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Advent Snapshots

I’ve taken up photography.  Some time ago, Leigh Ann bought a beginner Nikon, mainly for the purpose of photographing our children at play and in sports, and when that camera broke, she bought me/us a nicer Nikon and lens for our 30th anniversary this past August. Truth be told, I really still don’t know much of what I’m doing. I’m learning, though. But even now, I can tell you what I like. I like photographs that tell you more than what they literally show. One of my favorites is a guitar player at Levitt Shell. He is in focus and is, like most musicians, very much into his performance at the moment. But in the foreground, out of focus, is the back of this little girl on her daddy’s shoulders. The guitarist is, more or less, playing to her. To me, it represents the passing on the gift of music, one generation to the next.

Another favorite has Seth holding a tiny bass that he has just caught. You catch those occasionally.  Bass are nuts and will try to eat lures bigger than they are. I took the picture very close to the bass, so it seems much larger than it is. The bass is in focus, but out of focus, in the distance, is the large, looming, smiling face of Seth, wearing shades and his favorite Bill Dance gifted orange and white UT hat. That photo says so much to me of the sheer joy my gentle giant takes in fishing and all fish, no matter what the size.  

You may look at those same photos, though, and not see much.  Indeed you may scan through an album of mine and like other photos much better. Or you might like the subject matter but think I should have shot it differently. You might have included more or less, used a flash when I didn’t or vice versa.  You might have the girl in focus and the guitarist out of focus, Seth in focus and the fish out of focus.  But all of our perspectives could and would reveal a great deal, not just about the original subject, but about us, and those we had in mind as an audience.

Our Gospels are such a gallery of perspectives. Four unique presentations of the life of Christ, each revealing a great deal about Christ, about the gospel writers, about their original audience, and, as we interpret them, about us.  We call the first snapshots in those albums the birth narratives, and they are the highlight of this season of Advent as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth.  And like all the other snapshots in the gospels, they each have much to teach us. Indeed, we would be much the less without any of them, even Mark who leaves those pages blank. Why was that, do you suppose? And why does Matthew, but not Luke, include the wise men?  And why does Luke, but not Matthew, include the shepherds? And why does John leave all of those out and use only a macro, cosmic, panoramic lens to talk about the coming of Jesus?

All of these snapshots have something to teach us, f we will slow down and look and listen closely. That’s what Advent is about, in part. As countercultural and counter-intuitive as it may seem in the hustle and bustle of this season, Advent is about slowing down to make sure we don’t miss any of the richness, the “grace and truth,” as John would put it, that this season has to offer to us and, through us, to this world. So what do you say? This Advent, let’s flip through the initial snapshots in these four wonderful galleries that Scripture gives us. And as we do so, may it change our perspective, our focus—how we see ourselves, each other, and our world. 

Grace, David


This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the December edition of Together.

Posted by Bridget Ellis at 11:00 AM
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200 East Parkway North, Memphis TN 38112
Office: 901.454.1131 ⋅ Fax: 901.454.1135
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