Have you heard the story about the golden cup in Leonardo Da Vinci’s, The Last Supper? The enormous painting that measures 15 x 29 feet and covers an entire wall, depicts the evening before Christ was betrayed by one of his disciples.
If you don’t know that story behind the famous artwork, it was when Jesus gathered the disciples together to eat, to tell them he knew what was coming and to wash their feet. As they ate and drank together, He gave the disciples explicit instructions on how to eat and drink in the future, in remembrance of him. It was the first Eucharist ever.
Da Vinci’s portrait captures the reaction of the disciples after they learn that one of them will betray Jesus before sunrise. The expressions on their faces show horror, anger and shock. You have to stare at the painting a long time to really take it all in, because at first glance all your eyes are drawn to is Jesus.
The focal point of the entire painting, right smack in the center of all the chaos and emotion… is Christ.
That was Da Vinci’s plan all along. He labored on the incredible creation from 1495-1498. After working arduously for three years, he brought in one of his most trusted friends to show him. Upon revealing the masterpiece, he waited for his friend’s reaction.
The man of course was overwhelmed by the sight. He began to go on and on about the beauty. In particular, he was drawn to the golden chalice which Jesus drank out of. He gushed about how real it looked, as if he could reach out and take it. He was mesmerized by the gold gleam and light from its finish. He commented on how the cup shown like a jewel.
Leonardo listened and then without saying a word, took his paintbrush and swiped paint over the cup to smudge it out. The chalice was completely taken out of the painting. His friend gasped and asked, “Why did you do that?!” Leonardo responded, “Nothing must take away from Jesus.”
That story has haunted me as the Christmas season approaches and we celebrate the birth of our Savior. With the madness of Black Friday shopping and the holiday deals that follow, the time spent on Christmas trees to make them glitter and gleam, wrapping mountain of presents, baking and eating your weight in cookies and treats, decorating and then decorating some more so that your front door and yard look as good as the neighbors, rushing to get a Christmas card and letter out to people you haven’t spoken to in a year, and working to create memories while maintaining tradition, is all exhausting.
With the tremendous work that the Christmas season brings, I have to stop and ask, “Is this all for Jesus or is this my golden cup?” I have two Christmas trees and am embarrassed to say how much time I’ve spent decorating them. I need to dedicate a weekend to wrap the presents that are hidden away and I’m agonizing over the fact that I haven’t even started my Christmas cards.
In all honesty, I admit that I love the shopping and that the Hallmark channel runs 24 hours of continuous Christmas movies. However, in my running, rushing, buying, baking, wrapping and watching movies, I have to stop and remember that all these things are my golden cup.
Like many, I try to do some good. I participate in the Angel tree gifts where I give toys to needy children and give financially more to charities, but in this season that is supposed to be dedicated to Christ, I’m so easily swayed by the shiny things. What is at the center of all my chaos and emotion? Like Da Vinci’s friend, my focus is often what’s on the table instead of who is calling me to the table.
If our attitude was truly, “Nothing must take away from Jesus,” I wonder what our holiday celebrations would be like.