Virgin Mother and Second Adam

Dec. 6, Bruce Herman, Magnificat Miriam Virgin Mother_1_advent_image

Miriam: Virgin Mother and Second Adam Triptychs
Bruce Herman
Oil on wooden panel with silver and gold leaf
Permanent installation–Monastery of San Paolo, Orvieto, Italy

About the Art 
Bruce Herman’s paintings—in the traditional form of two large altarpieces—constitute a sustained reflection on the life of the Virgin Mary from the time of her “Yes” to God at the Annunciation to the fulfillment of this “sword that will pierce your soul” at her Son’s Crucifixion. Critic Rachel Smith states, ”The two triptychs represent the dual paths of discipleship that Mary exemplifies: the via activa, where Mary is active participant called to be a key instrument in God’s most critical work and the via contemplative, where Mary is a reflective witness pondering the implications of God’s audacious plan.” The theme of incarnation and Herman’s interplay between the traditional biblical narrative of scripture juxtaposed with a modern abstract sensibility make these works unique.

Bruce Herman was an art professor at Gordon College when I attended, and I was personally blessed by many of his pieces on display in the campus art galleries and including in worship events.

The comments below (as well as the image) was taken from The Advent Project of Biola University Center for Christianity Culture & the Arts

As I view Bruce Herman’s Virgin Mother and The Second Adam I am captured by two images – vessels and bearing. Mary was the chosen vessel to bring the Son of God into the world, yet she was a willing vessel – one who said “yes” to God. She was the chosen vessel, yet she chose to be the vessel. She was willing to bear Him in the pain, fear, and loneliness of childbirth, a foreshadowing of His bearing our sin on the cross. In His example, we are called to bear the cross and the burdens of others. I am struck by the placement of Mary’s arms and hands in these paintings. In one image she has her hand on her belly indicating her pregnancy and expectancy for birth. In another she is contemplating two vessels, and in yet another she is grasping her throat perhaps in a way to contain her sadness at seeing her son on the cross.


What’s wrong with this Christmas list?

(Click on the link below to see the list)


I will tell you!

Besides the glaring fact that Sherlock Holmes is NOT a Christmas movie….(I am open on Die Hard though)

This list from IMD is a typical list of top Christmas movies, similar to any you may find. Other similar lists including “top grossing” Christmas movies, etc..

The word “wrong” may have been a feeble attempt to stir the pot a bit….

This list is certainly “telling” just how far culture and society has indeed moved away from the true meaning of Christmas. I have watched every one of these top 25 Christmas movies, and to my recollection only 3 of them state the actual meaning of Christmas, with The Nativity depicting the historical accuracy and significance of this most beloved holiday.

Santa Clause, of course, is the main character in the vast majority of these movies, with Jesus taking a back seat (with the exception of Little Drummer Boy, A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Nativity…and hey at least that movie made it to #7)


It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol at least get to the meaning of giving, love, faith and angels (in some regards)

In youth group this past week we discussed the question “Is Christmas still a Christian holiday”.  The majority of people who celebrate do not attend any church service or mass, nor participate in Advent or read the Biblical story.

Moreover, an increasing number of non-Christian countries are beginning to celebrate Christmas including Muslim and Hindu countries.  While I am in favor of that (in theory) I have been told from friends who live there that the commercial interests and American culture has infiltrated their countries, much to the display of the traditionalists.  Santa, Rudolf, colorful lights, trees, presents, and well…more gift giving has won the day and America is to thank.  But nowhere, literally nowhere in these cultures does the story of Jesus’ birth and theological impact of the incarnation ever make it into the celebration…thus proving (in some way) that Christmas is no longer a Christian holiday.

Perhaps this is good as the commercialism and consumerism of the holiday (as celebrated by Americans at least) has moved in stark contrast to the ideals of that first Christmas and Jesus’ message “It is better to give than to receive.”

Let me be honest for a moment.

I struggle with this because as my two boys grow up, there is a huge part of me that wants them to be just as excited with Santa, Rudolph, Frosty and opening shiny boxes on Christmas Day as I was.  I do not believe this is bad.

However, it is very easy to let our attention and affection gravitate solely towards those aspects rather than the simple, humble and profound message of God becoming one of us…”Immanuel”


Waiting with Anticipation


I love the Advent season.  As a child I simply loved the festivities that accompanied the beginning of December.  My family would decorate our house with lights, put up the family Christmas tree and begin rehearsals for our church children’s pageant.  I remember also our Advent calendar, mostly because of the small chocolates one would discover upon opening the tiny windows.  I must confess that one year I was apparently very anxious for the arrival of Christmas day and decided to open (and eat) the entire month of December!

As an adult I still love those holiday traditions.  However, the season of Advent represents far more to me now than a daily calendar.  As I read through Enuma Okoro’s book Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent, I am encouraged to fully enter into these first advent stories.  I find myself in constant reflection during Advent.  It provides an opportunity to look back on the year that was and bring everything before God.  It also provides an opportunity to look ahead to what could be and bring to God our hopes and dreams.

What has been significant for my wife Lauretta and I during our marriage is how we relate different to each character based upon the season of our life.  For the first five years of marriage, the story of Elizabeth resonated deeply for us.  We read in Luke 1 that Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were childless and, I would imagine, constantly in prayer for God’s will for their future family.  Though the years hurried along seemingly without an answer, they maintained their faithfulness towards each other and the service of the Lord.


I vividly remember one year ago while celebrating our first Advent season at our new church here in Paris, Lauretta and I lit the candle for Hope.  It had been our prayer and hope to start a family and we entered into Advent waiting upon the Lord in anxiety.

One year later we anxiously await the arrival of our twin boys and now appreciate even more Mary’s Advent story.  Luke’s narrative continues with the startling news of Mary’s, rather unexpected, pregnancy.  This divine plan radically changed her life and for 9 months I imagine Mary pondering what her life would be like.  I am sure that any soon-to-be parents have similar thoughts such as these:  Am I ready?  Will I be a good parent?  What will this child be like?

Lauretta and I find ourselves immersed in this Advent story as our waiting continues, but now with excitement, anticipation, and a little anxiety mixed in!

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” – Luke1: 47

future Sox

Poll question: Advent?


Over the past few years I have noticed a resurgence of liturgy and Church calendar celebrations, especially in nontraditional type churches.

Our church follows the Church Calendar seasonally and a liturgical calendar weekly.

Lent (before Easter) and Advent (before Christmas) have been two major inroads for churches and youth ministries to participate in “traditional” forms of worship and celebration.

So, my question is simply…in your church or ministry, do you intentionally celebrate Advent?

The Advent Experience

Over the past three weeks, I lead our youth and young adults on an experience of the advent and incarnation.  One week we set up Advent Stations that focussed around the theme of Waiting.  Each room we had was created to encounter the meaning of advent and provide sacred space to pause, be still and receive from God.  It was a great evening and the first of its kind for many of the participants at my new church.  Many reflected on how the change of pace was difficult and uncomfortable at first, but proved to be necessary.

I have discovered the unique paradox that while the French are known to spend quality time enjoying life, they (in particular the Parisians) suffer from the frenetic and often chaotic busyness of everyday life.  Students attend school from 8h to 18h (8am to 6pm) including Saturdays for some.  The amount of work far surpasses what my former New York (high-achiever) students were given.

This time of season it becomes all the more important to focus on what truly matters.

We also had a discussion on Consumerism and Christimas and contrasted the images and feelings associated with the many creches in the city with reactions to the environment surrounding the Galeries Lafayette (world-famous mall in Paris)

This video was a helpful reminder for us to center on the true meaning and significance of Christmas

Last week our young adults gathered for an evening of Carols and Stories.

The ideas was to read in community the Christmas Story, beginning from the Old Testament and concluding with Revelation.  In many ways the Christmas story is the apex of the Story of God and so we read, reflected and lit candles for each section read.

Inbetween the sections we sang familiar carols and hymns that seem appropriated for the theme.  Here is the structure and breakdown of the evening.

The Prophecies:

Isaiah 9: 1-7 Michah 5: 1-5 Isaiah 60: 1-6 Micah 4:1-8 Isaiah 40:1-11 Isaiah 42: 1-9

O Come O Come Emmanuel

O Little Town of Bethlehem

John the Baptist

Luke 1: 5-25 Luke 1: 57-80 Mark 1: 1-8

*the image above is Leonardo da vinci’s “annuniciation”

The Annunciations of Jesus

Luke 1: 26-38 Matthew 1:18-25 Luke 1: 39-56

Silent Night

O Holy Night

*the imago above is “the birth of the Christ child” located in the sanctuary at The American Church in Paris

The Nativity

Matthew 1: 18-25 Luke 2: 1-20 Matthew 2: 1-12

Angels We Have Heard on High

The First Noel

The Incarnation

John 1:1-18 Philippians 2: 1-12 Colossians 1: 15-20

O Come, All Ye Faithful

Joy to the World

The Return

Matthew 24: 36-44 Revelation 22: 12-21

Savior of the Nations,

Come Revelation Song

The Advent Candles

First Candle

Color: Purple
Theme: Hope
First Sunday in Advent

Second Candle

Color: Purple
Theme: Love
Second Sunday in Advent

Third Candle

Color: Purple or pink Theme: Joy
Third Sunday in Advent

Fourth Candle

Color: Purple
Theme: Peace
Fourth Sunday in Advent

*Fifth Candle

Color: White Theme: Christ Christmas Day

I also provided a handout to be used at home following the 4th Sunday of Advent.  It is condensed version of the Christmas story, meant to be read the seven days leading up to Christmas.

One-Week Meditation

Day 1     Isaiah 9:1-7; Isaiah 42:1-9

Isaiah 7:14;   Micah 5:2

Day 2 Luke 1

Day 3 Matt 1:18-25

Day 4 Luke 2:1-20

Day 5 Matt 2:1-12

Day 6 Luke 2:21-40

Day 7 John 1:1-14

These three weeks helped our group enter into the story personally and spiritually and connect with the significance of the Incarnation.  It also helped the group to appreciate even more why we can and should celebrate on Christmas Day.

The long-awaited Savior has come.  Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love are here and avaialbe.  This is good news (gospel) of great joy for all people…for unto us a Child is Born.

The week leading up to Christmas then intentionally is full of parties.  We went caroling down the Champs-Elysees this past weekend, all-church staff party last night, youth leaders party Wednesday night, and have a fun-filled Christmas party for the Youth on Sunday and Young Adults on Tuesdays consisting of a gift swap, karaoke caroling, cookie decorating contest, A Charlie Brown Christmas, a really wild version of the 12 days of Christmas, and so on.

*I must admit that it has been a pleasant transition to be in a city and culture that celebrates Christmas with great enthusiasm.  Unlike my home in NY, you are allowed to say Merry Christmas and display nativities in public.

A Liter of Light

In this season of Advent we light candles each Sunday to reflect on Christ’s light and love and to remind us to walk in the light of the Lord.

This video is a great illustration of how light can pierce the darkness and transform lives.

I wish the world had more tangible ways of illustrating and demonstrating this kind of love.

John 1

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

“Christian” Christmas movies?

I do find it a bit ironic (and sad) that the vast majority of Christmas movies have little or nothing to do with the birth of Christ, which is supposed to be the reason for celebration.

Of course, you and I know that our society has made the season of Christmas into a cultural phenomenon and all the glitz and glamor seem to get in the way of the actual mystery and majesty of the Incarnation.

I was listening to the radio today and am always surprised how many “Christian” Christmas songs are being played.  The theology behind these songs are rich and profound.  I will write more about this later.  But as I scroll through my TV to rent Christmas movies, the opposite takes place.  Almost every movie or TV special is about Santa Claus, Frosty, and those little cute elves.

Now, I actually like those movies quite a bit and watch them every year.  But I am still amazed at the lack of movies that at least try to depict or portray the true spirit of the holiday.

Christmas can be a time for culture to focus on a change of heart.   Very few movies actually tell the story of Christmas, but some tell the story of a person who lacks the Christmas spirit, goes through a crisis, and comes to realize the importance of love, generosity, faith, and family.

From the Advent Companion, “It appears that amid all the commercialization of the season and all the pressures and confusion, the human heart still hears the call of the prophet, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Here are a few of those movies I can think of, but I would love for you to add to this list.  Each year, I make a point to watch and promote these movies as a way of allowing contemporary media to help ground me in the true Spirit of Christ.

1)  The Nativity Story

2) A Charlie Brown Christmas

3) It’s a Wonderful Life

4) A Christmas Carol

5) Miracle on 34th Street

Can you think of others that have blessed you this year or in years past?

excerpt from A Charlie Brown Christmas