Symbolic of the first gifts the wise men brought to the baby Jesus—gold, myrrh and frankincense— the tradition of gift-giving has long been associated with the seasons of Advent and Christmas. While we know Christmas isn’t about the tangible things, many of us hope to surprise our loved ones with something special (and yes, sometimes we get carried away) or to receive something special from someone else!
To celebrate a different kind of gift-giving—the creative gifts given to us by God—Gather asked several Lutheran artists to share how their gifts for art-making come alive as the calendar year ends and the church year begins. Here’s what they had to say.
VONDA DREES, ARTIST/ ILLUSTRATOR
I’ve created a number of Advent images that have been released for free use by congregations, faith communities, small groups and individuals. I’m delighted to see the creative ways these images take on new form. Creativity inspires creativity and that gives me deep joy.
TRISH WILLIAMS, FIBER ARTIST AND QUILTER, PEORIA, ILLINOIS
As a self-taught artist, I have always given God the praise for my gifts and abilities. Without my faith, I don’t think I could do what I do. I have always been a creative person and very drawn to art. I also paint, sculpt and create jewelry. Back in 1997, I came across A Communion of the Spirits, a book by Roland L. Freeman about African American quilters. When I saw the many images of wall quilts, I knew that this was what I had to do, because it combined all the things I love.
LAURA NORTON, CALLIGRAPHER
I’ve created calligraphy-based artwork for every week of the liturgical year. The weekly artwork is sent digitally to congregations in the U.S. and Canada. I also have the artwork printed on cards which I send to friends and family at Christmas time.
This imaginative work simmers in my mind and heart throughout the days of Advent before I ever set brush or pen to paper. It slows me down during the bustle of the consumerism focus of the secular holiday season.
KRISTINE A. LUBER, FABRIC ARTIST
My family avoids being sucked into secular Christmas, choosing instead to spend Advent in preparation and not celebrating Christmas until December 24.
Since I’m a fabric artist, I’m always looking for nativity fabric—not Christmas fabric, which is abundant, but nativity fabric, which is hard to find. (Having to explain the difference to store clerks is always interesting.) Occasionally some stores carry Christian fabrics. When I find something featuring the holy family, I rejoice and buy the whole bolt.
MARY BUTTON, ARTIST/ILLUSTRATOR
Advent is always a special time for me—I usually make by hand all of the gifts that I give people, and it makes the whole season feel meaningful. I also take great joy in creating nativity scenes and paintings. I understand Advent to be a season of contemplation and anticipation and dedicating a whole church season to making gifts is a profound way to focus my thoughts and heart on the people that I love.