Unwrapping the Christmas Presence
By Tom Wachunas
…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth… John 1:14
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see… Hebrews 11:1
Did the practice of giving and getting gifts (i.e., “presents”) at Christmastime begin with the simple notion that it was the wise thing to do, as in a grand identification with those three “wise men” traveling from afar to worship a new king? They were probably astrologers – readers of tiny, distant cosmic lights. So when did remembering the “magic of Christmas” morph into the ritualized retail mania, the elaborate ceremonies of rabid consumerism which so much of our society engages today?
What light are we following? Have we become so enamored of Christmas presents that we’ve become insensitive to the Christmas presence? Immanuel, God incarnate, with us, here and now.
It wasn’t until around 2001 that my artwork developed into a materiality of a Christocentric nature - a codified language of the heart. Back in 2008 I made a piece I called “A Brief History of Everything.” Stark and simple, the work was comprised of nine crumpled index cards, painted in blotches of black and white, and mounted horizontally on a narrow board in a sequential row to suggest stages of opening up into an all-white field. It was inspired by the Big Bang Theory, science’s best explanation of how the universe came to be.
I recently made a variation on the same theme, this one called “Amended Big Bang Theory,” measuring 48” tall, 10” wide, 4” deep, pictured above. The theory states that the cosmos began as an unimaginably small singularity, a less-than-microscopic mass of immeasurable density, which exploded some 14 million years ago into all manner of cosmic pieces still speeding away from us. Of course there’s no definitive scientific accounting for the origins of that singularity. No explanation of how, why, or for that matter…who. We simply assume that “it” was always…there.
Faith is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Just like the physical universe described by Big Bang theorists, real faith is an actuality in a perpetual state of expanding, or unwrapping, as it were. By extension, growing from the tiniest intuition - a singularity in its own right – or the smallest seed of willingness to seek and believe what science alone can never apprehend, I have found that in matters of spirit, faith is indeed a great and constant outward reaching of the soul which can indeed give rise to empirical certainty.
“Amended Big Bang Theory” is a vertical sentence, or if you will, a prayer and a Christmas greeting. The white expanse at the bottom is not so much a period or an end to the sentence, but a beginning. It’s not a tiny, distant cosmic speck, but a large, tangible presence of light. It’s an echo of John the Baptist’s welcoming Jesus into the world we know, on to the ground where we stand, forever into our midst. Behold, the Lamb of God…
My prayer for all you readers – both now at Christmas, and every day - is that you nurture the seeds of your willingness to let faith grow and bear fruit.