I am not a visual artist. I appreciate the visual arts—painting, photography, sculpture—but I am not a visual artist. This condition is part lack of talent and part lack of education. I have a daughter who is a visual artist. She is talented and educated in the field. The one piece of advice she’s given me that has influenced my understanding (not ability) the most is to paint the background first; layer by layer, paint the background. (Yes, I confess that in my earliest attempts at painting, I would paint a subject and then try to fill-in the background around them. Every painting was a mess.)
Paint the background first. The same idea holds true for faith development. We often jump straight into ‘issues’ without understanding the layers of historic and cultural backgrounds. We make judgments about biblical characters without considering their social, political and religious contexts. We sing hymns—some with strange lyrics—without knowledge of their origins or their unique poetic elements. This year, rather than jumping straight into the nativity scene and into the subsequent Christmas carols, we are going to pause and paint the background first.
On Wednesday evening, December 1, at 6:15pm in the Fellowship Hall (make a reservation and come earlier if you want to eat), I will be leading a MidWeek Fellowship session titled Backgrounds: Stories Behind the Birth Narratives of Jesus. On the next Wednesday, December 8 (same time, same place) Dr. Vivian Hamilton will lead an interactive singing-session titled Backgrounds: Stories Behind the Carols. I’m certain you will find these moments to be informative, provocative and inspirational. They might add a little depth to your faith, making this Christmas season a little more meaningful. I’ll see you on Wednesday evening…no artistic talent required.

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