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Text For The Month / Monatsspruch

December 2021

Shout and rejoice, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live amongst you, declares the Lord (Zechariah 2.10).


January 2022

Come, and you will see! (John 1.39)


TEXT FOR THE YEAR 2022

Christ speaks: Whoever comes to me I will not drive away (John 6.37).
The meaning of all three texts is integrated in the interpretation of the Christmas illustration:

For Christmas 2021

As a motif I have chosen the symbols assigned to the first four scriptures in the New Testament. It is intended as a tribute to the evangelists who, each in his own way, and looking back from Easter, brought us the message of God's incarnation as the meaning and joy of Christmas. It is precisely here, where the written testimony was entirely dependent on the oral tradition, that the Gospels also have legendary content that cannot be refuted. I welcome this, because it suits our imagination as an aid to faith, and has been welcomed with open arms by all forms of cultural expressions. The list of authors of legends that can be found in literature, created around the Christ child and for Christmas, would be long. The works of the continental cultures differ here from the insular, an interesting topic in itself. For instance Charles Dickens, 'the architect of our Christmas traditions', is ascribed a simple faith. "His personal beliefs were rooted in the teaching of the New Testament in general, and in the four Gospels in particular" (Church Times). Aspects of this can be found in all his Christmas stories.

The visual arts took an early interest in the four Gospels. Already at the beginning of the 8th century impressive book painting was created in the manuscripts of the Gospels. I only mention the famous Lindisfarne Gospels, "created for the glory of God". In the illuminations, as can be found in other examples, the symbols of the four evangelists are a dominating feature: Matthew: Winged Man, Mark: Winged Lion, Luke: Winged Ox, John: Eagle. The church father St. Jerome already dealt with the subject in the early 5th century, and a far-reaching interpretation has been handed down, in which the assignation of the symbols is explained with passages from the Gospels.

I am also referring to the text chosen by the church for December: Shout and rejoice, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live amongst you, declares the Lord (Zechariah 2.10). It is a text for Advent and Christmas, which is reflected in the context of sacred music. The term Daughter of Zion can be related to all humanity. We find in the lyrics of Handel's Messiah the lines:

O daughter of Zion,
shout, O daughter of Jerusalem,
behold, thy King cometh unto thee.
Rejoice, rejoice and shout,
shout, shout, shout,
rejoice, rejoice greatly.

The message of God's incarnation in His son Jesus Christ should fill us at Christmas with joy and thanksgiving. And because that is the case, we can confidently and gratefully accept the guiding text chosen for the year 2022, in which Christ speaks: Whoever comes to me I will not drive away (John 6.37). And who this Jesus Christ is, what He teaches and what He expects of us, convey to us in their fullness the four Gospels. They make us realise that even the 'simple faith' ascribed to Charles Dickens, is not easy. In the widest sense this is also expressed in Christ's invitation in the text for January 2022: Come, and you will see! (John 1.39).

The centre of the image is formed by a radial cross, that either separates or holds together the evangelists' symbols. The cross expands into a source of light. Whether it is the Christmas Star (traditionally eight-pointed), or the 'light of the world', I leave to the beholder.

Bernd Hildebrandt

 

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