Imago Dei

“Me,” I heard this young boy said, as he pointed to our one-of-a-kind Advent light sculpture. Meanwhile I stood back and saw this young one’s beautiful face reflected in the sculpture’s mirror. Yes, you, I thought. And me. We are all sparkling light.  

The creator of this light sculpture, Arlie Regier, is no longer living so I can’t ask him why he put a mirror front and center. Perhaps he was hoping we would see ourselves through and in the light of God. If Advent and Christmas is a time of celebrating Immanuel—God with us—the mirror  reminds us that we, too, are part of this unfolding truth and drama. Imago Dei—made in God’s image and light, created to shine, not shrink in fear. You, me, us, made in God’s image and light. 

Many of us have complicated relationship with mirrors, especially brightly-lit ones. Sometimes we like what we see in mirrors, sometimes we don’t. Like glass itself, we are both fragile and strong, capable of shining and shattering.   

I remember as a teen facilitating between avoiding mirrors and spending too much time in front of mirrors. I experienced first-hand what David Giuliano writes in his article, Mirrors for Youth:  “Many of the mirrors (both figuratively and literally) that youth encounter reflect back soul crushing messages—too fat, ugly hair, crummy clothes, zits, not enough money, failure, stupid, unloveable, the list is endless.”  

Giuliano believes faith communities have great potential as places where people of all ages learn to see themselves and others beyond social acceptance or a culture of consumption, or narrow notions of success. While he focuses on teens in his article, his word of encouragement could apply to all ages: “In our eyes youth need to see God’s eyes, reflecting back to them their beauty, lovability, and freedom, and calling them to live lives that manifest those truths. We need to hold God up to youth as the mirror they carry into adulthood.” He poses such a good question: Are we holding up God-shaped mirrors— mirrors that help people of all ages see themselves as the loved, free, beautiful miracles they are; that we all are?

For the remainder of Advent and through Christmas, I encourage everyone to linger in front of this sculpture mirror and contemplate to what degree we see or don’t see the light of God in ourselves and others. And perhaps we can join in this prayer/hymn, hoping that that we will indeed make manifest God’s image and light in the world. 

Let there be light, Lord God of hosts!

Let there be wisdom on the earth!

Let broad humanity have birth!

Let there be deeds, instead of boasts!

Within our passioned hearts instill

the calm that ends all strain and strife.

Make us thy ministers of life.

Purge us from lusts that curse and kill!

Give us the peace of vision clear

to see each other’s good, our own,

To joy and suffer not alone:

the love that casteth out all fear!

Let woe and waste of warfare cease,

that useful labor yet may build

its homes with love and laughter filled!

God, give your wayward children peace.

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