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In the late Spring of 2021, after the traumatic darkness of a global pandemic, I was invited to walk into the imagination of Vincent Van Gogh and to experience being inside the impressionable strokes of his Parisian brush, within one of the most well recognized pieces of art in the world—The Starry Night.

Maybe some of you too had the opportunity to participate in this immersive exhibit at the Vancouver Convention Centre? 

I remember dwelling within the projection of Van Gogh’s vision and being enlightened into the movement of the message, that may have been the inspiration behind each intentional caress of colour and stroke of structure. What I saw was the moment just before the incarnation of Christ in the world, a moment of great expectation and brilliant harmonious synergy, a moment toward the birth of Light within the darkness. 

Frederick Buechner (Beek-ner) guides the attentive observer watching for this moment, sharing the season of its birth. He describes, this moment is when: “The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.” 

Today the candle in our Advent wreath represents the traditional Patriarchal Day of Advent and/or the symbolic Light of Hope. I invite you to take a walk of wonder with me into the possible imagination of Vincent Van Gogh to watch and see how this work of art expresses the image of God, and to be alert to recognize today’s message of Hope. Let us be attentive to what the Gospel of Mark describes in v.26 as: “‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.”

Let us be awake to what the writer of the letter to the Corinthians identifies in vs. 7&9, as the harmonious revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ: “God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Let us be alert to what the Psalmist pleads in vs.1-3, to the life-giving shepherd of Israel: “You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh [the forefathers of the children of Israel]. Stir up your might, and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.” 

Let us watch to see what Isaiah’s prayer, in vs.1&2, describes as the awesome deeds of God: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!“ 

With the image of The Starry Night in front of you, let us wonder with curiosity into the painting to see how the image of God’s Word may be illuminated within the animated paint strokes of Van Gogh’s brush. 

In Vincent’s last letter to his brother, he writes, “it is only through our pictures that we can speak.” …

With the children, we saw within the Starry Sky a movement of swirling clouds, one coming from above to join together with a form below that has graced the earth, and I imagine, is about to harmoniously embrace the form from above. 

We discovered that the unusual shape of the radiant yellow moon may reveal an expectancy of glorious light. 

We noticed that the larger bright white star is the one closest to the earth. See that all of the other stars are more yellow than white, except for a distant white star on the far left in the background - as if to be watching from a distance. 

Looking within the darkness of the landscape and village, we were attentive to notice that the same yellow light of the moon and yellow stars, is reflected only within the windows of the homes of the people who may live there.

Other aspects of this painting to be aware of, are the shadows or the places where the light is absent. One of the most prominent images in the foreground is of what may be the crown of a cypress tree, overlooking the village. Except, look at how the branches of the image are shaped like flames — as if this form is on fire, void of light. 

There are more aspects of this painting that you may discover as you watch with a curious wonder, like the church in the centre of the village with the steeple pointing up toward the movement in the clouds… but let us return our attention to God’s Word on this the first day of Advent. Can we repaint the imagery of the texts for today within the imagination of Van Gogh’s Starry Night? What was revealed to you? 

Did you see within the movement of the sky, the prelude of “the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory? And the earth coming into fellowship with the son?”

Could the group of shining Starry yellow lights be the forefathers of the children of Israel, our ancestors, singing: “Stir up your might, and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.”

I wonder if the fiery cypress form in the foreground is quaking and trembling at God’s awesome presence— “as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil”— as God tears “open the heavens” and comes down, and The Lord’s name is known to God’s adversaries. 

As we repaint Van Gogh’s Starry Night, it becomes clear then to see the glowing moon like an expectant mother, ready to give birth to the Light of the world. 

So,, as we wondered within Van Gogh’s Starry Night on this first day of Advent, let us hear the words of Mark’s Gospel and stay awake, keep watch, be attentive, and be aware of how God is moving in our world. Let us be alert with expectant hope of seeing Christ move in harmony within our world. Remember from last week to be attentive to the unusual working of the Holy Spirit within the kingdom of Christ, especially within the poor of spirit and those hungry for salvation. May our re-painting of Van Gogh’s masterpiece, in light of today’s Advent Gospel, be another image of Hope we have in the expectation of Christ’s birth: of Life, Light and Love within the Starry Night of our world.