Holding Out Jesus

Chapel in Brittany

The Chapel we visited in Brittany

A few years ago my husband and son and I were traveling through several regions of France. We spent one night in a farm house on the edge of a misty, green village of Brittany. We had walked through grand cathedrals in large cities. But here our host gave us the opportunity for a private tour of a small, rustic local chapel.

A diminutive, sweatered Breton woman took us into the dimly-lit chapel. She explained in detail the colorful stained-glass windows made in centuries past by artisans from Italy, Spain, and Germany. (Our son spoke French, and so through him we could understand and communicate with our guide.) Each window told a story from the Bible and church history for the country parishioners who, in olden days, could not read the scriptures for themselves.

You could tell the historic chapel — still very much in use today — was built by Breton ship builders, our guide explained as we walked down the narrow nave, because the ceiling was curved and ribbed like the hull of a ship. Traditional craftsmanship also showed in the wooden carvings — displayed high above the chancel — representing the Trinity and each of the apostles.

Inside a village chapel in Brittany

Inside the village chapel we visited in Brittany

Surrounded by such reverential art, my eyes were drawn again and again to one particular piece — a wooden carving of “God the Father.” How had the artisans captured such a look of love, such a demeanor of all-power, all-knowing, undauntable gladness? He was depicted sitting on his throne. His arms were outstretched and holding in front of him Jesus, also carved in wood, but in a smaller scale.

The devout Breton woodcarvers depicted the Father holding Jesus out to the world, offering the supreme Gift. I could almost hear the voice from Heaven say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

Truly, God offers us his Christ to become our savior, our sacrificial lamb, our friend, our example, our victory, our hope, our way to eternal life.

We receive him. He changes us. And we begin to ask, “What should we do about a lost and dying world?”

The Father answers, “Show them Jesus. Hold him out for the world to see.”

Who is this Jesus we are to show the world? He’s not a statue for us to display. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15, NRSV). He came to earth as a helpless baby, lived an earthly life, and suffered death for us in order to give us the gift of his life, his Spirit, his indwelling presence.

“He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:18-20, NRSV).

I pray, “Father, fill us with your love, your power and your joy that we may hold Jesus out to a needy world through our faith, our words, and our actions.”

And that must be the underlying reason we publish books and hold them out to the world. To show them Jesus.

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