How do we learn to live with the mystery we call God? Can we remain open to surprises from God, so journeying with deeper faith we experience an ever greater God? Trusting in God our souls can find rest in our ever-deepening enjoyment of Him. Safety and security grow as we live into the interior knowing that we belong to God, body and soul. Devotional art can be a beautiful means of grace, a way in which we can encounter God and enjoy Him in a new way.
Pastor and theologian Eugene Peterson said, “It’s essential for us to develop an imagination that is participatory. Art is the primary way this happens. The fellowship, which God seeks with us, is fellowship through participation with Himself, the God who is fellowship and participation.”
Profound transformation can occur in our lives by what we imagine; we begin to see things differently, we move out of our heads and into our hearts where the grace of God can transform us.
What do you notice in the beautiful wool and silk tapestry above, “The Adoration of the Magi” by Edward Burne-Jones? Let the Holy Spirit draw your attention to an aspect of the tapestry that He wants you to notice. Jeremiah 31:3 reminds us, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” How is God drawing you to soak in His love through this beautiful piece of art?
When I first saw this tapestry in a museum, my eyes immediately noticed that each Magi had taken off his crown and that all heads were bowed in adoration, awe and praise. What captures your attention? Enter into a conversation with Jesus about this image. In silence listen for Jesus’ gentle, tender voice of love. Notice what feelings arise as you listen to Jesus. Is there anything he is inviting you to do in response to what he is showing you or saying to you? Is there a song or scripture that the Holy Spirit brings to your heart and mind?
While contemplating this piece of art, I felt my heart touched by God’s love for me. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son” (John 3:16 MSG). Reverently I knelt down, bowed my head and surrendered to the love of God, as the praise chorus by Chris Tomlin filled my soul:
We fall down
We lay our crowns
At the feet of Jesus
The greatness of
Mercy and love
At the feet of Jesus…
Using participatory imagination, how else could you deepen your enjoyment of Jesus? Often God surprises us with our senses, transforming our knowing of Him through them. As you allow your mind to grow quiet, to grow still, imagine yourself stepping into the 8-by-12-foot tapestry and joining Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Magi. Where do you find yourself within the scene? And who do you imagine yourself to be? Are you Mary holding baby Jesus, or do you enter as the first Magi, gently setting your crown on the garden floor, so you can give your gift to Jesus, or are you the angel of Bethlehem, illuminating Jesus?
Ask the Holy Spirit to enliven your imagination and join in the adoration! Use all your senses. Allow the story to come alive for you. See the people. Hear what they are saying. Share in the action. Yet always let the main focus be on the human Jesus. Yes, Jesus is both human and divine, but we want to focus on Jesus’ humanity. Can you enter in to see, feel and understand what Jesus saw, felt and understood. Your prayer is a long, loving look at Jesus. God loves to surprise us in prayer. Were there any graced surprises in your imaginative prayer?
As I entered into this snapshot in time, I gently picked up baby Jesus and held Him in my arms, gazed into His eyes, felt His tiny fingers close over my finger, and felt the warmth of His body next to mine. The wonder of the incarnation filled my heart with joy for “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3). Adoring Jesus, the lyrics by George Beverly Shea sang in my heart, “But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul is the wonder that God loves me ”
Glenda Campos is a spiritual director who attends Living Spring Christian Fellowship in Garden Grove, California. She has served most of her career as an educator, most recently as an English teacher. She also worked as a small group coordinator for First Free Methodist Church in Seattle, Washington.
- Who was Jesus for you and who were you for Jesus as the Holy Spirit drew your attention to the significant image(s) in the tapestry?
- As you focused on Jesus, what snapshot in time captured your attention the most and how did the image deepen your heartfelt knowledge of Jesus?