The sun has set, but your burning light remains in my heart. No darkness can withstand you, Light of the world. Be still my light in the hours of darkness, to keep me fixed on things eternal and guard me from temptation and harm. You came into this world as life-giving Light; make my life a testimony to the true Life, a reflection of the true Light of all. Light my way, even in darkest night—Amen.
I know, I know, but I just couldn’t help myself.
You have perhaps already read that a banana duct-taped to the wall has been declared a sculpture and sold (in three versions) for $120,000 or more each. This is only the latest demonstration of the farcical level to which the art world has sunk in the (post)modern era.
There is an absurd pretentiousness about it all. Consider the words of the gallery’s founder, Emmanuel Perrotin:
Prior to the reported sale, Perrotin told CNN the bananas are “a symbol of global trade, a double entendre, as well as a classic device for humor,” adding that the artist turns mundane objects into “vehicles of both delight and critique.”
Such is the vacuous defense of the debasement of art in a culture that has lost sight of truth and goodness. Those are the three characteristics classically referred to as the “transcendentals”: the true, the beautiful, and the good. It makes sense that our cultural elites, who have so constantly twisted the truth and perverted goodness would develop a debased sense of beauty.
The ready reply is that, by seeing foolishness here instead of brilliant artistic satire, I only show myself to be a Philistine who doesn’t understand art. Ignorance is why someone like me rejects modern art. This is the paradox of our educational system; somehow, adequate education and enlightenment is supposed to produce people who think a duct-taped banana is art, and that eating that banana is “performance art.”
Yet there is a comfort in the observation of common grace. I think that this story is so widely publicized because most people see this situation for what it is. Only those initiated into the nonsense of (post)modern art are deceived by this; only the elitists are buying it–figuratively and literally.
From the rising of the sun, look on me with love, Lord of all. From my rising in the morning, guide my steps in the way of life, the way that pleases you. Let Christmas be in my heart and Easter on my mind. I walk in the world to which you came, Son of the Most High. I am of the blood for which you came, and in the rising of the Son I have received my own resurrection. Let me live awake and arisen, for you, today.
Holy Spirit, let me rest tonight in your peace. By your power the Son came to us; by your power, unite me more fully to Him. Shelter me from all the worries of the day, the fears of the future and the failures of the past. Fill me instead with love for my God and Savior, hope for the future, and satisfaction in nearness to my King—Amen.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:26-27, NIV)
Thus begins the story of the Annunciation. This follows on the story of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah to announce that his wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to John–the forerunner of the Messiah. But what a powerful contrast is formed between that scene and the one that follows.
The wonderful work of God is unexpected.
Gabriel announced the birth of the forerunner to Zechariah, a priest of good standing, in the temple of God, in Jerusalem the political and religious center of Israel. But Gabriel was sent to announce the birth of the Messiah Himself to an ordinary peasant girl in a backwater village.
Thus God shows that His purposes do not unfold in the ways of the world.
Galilee is far from Jerusalem, and a region of some suspicion to other Israelites; Nazareth is a town of some suspicion to other Galileans (see Jn. 1:46)! But here in an insignificant and inauspicious setting, God chooses the mother who will bear the Savior.
What do we know of Mary? Very little. She is twice described as a virgin, and in the context of her engagement we may infer that she was in her young teens–the normal age for marriage in that place and time. As the narrative unfolds, we see her courage, character, and faithful submission to God. But she is no one the world would regard as powerful or important.
Joseph, though a descendant of David, is nowhere close to the throne. He is, we may say, a good blue-collar Jewish man.
Through such ordinary faithful people, God sent His Son into the world. The very setting of the Annunciation prompts us to reflect on the wonderful grace of God, who reaches down to us in our sin and darkness.
Light has come into our darkened world; and it has come through and come to ordinary men and women who follow God in faith.
O Spirit by whom the Son came to us from the Father, unite me ever nearer with the Son, so that I may walk faithfully, a child of the Father. My days are in your hands; carry me through this day in nearness with my Savior and God. Keep me on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternity. Give me grace to subordinate this wandering will, mine to thine, that your will may be done in me.
God my shield, guard me in the night as you have guarded me in the day. You are invincible, and I am safe with you. Protect me even from temptations that would strike at my faith and cause me to grieve your heart. You sent your Son to bring us safely to yourself. He came among the lowly; draw near this lowly one. I rest myself in you through the hours of the night, awaiting your return in unassailable light—Amen.
“It matters not, though death draw nigh
In curtained chamber fair,
Or on the deep, ‘mid wrecking blasts,
If He be with us there:
And may my ransomed soul at last,
Time’s storm-tried voyage o’er,
Sit down, like Mary, at his feet,
And listen evermore.”
-Lydia Huntley Sigourney, from “The Third Day at Sea”
Heavenly Father, you sent your Son into this world for our salvation; and you have sent me into this day to do your will. Help me to faithfully carry out your desires. Let me act in holiness, speak in wisdom, and reach out in love. Guard me from every wicked desire, and fill me instead with the desire for you: your presence, your holiness, your reign. Give me godly longings, God over all.
Word of creation, born into this world, abide with me. You have made me and remade me; remake me still until I am molded into your likeness. You came to us and came to me; teach me to come after you even when I am still. Make the memory of your advent a fire within to move me, and a fire without to turn me from the path of sin. Let me pass this night in holiness and gratitude, and strengthen me for tomorrow—Amen.