We are in the middle of Advent, the tangled point of anticipation. It is a good time for us to pause, step back, ask ourselves why it is we do what we do. Why do we create? What does it mean, or should it mean, to create?
It is the season for us to wonder and marvel: God co-creates Godself in the womb of a woman, who is God’s partner in the artistry. Mary does not disavow her womb in the collaboration but is as invested an artist in the work as God. The divine and the human commingle and co-create. God indwells, but God partners, and from the partnership comes the great mystery, the rippling whisper-shout of impossibility on the hillside of Bethlehem, that unto us is born a savior.
We are a long way from Pentecost, the lilt in the church year that circles us back toward Ordinary Time and the expectant work of the now and not yet Kingdom of God. It is worth ruminating, though, on the bookends of the seasons. In Advent we look for the One who is to come; in Pentecost we look for the One who is to come again. In Advent, we make much of the God who comes and indwells a poor girl, and in this act hallows bodies forever. In Pentecost, we make much, but perhaps not enough, of the God who comes and indwells all of us who confess Christ as Lord, and in this act hallows creation forever.
I suggest we do not perhaps make enough of Pentecost as it relates to Advent because of the disconnect we can have when it comes to things like the creative arts. We are in danger, at times, of elevating too highly the artist as a prophet outside of God, a pointer not a participator, and we reduce works of art themselves to gateways that show and tell but do not guide and commune. But if the Incarnation teaches us anything, it is that the ordinary human being is made extraordinary when God indwells. We are no longer merely creatures but co-creators, participating in the life of God, who participates in our own lives. It is the restoration and expansion of the word given in the creation myth to be stewards of the creations. We now no longer merely steward alone, but as partner, as participators in the active work of God’s redemption for all things.
As Christians we confess that God’s kingdom shall have no end.
We confess this, at times, to our peril. If we believe this, then we are responsible for the work of the kingdom itself, the labor of birthing forth–like Mama Mary–collaborative incarnation into the world. We must make with purpose and make with intention, for we have been given the same God as Mary, the same indwells in us, and therefore we create not on our own but in the life of that God, however imperfect or shadowed the creations may be.
Why do we create?
We create because we are partners with God. We are God’s collaborators in the divine project of redemption and restoration, and though the collaborations can be strained and wobbly and miss more than meet, we are nonetheless called on to do this work of gospel, to be proclaimers of news most good.
The artist as Christian does not stand outside of God; their work does not merely point.
Like the veiled God behind the stretch of flesh over Mary’s stomach, God is not so far from us when mediated by painter, dancer, potter.
This is the tilt of the world, the circling of the year, as Irenaeus phrases it: God becomes as we are so that we might become as God is.
We create because God indwells us. We create because God’s kingdom shall have no end and it has already begun.
Preston Yancey recently earned his MLitt in Theology, Imagination and the Arts from the University of St Andrews. His first book, Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again, is due out autumn 2014 with Zondervan. He blogs here and tweets here.
Editor’s Note: Transpositions will be taking a break for the holiday season and will return in the New Year on 6 January 2014. Until then, we hope and pray you have a Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas.