"All Saints Princeton Church Installation - Advent" by Makoto Fujimura; photo by Alyson Lecroy
Dear Brehm Center and Fuller Community:
What a year we've been through! Many of us, I am sure, are still raw from a polarizing experience of the election and deeply outraged by events in this nation and in the world. This Advent Season, and Christmas, we are yet comforted by the presence of our God in the midst of such a tormented age.
Christ came as a vulnerable, weak, dependent babe in the manger. Imagine that? The God of the universe surrendering his security to be part of another scandalous age long ago. Not only did he come into the heart of the darkness, Jesus made himself utterly vulnerable to that world, coming in weakness rather than power, dependent on us fallen human beings. What a risk God took to peer into our violent world, and yet God chose the most powerless form – God became a baby to send his message. In the Darwinian world of "winners" and "losers," God chose a surprising way to communicate!
Once I read a Christmas message by a Japanese pastor on the value of such a defenseless position of weakness: A babe in a manger draws people to himself, first the Shepherds, then the Magi, and countless others who saw the miracle in the midst of their suffering. I wrote this in one of my Refractions essays (taken from Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture, NavPress, 2009):
The message of Christmas is a paradox. It is through the weak that power is displayed, it is through vulnerability that true, lasting security is gained. It is through being utterly dependent on others that a true community is created.
The message of Christmas, then, can be applied to what we do as artists. What would our art look like if we truly believed that through our weaknesses, through even what we are ashamed of, we could create something that is lasting and meaningful, and incarnate hope back into the world? What if the power of a community is not in the display of power, but in the acknowledgment of our weaknesses? Artists can play an important role in helping a community to be authentic and honest. Japanese aesthetics already embraces the idea that weakness is beautiful: that what is wearing away and what is imperfect actually points to eternity.
I pick up this theme of "strength through weakness" in my book Silence and Beauty, and we will take a close look at Shusaku Endo's Silence and the Martin Scorsese film of the same title (that will be released during this Christmas season) in the coming Winter Quarter at Fuller. Culture Care may have anticipated the fragmentation, in addressing the fear and anxiety that is so powerfully felt today. Culture Care is choosing to listen to culture's voices, to speak into the divide with Christ's love, and to create into the ashes of our Ground Zero conditions. I look forward to seeing many of you in 2017 on the Fuller campus, as well as at our Culture Care Summit, February 8 through February 12. Sign up now as seating is very limited this year.
What if the power of a community is not in the display of power, but in the acknowledgment of our weaknesses?
Mako Fujimura, Director of Brehm Center