Considered the greatest artistic genius that ever lived, Michelangelo believed that his inspiration came from the awesome beauty of God. He said, “Every beauty which is seen here below resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all come.” He believed that the image of God in man was the essence of true beauty. Faith, hope and love help to define this beauty.
This is reflected in the Vatican’s Pieta.
Cut from one large piece of marble, and completed when he was only 24 years old, this masterpiece depicts Mary cradling a slain Jesus in her arms. The beauty of mankind is marred through sin in this world, but God restores this beauty through the death of his Son! This is the final and ultimate reason for our celebration of Christmas!
Through faith in Jesus Christ, the Gift of Gifts, God marks us as his people. We are promised a full restoration from the brokenness that has touched human history. The problems we face are answered through God’s love. We have a loving God who provides us with a living hope! This living hope is exemplified by the Pieta.
In 1972, a deranged 33-year-old Australian geologist attacked Michelangelo’s Pieta with a sledgehammer! He removed the Virgin’s arm at the elbow, knocked off a chunk of her nose, and chipped one of her eyelids before he was finally restrained.
It took six months of concentrated effort to repair the priceless sculpture. It was only then that a previously unknown monogram or secret signature of Michelangelo was discovered on the palm of the Madonna’s left hand. It’s the only known signature of Michelangelo on any of his works! Michelangelo marked his beautiful creation to identify it as his own.
As we sift through the damage of difficult situations, whether it’s a broken relationship, a financial loss, illness or some other problem, we need to look for the initials of the Lord. Those initials are inscribed upon the hearts of all who place their trust in Him. Such a discovery is made through faith, believing that a loving God will restore us regardless of our troubled situation.
His restoration may be different than what we expect, but we can proclaim with the great Apostle Paul that our “hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given unto us.”
This Christmas, let’s remember to give God praise as we celebrate the entrance of God’s Signature into human history, the Word made flesh, who entered into our broken world! Then let’s share that great hope with someone else! In so doing, we share the Gift of Gifts and the healing promise that restores every broken soul!
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Rev. Dr. Mark Johnston