s audience consists of religious leaders discussing and debating his message, solitary figures weighing his words in their hearts, some folks walking away, and others moving in closer.

His was a message many longed to hear about an event many longed to behold—the coming of the Messiah.

(The excerpt under the heading “Consider” is from my book, The Advent of the Lamb of God.)

Consider

“Long before John the Baptizer ever set foot in the Jordan, even before the days of King David and the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, in the days of Moses not long after the Hebrew peoples’ exodus from Egypt, they began their worship gatherings with this one word: Hear.

“They were to worship the Lord, and they were to understand why they should. The call to worship wasn’t a detached decree to render affection to an unknown deity—the God who called them was anything but detached. This command was a call to remember. They were to rehearse in their minds and hearts and homes this story—their story—the story of how the Maker of heaven and earth had called their people to himself and bound himself to them as their God.

“Though it was a story still unfolding, they knew enough to understand that the Lord their God was one in number and in nature, and that the only proper way to respond to his dealings with them was to love him with everything they had and everything they were.”[1]

Examine

It can be easy to practice ceremony without our hearts being in it. Is your celebration of Christmas marked by your worship of Jesus, or is it more along the lines of a cultural routine? What are some ways you can build intentionality into your celebration of Christmas?

What do you think it means to love the Lord with all your heart? With all your soul? With all your might? Are you someone who practices these things? If so, how? If not, why not?

__________________

[1] Ramsey, Russ. The Advent of the Lamb of God. IVP, 2018. pgs. 17-18.

Russ Ramsey
Russ is a pastor and author living in Nashville, Tennessee. His books include Struck: One Christian's Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), and the Retelling the Story Series, featuring The Advent of the Lamb of God (IVP, 2018). His personal mission is to communicate the truths of Scripture in accessible ways to people in process. Follow Russ on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

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