It’s hard to get in the Christmas spirit when life is so busy at the end of the year. But when something happens to remind me of the meaning of Christmas, I get that warm and grateful feeling, the gift of perspective.
My transformative moment happened this season when I saw the Haywood Street Fresco, in Asheville North Carolina. The benefit which unveiled this plaster and pigment mural, painted by Christopher Holt, was accompanied by music played by the Steep Canyon Rangers. This was the fresco’s debut, just in time for Christmas.
The Haywood Street Fresco resides in a Central Methodist Church, a sturdy brick building downtown which looks west at the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is twenty-eight-foot-wide by eleven feet tall covering the entire central wall of the sanctuary. Most of the people in the painting are local to the neighborhood. And they are homeless. The church and the Fresco’s message to them is, “you matter.” This Fresco seeks to “affirm sacred worth, restore human dignity and sabotage the shame of poverty.”
Haywood Street’s pastor, Brian Combs reminds us that the poor, the homeless, the people not like us, “could be all of us.” The Fresco gives these people a voice. Poverty makes them invisible, the Fresco makes them immortal. Lead by Christopher Holt, the Fresco was painted by a team of artists who created a community around their work. And the Haywood Street Welcome Table provides a place where people who would not normally come together, break bread together.
At the music celebration of the Fresco, we tapped our feet and clapped our hands together, too. With a guitar, a banjo, a mandolin, a fiddle and a bass the Steep Canyon Rangers harmony embodied the spirit of Haywood Street Church, the Fresco, and Christmas.