a fellow blogger posted a brief history of the "christian fish" earlier this week, and wondered how other people felt about Christian symbols in general, and i've been thinking about icons ever since.
i'll admit to being extremely influenced by Madeleine L'Engle's perspective on icons - her thoughts on the subject in A Circle of Quiet make much sense to me. it was Madeleine who helped me to understand the difference between icons and idols. an idol is something other than God that you worship, in and of itself. an icon points you to God. icons can become idols if we become too attached to them - if you were around for the battle of the shoes (about a year and a half ago), you know that i've wrestled with that. but the possibility that an icon can become an idol doesn't make an icon bad. in fact, i'd argue that we need them, whether or not we're aware that we need - or have - them, because without them, we are far too prone to get bogged down in the specific details of our lives and forget the bigger picture in which we live.
i love it when i see a fish on the back of someone's car. i love it more when i see a cross at the top of a church steeple, or on the back wall of an altar. or a Bible in the front seat of someone's car or in their briefcase. these symbols are icons - momentary and solid reminders that we are not alone - that there is a God who loves and saves us and is intimately involved in the details of our lives. reminders that we have an international family whose experiences, while different than ours in some ways, are nevertheless common to man - we are all, together, sinful, fallen, in need of grace. and we can all, together, find it.
there are words that are icons for me. hope. mercy. grace. peace. love. joy. freedom. there are paintings, poems, songs, books, people. doorways into God's presence.
liturgy is one of them. and i miss it.
i read Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith this week. there's a chapter where she talks about waiting and advent and the darkness that there is before Christ's coming, and it got me thinking about Christmas (which is what, like 12 weeks away now?!). and how Christmas itself is a doorway into something greater - Christ came, yes - and He is coming again. Christmas remembers, and reaches forward into future hope. and Advent is the path to Christmas.
traditionally, Advent is the four weeks prior to Christmas. realistically, Advent is a way of life. it's an active waiting, in expectation of what God will do, with peace, hope, love and joy - in the face of all that isn't any of those things. it is so much more than four weeks - tho we take four weeks to remember it.
i love that in some countries Advent calendars are made with chocolate behind all the little calendar doors. chocolate is an icon, too - a reminder that some things do always make you feel better. (Jesus and chocolate, right?)
so i am off to a day of actively waiting on the Lord: chocolate bar in hand; Bible, journal, pen; hope, peace, love, and joy seemingly elusive at times, but always there. there were too many details, too many distractions, too many things this week that cluttered the smaller picture and took my vision away from the bigger and better one. time to realign. to be in Sabbath rest.
and this very rest itself points me to Jesus. how good He was to tell us we would need this.