Not long ago I visited the State Tretyakov art Gallery in Moscow. On display were hundreds of works of art ranging from Ivan Aivazovsky’s (1817–1900) masterful seascapes, to Orest Kipreksy’s (1782–1836) famous portrait of Alexander Pushkin, Alexander Gerasimov’s (1881–1963) depictions of soviet realism, and Vassily Maximov’s (1844–1911), paintings of late 19th century peasant life in Russia.
The Russian Orthodox icons exhibit was one of my favorites. The problem with the icons is that they never feature the artist’s signature. This was frustrating! There were some styles of icons that I preferred more than others and I wanted to know who the artist was so that I could narrow in on their work. After all, knowing the artist helps us get insight into the personal complexities behind what makes their work unique. Art is an extension of the artist’s imagination—an imagination that is the result of the artist’s unique human experience in real time and space. In a sense, art is an extension of that person themselves.
This is what Christmas is all about.
Christmas starts in the beginning with the story of creation. God, as the masterful artist, first forms and then fills the creation. At the very end of the creation project, God puts His signature on it by creating humanity. Humanity, as the culminating piece of God’s artwork that is the natural world, testifies to the creation Who the Creator is. When people look around and say, “Who made all of this?!,” we’re able to say, “take a look at human-beings and you’ll get a good idea.”
The problem is that humanity rebelled against God. This rebellion distorts God’s signature on the creation. Because of sin in the world, when we look at humanity, we get a very wrong idea about who God is. Humans are not like God any longer. God is just, faithful, loving, and self-giving. People are vengeful, treacherous, hateful, and selfish. Instead of projecting the goodness of the Creator into the creation, they project brokenness, corruption, decay, and death.
In the birth of Jesus, God’s signature on the creation is restored. Jesus is God’s true, pure signature. Hebrews 1:3 says about Jesus, “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word” (italics added). In Jesus, God Himself took on the flesh of humanity so that people could see what He was really like (Phil. 2:7). Jesus says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” (John 14:9).
Jesus is God’s signature piece. Of all the things that the creation comes in contact to, Jesus is the one who best portrays who God is. This is because Jesus is God. If you want to know what God looks like, look at Jesus.
At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that the veil is lifted and we’re able to see God once again as He takes on flesh and dwells among us.