Scripture Aesthetics: Christmas Edition, Part 1

Every once in a while, I let my imagination run wild with characters found in Scripture, blending earthy elements from the original historical setting with some modern twists, to get an idea of what they might have been like. Which sensations and experiences could capture each individual’s essence? Adam and Eve, Esther, Samson and Delilah, Ruth, Mary and Martha—all of these have taken a turn. It’s time for a seasonal spin, don’t you think? With eggnog in hand and twinkle lights as a backdrop, let’s view the main cast of Christmas through creative lenses.

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Scripture Aesthetics: Esther

If it’s been a while since you immersed yourself in the story of Esther, I guarantee it will be a half-hour well spent. With equal parts romance and bloodshed, the tagline could easily read, “All’s fair in love and war.” Oddly enough, you never see God’s name even once, but He’s there working behind the scenes of this epic chapter in the Big Story. Want a teaser of the main characters?

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Essential Stories

Two sisters, orphaned and isolated, loose winter’s blast across the summer landscape and embark on a journey to drive it back home again.

They fly a bicycle across the moon, the boy and his otherworldly creature.

A little girl from nowhere shuts up a nightmarish beast into the fiery hole in a wall, saving her friends from certain death (with the help of an Eggo or two).

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Scripture Aesthetics: Samson and Delilah

Bible newbies might assume that the tale of Samson and Delilah is an edgy romance, ready to plug and play for Valentine’s Day. The actual story (Judges 16) reads much closer to a classical tragedy in which political intrigue runs rampant, the very flawed hero falls, all hope is lost, and then everybody dies. Prostitution. Assault. Disfigurement. Ethnic cleansing. Not exactly suitable for Sunday school felt boards. What assortment of senses and experiences might capture the flavor of this seedy couple? Here’s my take.

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Scripture Aesthetics: The Garden

The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity’. The child enjoys his cold meat (otherwise dull to him) by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savoury for having been dipped in a story; you might say that only then is it the real meat. If you are tired of the real landscape, look at it in a mirror. By putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality: we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves.

(C.S. Lewis, ‘On Stories’)

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Hoist the Colors

There’s a soft spot in my heart for Captain Jack Sparrow. Not because of his cheeky spirit or swashbuckling guyliner, but because he’s who I am without Jesus.

A friend says God’s people have always behaved more like pirates than children. We invent ways to destroy, to rebel, to plunder, to make of this beautiful world a scavenged carcass. No rules for us! we cry on our unimpeded path to chaos. We naturally perfect violence and corruption in our black hearts; seas teem with the carnage we’ve created. The flag that flies over us is death, but nothing can convince us that we’re not masters of our own fates, captains of our own souls. And we pilot our ships and everyone around us straight to hell, singing loudly and numbing ourselves to the pain with delusions of glorious independence.

And then, one Friday afternoon, the sky goes dark and every pirate flag disappears. We all lift our eyes and gaze at the new crimson banners snapping overhead, and the ocean is stocked with very confused marauders.

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The Naming

Your fingers hold tight to the pebble you picked up in the most important moment of the life you just left. They say you can’t take anything with you, but no one ever seems to remember the rock. Bubbling with excitement, you scan the crowd and take it all in—you’d never imagined so many different shades of beauty and the mostly exotic rhythms of language swirling about you now. Grins everywhere. This is Christ’s tribe, anticipating the great billows of music which begin the ceremony. You turn your pebble over and examine its shape, color, markings, so foreign all those years ago, now as familiar as your favorite song. Jesus, who had met Peter on the beach with breakfast and forgiveness millennia before, met you there, too. He asked for your heart and gave you this smooth stone to put in your pocket.

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Scripture Aesthetics: Ruth

If you’ve never experienced the short book of Ruth, it’s definitely worth a read. These four chapters folded into the Old Testament showcase the goodness of God in an earthy, glorious way that almost overwhelms the senses. Romance, intrigue, grief, faithfulness, and fearless determination wind themselves together, bound up tight with the scarlet thread of redemption pointing ever toward the Savior who would be born into this same family in this same town over a thousand years later. I’d like to use a bit of artistic license in fleshing out an aesthetic for the three main characters as a creative experiment.

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