Often, we hurry by Thanksgiving, leaving our spirit of gratitude in the dust as we dash madly toward Christmas with all its demands and delights.
But actually, the gratitude we share over turkey dinner ought to slowly deepen as we head further into the season, reflecting on the advent of Christ. Yes, the intervention of the Son of God into history demands that we ponder, reflect and take time to meditate on the birth of Christ and all that it means. And never did I meditate more on the advent of Christ than the year when Billy Graham asked me to create artwork depicting Mary holding baby Jesus.
At first, I was at a loss as to how I could come up with a fresh, new idea when thousands of artists, over a course of nearly 2000 years, had already painted the manger scene! But as I pondered and reflected on Scripture—especially verses like this:
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
I was captivated by the whole purpose behind the Messiah’s coming. The Babe that Mary gave birth to came to save people from their sins… in short, he came to die.
The cross on Calvary figured significantly into Christ’s story from the very beginning.
And that’s why, when I began my preliminary sketches for this work of art, I tried hard to make the folds of Mary’s garment ‘dissolve’ into the hilly ridge leading to Mt. Calvary.
I chewed through more than fifty pencils as I erased and reworked the gentle curves of Mary’s face and those of the Christ-child. I clenched down hard on those pastel pencils, creating a contrast between compositional lines and shadows. I so wanted to get this image exactly as I envisioned it in my mind!
And then, halfway through, it seemed “The Nativity,” as I called it, took on a life of its own.
I had originally intended the line sketch to be the basis for an oil painting, but that’s not what the drawing was “telling me.” It wanted to remain a rough sketch, just as though I, the artist, were sitting on a bale of straw a few feet away, penciling feverishly to capture that tender moment when Mary first cradled her newborn in her arms. The line sketch got its way. I decided to leave it as a pastel-pencil rendering.
Consider anew the amazing reality of God becoming flesh—Jesus Christ the incarnate Word of God.
I know that was the right decision, as I’ve heard from many that “Cradle to the Cross” has prompted them to consider anew the amazing reality of God becoming flesh—Jesus Christ the incarnate Word of God.
And that’s why I’m so delighted that this drawing has been made into a limited-edition print, available for gifting this season or as an addition to your decorative items for Christmas.
These 11×14 prints come unframed and ready to ship, and every purchase you make from Joni and Friends directly supports disability ministry!
My prayer is that this season you, too, will ponder how the cradle leads to Calvary; may this wondrous thought deepen your gratitude to our precious Savior.
Take a moment to reflect on how Jesus’s birth must be celebrated in the context of his death and resurrection. For only then does his Advent into our dark world have meaning.