Jesus is, in my opinion, the name above all names, the name of the person who died for me and in whom I have entrusted my life.
1st January is the day in the church year when we remember the naming and circumcision of Jesus. It is 8 days after his birth and so the traditional day for the ceremony for a Jewish boy to become a member of the people of God. The outward physical sign of circumcision is a permanent reminder of the covenant God made with his people.
However, on 1st January this year I didn’t give Jesus’ circumcision any thought. I focused on his name and immediately thought of the song, Jesus, name above all names. It is short, sweet, and to the point. In my opinion one to sing in church just after the first reading of scripture and before the gospel is read. Jesus is God’s living Word. The words of the bible come alive because Jesus is alive and by his Spirit he brings the words of scripture alive. They speak to hearts and minds in a way that no other literature can. That’s not to say that other works don’t speak to us – they do.
I decided that as I prayed I would do something in my art and prayer journal. Here’s the progression. There was a point when I thought I had ruined it. I had started using watercolours but switched to acrylics. This enabled me to rescue it from a heavy handed use of the brown paint. This is why I prefer acrylics! I also used felt pens and some pencil crayons.
In the 6 days that I have worked on this picture, I have been drawn into prayer and contemplation of Jesus’ name. By one of those coincidences that I like to call God-instances, I looked at an email received in mid-December inviting me to a 12 day online ‘retreat’ to find a word for 2021. So I followed the link and joined in as it was starting that day.
On 2nd Jan I awoke with the words of John 1:1-14 on my mind. So that is what I read in my morning prayer. I noted: “I believe in the name of Jesus, God’s living word, and am born of God and a child of God.”
On 3rd Jan the Word Retreat exercise was to prayerfully look back at 2020 and pick one episode to focus on and see what comes up. As I wanted this to be a more positive experience than the grief of 2020 that I did earlier, I spent some time looking through my journals, including the paintings and mindfulness ones to refresh my memory. So when I came to look back at the year in prayer I had got lots of memories freshly brought to mind to draw on. I recalled my retreat in August when I sat in silence with the icon of the beloved disciple and spent time with Jesus. I had been reminded that he is always with me. This is my version of the icon. To read about it see my blog entry Leaning into Jesus
The door to 2021 is open. I don’t know what the year will bring but I do know that Jesus is with me and I am a beloved disciple. As I came out of the time of contemplation I felt very peaceful. On the day’s prompt for the retreat there was a reference to the first sentence from a verse from Revelation. When I looked it up in my bible I found that the second sentence spoke to me: 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. No, I have not denied Jesus’ name.
The next day (4th Jan) we were invited to take a contemplative walk and see what the surroundings prompted. When I admired the stone walls along the lane I was reminded that the prophet Isaiah said “you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls“, when referring to God’s people living obediently and in God’s light. As I passed a house being built I called to mind the verse from Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain.” This prayer walk reminded me of the Lordship of Jesus in my life and that of the church. Whatever we do, it needs to be under Jesus’ direction, not what we think is a good idea.
As I awoke on 5th Jan I had the first verse of the hymn My Song is Love Unknown going through my mind.
My song is love unknown,
My Savior’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh, and die?
I toyed with the idea of drawing a border around my picture and somehow incorporating those words. I also thought of the hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and especially that the last verse might be added into the border.
5. Were the whole Realm of Nature mine,
That were a Present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my Soul, my Life, my All.
When I came to my prayer time I decided to use the Celtic Daily Prayer. Imagine my surprise, and delight, when I saw that the verse for the day from the psalms was
Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
I think that this might be confirmation of the word/phrase for me for this year, along with the name of Jesus. However, I am open to God showing me a different one. We are half way through this process.
This morning (6th Jan) I recalled part of a dream. The Word Retreat had suggested we make a note of dreams and to be open to God speaking – or the word for the year coming to us. My father appeared briefly in the dream and I was reminded of the bible verse that had comforted me after his death in 2009.
10 Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:
Forget your people and your father’s house.
11 Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord. (Psalm 45)
After my father’s death it assured me of God’s fatherhood and care of me. Now though I could see it as Jesus’ kingship. I honour him and he is my Lord.
As I finished the picture today I wondered whether or not to put a border around it. In the end I decided not to – but to quit while I was ahead. I also felt the background on the bottom two thirds was a bit thin. But again, decided to leave well alone and not push my luck having spent quite a long time going over the lettering. At the end of the day it was an aid to prayer, and will remain in my journal as an aid to prayer whenever I decide to use it.
If I were to do this picture again I would start with the background, do the cross and then the lettering. I would arrange Saviour to be along the cross beam rather than half on, half off.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this, and that you have found it helps you in considering what you think of the name of Jesus. How important is Jesus to you? Are you seeking his will in your life for 2021?