Advent offering 5 December: Feasts and Angels

Today is the Auckland Theology and Religion Christmas barbecue, so an equally festive image seemed to be in order. I chose a painting by Rembrandt, which depicts the scene in Genesis 18, where Abraham is visited by three ‘men’, for whom he lays on a lavish feast.

Rembrand, Abraham receives the three angels
Rembrandt, Abraham receives the three angels (1646)

Like many artists, Rembrandt has depicted these three men in angelic form, their heavenly origins suggested in v.1 when we are told that ‘the Lord’ visited Abraham, presumably in this tripartite human form. The white wings leave us in no doubt about the men’s divine credentials, and the figure furthest to the right who appears to be talking to Abraham is positively gleaming with a heavenly brightness. Our host kneels beside them in deference, bowl and wine jug in hand (he has his priorities right). Sarah meanwhile lurks behind a door in the background, laughing to herself at the visitors’ promise that this elderly barren couple will have a son within the year.

It’s quite an event, and beautifully wrought by Rembrandt with his characteristic warm, deep colours that capture both the heat of the day and the specialness of the unfolding drama. And, while we don’t anticipate anything quite so dramatic happening at today’s TheoRel BBQ, we are confident that the feasting will be just as heavenly.

Back tomorrow, see you then.

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