Advent literally means “coming.” Beginning four Sundays before Christmas, the season of Advent moves us toward Bethlehem as we anticipate the coming of Jesus. On December 8th, we light the candle of Peace. We aspire to ‘right relationship’ with one another — and also within ourselves.
The arts are a way for us to engage with ourselves and each other, so this year at Knox we are presenting a variety of art to guide us through Advent.
Peace: Olive Tree Wood in the Moreno Garden – Claude Monet, 1884
I’m enjoying the most perfect tranquillity, free from all worries, and in consequence would like to stay this way forever. – Claude Monet
Olive Tree in the Moreno Garden is oil on canvas, a painting of a motion-filled forest by impressionist painter Claude Monet (June 1884). The Moreno Gardens of Bordighera, Italy no longer exist as they once did – a tourist destination for Europeans journeying on the Continent. Only a small part of it remains, known as Monet Gardens. But the painting preserves for us what must have been a sheltering, centering experience: a walk along a winding, sun-dappled pathway through a forest of close-set olive trees. The path progresses as far as the eye can see – and beyond.
The olive branch has been a symbol of peace for thousands of years, originating within Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures. Eventually, it spread beyond the region, pervading western culture through religious and classical teaching, becoming a symbol we still recognize today. And while we may tend to define peace as the absence of conflict, the biblical concept of peace speaks more to the concept of “wholeness” or “soundness”. Salom is a Hebraic word which means “wholeness of life or body”. And Shalom, which is a greeting of “right relationship”, also stems from the Hebraic word for peace. Perhaps this is what Monet was experiencing when he said: “I’m enjoying the most perfect tranquillity.”
In scripture, a dove bears an olive branch to Noah at the end of the flood, signifying a new beginning, a new era of peace. During Advent, we embark on a personal journey of preparation, an inner process of “becoming”. We are alert. We are ready to welcome God’s great peace — the peace that surpasses all human understanding — which is made known to us through Jesus the Messiah.
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7
During Advent, we have the practice of lighting the Advent wreath. We light the candles to remember that Jesus’ light is born into the world and is all around us. Each Sunday, we light a candle. We remember the prophets who pointed the way. We journey along with Mary and Joseph, shepherds and sheep, angels and wise ones hoping to find the baby, who is the sign of God with us.
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