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Following the star, and painting it!

Grace and peace to you in this time of Epiphany. As we pack away the remains of Christmas, Epiphany is a reminder of the light shining in the darkness. As the magi in Matthew’s gospel followed the light of the star, “they were overwhelmed with joy.”

Epiphany is the celebration of God’s self-revelation to the world in Jesus Christ. It encourages us to reflect on the mystery of Christ, to rejoice in the dawning of Christ’s light and to witness to that light.

Guided by the light

Abby Howe lives at St. Andrew’s Village in Mahtomedi, MN, and one of the ways she keeps the message of Christ’s birth alive in her heart is to paint! In fact, one of her works, “We Three Kings,” illustrates this Epiphany scene. Abby noted that she has been fascinated with the bright star guiding the kings to the baby Jesus. She added, “This star still guides me today.”

Abby describes, “Drawing and painting have always been a great pleasure and relaxation for me, especially when I was a stay-at-home mom of five boys. I majored in Related Arts in college but it wasn’t until I retired that I really started doing it ‘seriously’ by attending workshops and joining the White Bear Center for the Arts and Northstar Watercolor Society. Nature has provided me with most of my subjects in landscapes and flowers. I love the way the watercolors flow together.”

Reflecting on the Epiphany story and holding a scrap of paper torn from a church bulletin, Abby read the first few lines of the hymn by Kathleen Thomerson, “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light”:

I want to walk as a child of the light.
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the world.
The star of my life is Jesus.
In him there is no darkness at all.
The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light of the city of God.
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

Drawing inspiration

The natural world is clearly one of Abby’s inspirations as you look at the paintings adorning the walls of her apartment. When asked about her process of painting, Abby described that she begins with some inspiration, like a flower or a Biblical story, and then (like everyone else) she heads to YouTube or Pinterest to find images that move her. She pulled out a thick portfolio of watercolor paintings and gently lifted one from the pile entitled “He is Risen,” noting that it was one of her favorites.

Abby is also inspired by other artists she meets through local clubs and at St. Andrew’s Village. She described some of the other artists in the community and how they organized an art swap to get to know each other better, and to share their gifts with one another directly – by trading painting for pottery and poems for sketches.

Blessings and action

From Matthew’s Gospel (2:10-12) we read of the magi: “When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.”

We can take lessons from the magi. First, they didn’t just experience the excitement of the journey and the joy when it stopped over the house of the Christ Child, they also offered their blessing of gifts, carried over many miles. Second, they modeled that witnessing to the light is sometimes an act of resistance – in their case, one that was likely punishable by death for defying Herod’s orders. 

So, while those Christmas songs still linger in your mind, pause to consider what blessing you have to offer the Christ Child. What gift do you carry? What action are you called to this year?

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