encounters with God in the world's great art
Edgar Degas: The Star
a Christmas devotional
All the world loves Degas ballerinas. So bright. So joyous. So beautiful. But what does a Degas Ballerina have to do with Christmas?
This painting's title is "The Star." And what a brilliant star she is. For what seems like ages, the crowd has awaited her promised appearance, and now they watch in wonder as she brings the empty stage to life, glittering with glory and grace.
Her brilliance reminds us of that other star: the one that appeared one night over a manger in Bethlehem. With much more longing the whole world had awaited that star, and with infinitely more glory and grace, it brought true life to Earth. Our thrill upon seeing the ballerina is just a whisper of the joy with which creation witnessed the coming of our Savior.
But what many do not know is that Degas did not paint ballerinas to honor them. Sadly, he thought of women as little better than another species of animal.
And yet, despite his hostility, he could not stop himself from choosing them as subjects of his paintings. And what spectacularly beautiful portraits he made, especially of the ballerinas. What a battle must have raged inside his soul! We mourn his misogyny, but we can give thanks that he was not completely insensitive to the value of women, and that this truth was able to break through his encrusted mistrust and shine forth from his paintings.
We celebrate a similar triumph at Christmas. Though God has always loved us, our sin and willful rejection should have made us His enemy. But God's love for us is so miraculously strong that it is able to break through the crust of our unworthiness.
And when it breaks through at Christmas, it pierces the darkness like a star in the night. So bright! So joyous! So beautiful!