Art, Beauty, Christianity

In Living Color

I stepped onto the front porch and marveled at the dreariness of the day. The sky was plastered in a moody gray, and had it been winter I would have hoped for snow.

I took the normal road to the store and was struck by how the gray made the surrounding housing projects look even more disheveled and run-down. The sky cast a de-saturated filter on the impoverished community, and in a fitting way, everything seemed more broken, more desperate, and trapped in a colorless world. The gray color seemed to capture the hopelessness of the residents’ plight and I grieved at the weight of poverty that lay on the community.

I think the reason that I felt this way about my morning drive is that color always has some type of significance for human beings. Bright vibrant colors signify joyful, celebratory experiences, whereas, the absence of color has always been associated with lifelessness in our culture. We see this phenomenon in life experiences, books and movies. World War II movies often use a desaturated filter to create the proper, desolate landscape and to evoke a particular despondent feeling. C.S. Lewis writes about hell in his book The Great Divorce and dubs hell “graytown.”

In Corrie Ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place, she described herself and the other prisoners as starved for color. She depicted the concentration camp as a gray, lifeless place. Of course, the “thirst or yearning for color” is not just an aesthetic longing, but the longing represents a deeper longing for a life that is not marked by death, abuse and maltreatment of other human beings.

Colorlessness is always linked with lifelessness.

In fact, in high school, I had a striking dream of a world without color. In my dream the world was weary, gray, and monochromatic. The people looked flat and lifeless, much like the way a paper doll resembles a person but surely isn’t one. There were grey buildings that sprawled for miles as far as I could see. The paper-doll-people were clothed in drab clothing and their eyes reflected the colorlessness of their desolate lives.

All of the sudden my eyes were dazzled by a beautiful array of color. Jewel tones pierced the gray world, ruby reds, sapphires, jades, and emeralds. Warm hues of gold and fiery oranges and crimson reds warmed my being. Soft color began to saturate the landscape. Delicate flowers were dressed in rose and violet. I saw indigo chase away a gray sky, and a verdant green cover the gray, lifeless earth.

When I looked to see where these beautiful colors were emanating from I saw the fierce and beautiful face of Jesus in all its living color

I woke up immediately afterwards in a cold sweat, and it was one of the most terrifyingly beautiful dreams that I have ever had.

In a very real way, Jesus is the only one who “colors” the world. With his birth, he chased away the drab, dark, weary slavery of our bondage to sin. He renews the brokenness of creation and paints it with beauty and splendor. The presence of physical colors in the world can serve as a reminder of the way that Jesus has come to renew the world, to “color” or “bring life to” a broken world.

“O Holy Night,” one of my favorite Christmas carols, points to a similar idea:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Like the author of the hymn says, the plight of creation and all of its inhabitants was bleak and hopeless until the wonderful light of Jesus brought hope and redemption to a lifeless world. Paul writes in Romans about a gray world and gray souls that long for the coming of Jesus:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”  –Romans 8: 18-24

We all long for new life. God has created a world full of vibrant hues, and these colors can symbolize the life that he brings or the “color” that he has brought to the world with his birth.

As our eyes delight in the richness and diversity of color, I pray that our souls find their pleasure in the beauty of the person of Jesus this Christmas.

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