Each year Hobby Lobby releases original artwork for certain holidays. From the mid-1990s until the mid-2000s these were published in major newspapers on Christmas and Easter. In 2006 Independence Day was added.
Especially in regard to the first two celebrations I always thought this was a great example of missional activity by corporate ownership. Run your business well, honor God with your income, and speak the gospel into culture when opportunities arise.
Below is Hobby Lobby’s Christmas art from 2004. I remember seeing this for the first time. It was arresting.This may not be art in the classic sense, and Da Vinci probably will not be brought to mind. But…
Most Christmas art focuses on Jesus and Mary. Even the recent postage stamps I purchased were Madonna and Child. At best you might get the “holy family” as all three are at the manger.
In this picture, though, the manger is secondary. The cattle may be lowing, but they are more doing what animals do when humans are around: sleeping or watching. The only thing better would have been a big cow with hay protruding from both sides of her mouth. Even Mary is asleep. After all, that is what women do after childbirth, if they have a chance.
The scene is thus reframed as son and dad.
Often, I think, Joseph is not given enough credit. He stood with Mary when harsh rumors must have been swirling. We know the rumors of Mary’s sexual impurity were whispered about for years since even after Jesus was an adult He was still thought of by some as “one born from sexual immorality.”
Joseph was obedient to a heavenly vision that may not have made any more sense than how he must have felt when Mary first told him about Gabriel’s annunciation. “Joe, you might want to sit down for a second…”
He was a faithful provider for his family and, as was custom, taught his eldest, albeit adopted, son the trade of being a carpenter. At various times in his life Jesus was called both “the son of the carpenter” and “the carpenter from Nazareth.”
Joseph was a faithful Jew taking Jesus to Jerusalem for the feast. And like any other dad he lost his son on the return and did not miss him for a couple of days.
Men often get a bad rap in our culture. But there is hardly a dad at all who cannot identify with this Christmas image. A young mom resting while first-time dad holds his squirming, stretching, sniffling, yawning, peeing, pooping, crying bundle of wonder.
And in this crowded stall a young Jewish dad held the greatest Wonder of all.
(You can see all Hobby Lobby holiday art here.)