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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Reflection on He Qi's "The Magi"

Advent is a time of expectation, hope, miracles, blessing, joy. When I was a kid, Christmas was always a magical time. I would joyfully, impatiently await the arrival of Christmas--- Christmas meant the birth of Jesus, it meant church being alive, it meant family being together, it meant Santa was coming, it meant profound joy. It was that one day I looked forward to all year.

I have a vivid memory of sitting on the couch one Advent day with a stuffed Santa doll, watching my mom decorate the house for Christmas. I can remember another time being in Fellowship Hall right before the big Christmas pageant and everyone was so happy and excited-- even the people in the church who were never happy. Christmas was that time that brought out the best in everyone. I can think back to those times and feel the warmth that Christmas brought.


But then I grew up. The congregation I grew up in is no longer in existence. Advent is one of the busiest and most stressful times for a person working in the church. Preparing for Christmas became more of a chore than a joyous process. The magic was fading. Ever year, I was losing the spirit and joy of Christmas more.

And then I experienced a miracle.


Two years ago, while I was in seminary, I was taking a Liturgical Dance class. For those who aren't aware, dance is my ultimate soul food. I loved being in that class and communicating with God through movement. Our teacher gave us instructions for our final project: Embody something from the lecture series being held at our school.

That night I had a dream. I had a dream that I was holding a baby. It wasn't surprising to me that I was having this dream. After years of doctors telling me it would be near-impossible for me to conceive, carry and a birth a child, all for different reasons, my husband and I decided to try to have a baby anyway. We talked about adoption and surrogacy, but kept coming to a stalemate. I finally put my fears aside, went to the doctor and told them I wanted to try to have a baby. So I had a dream that I was holding a baby and I was holding this baby in a very specific way. When I woke up, the image was seared into my memory.

That day, I attended the lecture series. There was an artist there named He Qi. His paintings were all over seminary hall. They were nothing like I had ever seen before. They surely captured my attention. Downstairs they were selling prints of his work. At $10 a piece I figured, “hey maybe there's one that speaks to me. I can buy it and embody it for my dance project.” So I grabbed a stack of the prints and started going through them.

And then one caught my eye.

                                                              (used with permission)



It was of Mary holding the newborn Jesus in the exact same way I was holding the baby in my dream that night.

I knew instantly I had to embody this painting. So I did.

I decided to perform a dance from Mary's perspective of what it was like to be a mother expecting a child. I studied the first chapter of Luke. I thought of what it was like for both Mary and Elizabeth to be filled with joy in their unexpected conceptions. What it was like for Mary to find out she was pregnant, carry that holy child inside of her, give birth and then watch him grow up. I included the elated “Magnificat” into my dance. I was having a hard time coming up with a song, then “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles came on the radio and my husband said, “You should use this song.”

It was perfect. The day of my performance came. I embodied my interpretation of Mary's journey to motherhood to “Here Comes the Sun.” I was then asked to perform it again at our seminary's Advent Service which was themed “Mourning to Dancing.”  So I embodied it again. I don't know how many times I embodied this, practicing it for both my final presentation and the Advent service, but something registered inside me because a few weeks later
  I became pregnant with my son.

It was a miracle.

Every time I look at this painting I am reminded of that dream and that dance. The way I communicated with God and God communicated with me. I am reminded of the hope and joy that Advent bring and this miraculous moment in my life. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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