2017 Christmas card and Christmas Eve bulletin art for Davidson College Presbyterian Church, inspired by Luke 2:8-18; Oxford, MS, December 2017.


{Canvas, acrylic paint, watercolor paint, magazine clippings, newspaper, paper bag, and colored pencil. Used in the process: bubble wrap and corrugated cardboard.}

As someone who grew up in a Christian tradition, the story of Jesus’s birth is definitely a familiar one. (I remember making my dad to quiz me on Christmas story trivia — like, “Ooh ask me who the emperor was!” — *eyeroll* real cool, childhood me. Real cool.)

Anyway familiar news or not, as I sat down to make some combo card-and-bulletin art, I opened my Bible to re-read Luke’s version of this famous bday party. What stuck out to me this time around was the shepherds. We know that the wise men travel to see Jesus (you can read about that in Matthew), but I don’t know that I had ever really invested in-depth consideration into the fact that Luke tells us the shepherds do too.

As I thought about how to represent the distinct parts of the shepherds’ course of events, I started to imagine a comic-book-like combination of panels. (Full disclosure: while I did paint black lines on the canvas, I also did add crisper ones digitally — y’all know straight lines are not one of my spiritual gifts.)

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.


Our friends the shepherds are, in all the panels, made of magazine clippings with a bit of acrylic paint. There’s no particular significance to the number, except that I needed more than one and four felt like too many. Of course three is not nearly enough to portray all of humanity’s skin tones, but my hope was that these three different shades might figuratively represent all of us (more on that later).

So here they are, shepherds keeping watch over their bubble wrap flock by night. I imagine the air being crisp and cool. Maybe they were a little on edge keeping an eye out for threats to their flock, but for the most part it would’ve been just like any other night. Then…BAM!

9. . .an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see— I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’


Ironically maybe, the most dramatic part of the shepherd’s night is the smallest frame in this story. But hopefully it’s pretty obvious that something is happening.

If you’ve been here long, you might recognize that gold paint as God. It seemed fitting to use here. I’ve tried to imagine what it must’ve been like for the shepherds in that multitude-of-heavenly-hosts moment, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it’s one of those “you just had to be there” things. I mean how do you reeealllly capture a bunch of angels showing up and saying like, “oh PS shepherds, the world just changed.” Here I settled for splatters. Not quite predictable in practice, and they get ev.ery.where. (Seriously, somehow there’s paint on one of my kitchen pots…) The angels make their overwhelming entrance, but their announcement isn’t the end of the story.

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’


Remember way back when I said that I hope we can find ourselves in somewhere in the shepherds? Once the angels of the Lord make their visit, the shepherds have some decision making to do. “Let’s go,” they say. I imagine them weighing the potential consequences. Could they take all their sheep with them? Probably not. Would leaving expose their flock to danger? Almost certainly. And still, “let’s go.”

We might not be traveling toward the literal manger, but we still have some decisions to make too. When society says “go, go, go,” will we listen to God saying “be still?” When society says “every person for themself,” will we hear Jesus saying “love your neighbor?” The world we’re in doesn’t make any of that easy, and so the shepherds’ paper-bag path winds through newspapers, carving a course through the sometimes overwhelming world around us.

16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.


The shepherds make it! They find Mary, Joseph, and that holy child wrapped in bands of cloth. You might notice the few splatters of gold around Jesus. As the shepherds return to their sheep and share what they’ve seen, that golden goodness of God multiplies. Maybe not quite as dramatic as the angels’ entrance a couple panels ago, but I hope it’s still hard to miss.

What stuck out to me this time around was the shepherds. Their choice to venture past familiarity to find God, and the way they couldn’t help but share once they did. It’s no accident that the church calendar starts its new year with the season of Advent. Things change when Jesus shows up. Evangelizing in terms of telling strangers that they should accept Jesus or they’ll end up in flames is not exactly my style. But I can follow the shepherd’s example and make that good news known by loving people, by doing my part when society doesn’t quite get things right, by preaching that God is still right here with us even when things get really, really messy.

One of my new-church-year’s resolutions is to share more God-related good news through art. What’s yours?