Fourth Sunday of Advent — December 18, 2022 Lectionary Texts — Year A
Isaiah 7:10-16 • Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 • Romans 1:1-7 • Matthew 1:18-25
Image description: A messenger angel floats mid air in tones of spring green, copper, white and silver. Eyes glow from a stern looking feminine face. Dressed in a flowing robe that hides the feet and a silver halo, the angel holds its left hand upward its fingers extended as if it is receiving something from above. With right arm extended the angel points directly at the viewer conveying that which is being received. Shorter dense wings unfurl behind the angel. The left wing of the messenger is surrounded by green while the right wing emits a energetic flowing lines of dot work. The painting is based on the bronze sculpture that hangs on church at The Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem in Palestine.
Isaiah: Listen then. You are none other than the house of David, the one who inherited God’s promise of permanent kingship for David’s descendants. Is it so easy to be a bore to people that you would exhaust God’s patience too? Suit yourself. The Lord will give you a proof-sign anyway: See, a young maiden will conceive. She will give birth to a son and name Him Immanuel, that is, “God with us.” — Isaiah 7:13-14
Joseph, because he was kind and upstanding and honorable, wanted to spare Mary shame. He did not wish to cause her more embarrassment than necessary. Now when Joseph had decided to act on his instincts, a messenger of the Lord came to him in a dream.
Messenger of the Lord: Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to wed Mary and bring her into your home and family as your wife. She did not sneak off and sleep with someone else — rather, she conceived the baby she now carries through the miraculous wonderworking of the Holy Spirit. She will have a son, and you will name Him Jesus, which means “the Lord saves,” because this Jesus is the person who will save all of His people from sin. — Matthew 1:19-21
You’ve maybe heard of a “truth bomb” — its when the truth is revealed and with it comes a shock because we either weren’t expecting it, find it hard to believe, or don’t want to hear it. The look on the face of this angel and the strong confident hand gestures strike me. It was easy to land on the title, Messenger of Truth after I had completed this painting. The angel appears the very visualization of a “truth bomb”. Our lectionary texts too contain the accounts of both King Ahaz and Joseph receiving some real truth. Have you ever had a similar experience where something was revealed to you and it came with such force it changed you? your direction? your understanding? your outlook?
Practicing Visio Divina:
- View the artwork
What do you see?
Note shapes – color – style – movement
What stands out for you?
What are you curious about?
What questions do you have?
Hold back any feelings – judgments – opinions
- Read the accompanying scripture and look over the artwork again
What connections do you make?
Between the image and text?
What is coming to mind from your own experience?
What feelings are rising in you?
Are you uncomfortable with something?
There are no right or wrong answers
- Read the scripture again and explore the artwork a third time
What do you hear?
What is God saying to you?
What do you wish to speak to God?
What blessing or prayer is rising in you?