Babies’ are innocent and cuddly, yet they can have the most unsettling cry. Maybe this is what causes the Psalmist in Psalm 8 to say:
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
Even in this verse it implies that there’s a mastery, both in purity and in gusto that makes babies so calm and composed, but yet warrior like in their threat to the enemies’ plans. The Bible is full of “baby” imagery. They are a symbol of faith, purity, blessing, covenant, fulfillment, and yes, even sometimes portrayed as frightening (their cry certainly can lift a sleeping parent from their bed).
At this Advent …
I’d invite you to “look along” these photos by our photographer Nikki Mckenzie. She captures these images of newborns, and does what C.S. Lewis would call “transposition.” We believe transposition is a helpful way to look at all of life, and can help us appreciate Advent as well. The artist can help us learn how to more deeply contemplate reality, so see this as an opportunity not only to enjoy Advent, but to deepen in your love for creativity–as God works through and in his people.
So what is transposition you ask?
The idea of transposition comes from the great Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis. This way of perceiving the world came to him one day when he came upon a toolshed in the woods. He describes the occurrence;
“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.”
C.S. realized that everything in all of creation is but a shadow. It can only offer a taste of the real thing that it points to. In The Weight of Glory he says, “The suns and lamps in pictures seem to shine only because real suns or lamps using on them; that is, they seem to shine a heat deal because they really shine a little in reflecting their archetypes.” What this implies is that everything in creation—trees, rivers, mountains, animals, and even human beings themselves—are reflections of something greater. The created world is not to be looked at in order to define and find reality, but it is to be looked along.
John Piper says, “So we can say that when we ‘look along’ the heavens and not just‘at’ the heavens, they succeed in their aim of ‘declaring the glory of God.’ That is, we see the glory of God, not just the glory of the heavens. We don’t just stand outside and analyze the natural world as a beam, but we let the beam fall on the eyes of our heart, so that we see the source of the beauty—the original Beauty, God himself. This is the essential key to unlocking the proper use of the physical world of sensation for spiritual purposes. All of God’s creation becomes a beam to be ‘looked along’ or a sound to be ‘heard along’ or a fragrance to be ‘smelled along’ or a flavor to be ‘tasted along’ or a touch to be ‘felt along.”
All of creation becomes our oyster for creativity and theological inquiry. Join with us in the coming years as we take a look at beautiful created things in an effort to help us worship more fully the ONE true God to whom they point. We would love for your to submit your own work as well.
Merry Advent brothers and sisters, and may you never forget the baby Jesus, who came only to place us back in the Father’s arms.