For a few weeks now we have made a processional part of our Sunday morning service. You have seen members of the congregation bring jars filled with mysterious objects to the front of the sanctuary and place them high above your heads on top of the door frames. You may be wondering: what's inside?? Here is an essay by Hui Lin Dugan, explaining the contents of her jar. What is Advent but the anticipation of God breaking into the world in the form of the Christ child on that Holy Night?
I have been thinking about how God breaks in through the course of history, revealing Himself and guiding us, bringing us to our present point in time-believers blessed to be in the Body of Christ at Redeemer in Indianapolis.
My personal history involves immigrants from China traveling to Malaysia and Singapore seeking work and a better life. They intermarried with the local Malay women and so formed a unique integration of the two cultures. The Peranakans (as they called themselves) developed their own blend of language, food, as well as the arts, an element of which has been represented in the jar.
My Dad’s hometown of Melaka, Malaysia had been a thriving sea trading port since the middle ages, with the Portuguese taking control of Malacca in the 16th century, seeking to gain influence in the spice trade. During their long sojourn in Melaka, they also intermarried with the locals, contributing to the mix of cultures, as well as bringing the message of Christ. After over a century, the Dutch, also driven by the spice trade, ousted the Portuguese and in their turn were removed by the British. Melaka in the present day is a unique melting pot with aspects of one culture seeping into another.
The symbols on the jar have been painted from the inside, in reference to the Chinese art form of painting the inside of snuff bottles, which I have very poorly tried to mimic.
The blue at the bottom of the jar represents the ocean which my ancestors had crossed and which we also do in our different ways.
The pink church is the iconic Christ Church in Melaka, with the long-standing tree in front of it, both of which are rich in symbolism. The dove represents God breaking into the world, shaping history. Next to it is the Chinese character for “Righteousness”. The top part of the character is the word for lamb, and the bottom is the word for “I, me”. The Lamb over Me powerfully illustrates God’s salvation through Christ.
Finally, the cross hanging in the middle is done in an art form practiced by Peranakan women using tiny glass beads. The blue cross on the front of the panel is the more perfect cross, and behind it is a mirror image of the same cross, in brown beads and appears more rough and patched together. The brown cross represents us, as believers, bearing and reflecting the image of Christ but in our own broken way.
-Hui Lin Dugan