The Picture of Advent

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Advent Picture-Mary and Eve
Virgin Mary and Eve © 2005, Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey.

A Thousand Word Picture

I love this popular advent picture. Extremely simplistic, but saying so much. Quite the definition of a picture worth a thousand words.

Eve (left) is depicted with a downcast disposition, hanging on to the forbidden fruit with a sense of shame and guilt for everything she has done. Her cheeks blushed, her eyes searching. One could only imagine what was going on in her head. And yet, Mary (right) is there. The Virgin Mary, pregnant with child, takes Eve’s hand and places it on her stomach, sympathizing with the pain of Eve but confidently re-assuring her that the child she will bear has come for her, and for the world. A poem accompanies this piece of art:

O Eve!
My mother, my daughter, life-giving Eve,
Do not be ashamed, do not grieve.
The former things have passed away,
Our God has brought us to a New Day.
See, I am with Child,
Through whom all will be reconciled.
O Eve! My sister, my friend,
We will rejoice together
Forever
Life without end.
— Sr Columba Guare © 2005 Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey

For the record, I’ll point out that I don’t agree with everything depicted here. Given this was created by a Roman Catholic nun, we see a bit of an exaggerated role for Mary, as it is her heel on the head of the serpent. Catholic translations of Genesis 3:15, a verse being referenced in this picture, attribute the crushing of the serpent’s head to Mary (“she will bruise your head”) or a combination of Mary and Christ (“they will bruise your head”) instead of the correct understanding of Christ alone (“he shall bruise your head”).

How We Read The Bible

Despite some debate over whether this picture intends to unnecessarily pedestal Mary’s role in redemptive history, we should not miss what this picture is rightly saying. The point is that this picture is a beautiful rendering of what God is doing from Genesis to Revelation.

Too often, we read the Bible like a textbook or an index. Want to learn about spiritual formation? Turn to this page, and read these verses. Want some history? Check out this section, read this passage.

But this is not how the Bible was intended to be read. The Bible is a non-fiction novel, rooted in history but also in our hands to tell us a story: about who God is, about who we are, and about what Christ has come to do as a response to both of those.

The Story of Advent

This Advent season, you will be tempted to camp out in Matthew 1-2 or Luke 1-2 only. That’s good. Read the story of Jesus’s birth, Mary’s faith, and the shepherds’ journey. But Advent is a much bigger story than what happened that one cold night in Bethlehem. It is a celebration of the Promised One who would finally bring reprieve to the people of Eve. It is good news for hopeless, shamed sinners like me and you that God sent His Son into the world, born as a baby and dwelling among us and with us, that He might redeem us. Advent was for Eve, for Mary, for you, for me.

As we broaden our understanding of Scripture, so the joy this picture brings will increase. The people of God waited so long on this promise of a Savior. Generation after generation seeking for a sign, wandering through foreign lands, being delivered into exile, imploring the LORD to make good on His word. “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus” would have been a great hymn for ancient Israel. We see the anticipation of Christmas morning throughout the Old Testament, and the remembrance of it throughout the New.

Picture The Scene

Could you imagine the scene when word got out that this Savior was actually coming? When the shepherds were going about business as usual when all of the sudden, the light really did dawn in the sky, and the angels really did sing? It was finally happening. All of the weeping in waiting, all of the simple obedience in hoping was worth something. The suspense was over. Jesus really did come. He really did become flesh and dwell among us. He really did forgive the sins of Eve, and of us. Christmas is a season of joy for this reason.

This story is good news. The snake’s bite is no more. Eve is comforted. Jesus has come.

[Article originally posted at zachbarnhart.com. Used with permission.]

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