Art and the Precious Limits of Reality

Here is Chesterton on the essence of art.

Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame. If you draw a giraffe you must draw him with a long neck. If in your bold creative way you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe. (Orthodoxy, 71)

When I read this I remembered the thoughts I had in writing the advent poem called The Innkeeper.

So quickly do we pass over the Christmas words, “Herod...slew all the male children…two years old and under.” But the poet lingers, weeping, raging, looking at the dark spot, in hope that any prick of light might become a portal for the sun. And what he sees he strains with words to show—pressing us against the perforation in the wall of pain.

Why this struggle? Why does the poet bind his heart with such a severe discipline of form? Why strain to give shape to suffering? Because Reality has contours. God is who he is, not what we wish or try to make him be. His Son, Jesus Christ, is the great granite Fact. His hard sacrifice makes it evident that our spontaneity needs Calvary-like discipline.

Perhaps the innkeeper paid dearly for housing the Son of God. Should it not be costly to penetrate and portray this pain? The Innkeeper seeks to reveal the Light that shines behind this brutal moment in history and our own path of suffering. Come and see! (3)

I pray that this advent season every part of the Great Story will have a fresh luster because it is a Granite Fact.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.