Dear Christ Church
I was recently given one of the best gifts I have received in recent memory, a painting given by our staff and Vestry in celebration of my ten years at Christ Church Austin. It’s called Furniture Making during Drought, by Austin artist Jim Janknegt.
This painting captures Advent for me. The picture of furniture-making speaks to daily faithfulness in our given vocations, in community, and during the dry seasons of life. While a consuming fire rages in one part of the scene, just below that lumbermen saw off branches of drought-stricken trees to be redeemed for use. While workers mill the lumber, craftsmen make beautiful furniture.
Sometimes all we know to do is put hand to plow (or wood to saw, numbers to spreadsheet, or ear to someone’s story) and wait for rain. This painting speaks to me of defiantly making beauty in the midst of difficult conditions, furniture making (or our own daily vocations) as a prophetic act of hope.
What does this have to do with Advent? During Advent we actively wait for rain, we long for the return of Jesus. We cry out “Come Lord Jesus, and bring an end to sin and death, trials and suffering; heal our hearts and all nations!”
You’ll notice that, even in the midst of drought, some are gathered at table for a feast, and central to the entire scene is a tree of life planted by a stream. Somehow the tree and stream are in but not entirely of the drought-stricken world; they are “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” They strike me as the already-not yet kingdom of God.
In Advent we wait with hope. How do we wait with hope during drought-stricken times? By defiantly making beauty in the midst of our daily vocations, in community. And by bearing witness to the coming kingdom, most especially at the table of Holy Eucharist that draws all who would be fed by the body and blood of our soon-coming King.