It takes an artist’s hand to gather up separate and broken pieces and transform them into something strong and sacred.
The elements of our everyday world – glass, clay, lead, wire – become the means of transmitting hope and joy.
So we travel to the manger on Christmas, to the Nativity of our childhood or the stained glass window in our church, or even the outdoor scene of plastic figures down an unknown street.
We gaze upon the glistening figures – the transfigured mother and father, the wondering shepherds, the adoring angels, the warm beasts in the background. And then we look – really look – at the baby soft in the hay and see the Christian promise he represents.
God is the artist of Christmas morning, calling the broken among us, those who suffer amid the harsh travails of this world, to be shaped, made whole and transformed by the hope of an innocent child, the Christ.
The stained glass Nativity that graces the front page of The State’s Christmas Day edition was made by Chapin resident Ruthanne Nicholson.
Her artistic story – and her love of the sacred Bethlehem manger scene – is rooted in the life of her late mother, an Easley resident who was the first of the family’s stained glass artists.
“My story is my mother’s story,” Nicholson said. Her mother, Ruth Gettys, was a member of Easley Presbyterian Church when it burned in 1983, reducing the church to rubble and mounds of broken stained glass.
“The next day when they came to bulldoze the remains, she asked the bulldoze man, ‘Are you going to trash the glass?’ ” Nicholson said. When he said he was, her mother asked for enough time to gather boxes and salvage the fragments of broken glass that once represented lovely stained glass windows.
Then Gettys took a class in stained glass, becoming so proficient that she was able to sell her creations from the salvaged glass to raise $20,000 for a new church building, Nicholson said.
All the while, Gettys encouraged her daughter to learn the art of stained glass, but Nicholson’s teaching career left her little time for a hobby. Gettys did teach her daughter-in-law Sandy Gettys, who lives in Arizona.
When her mother died suddenly, Nicholson realized she missed a creative opportunity. So she got Sandy Gettys to teach her and said, “I was hooked on the first piece.”
Since then, Nicholson, now retired, has expanded beyond Nativity pieces to include other pieces that represent her faith and the beauty of the world.
“Most of my craft has been aimed at honoring God with that gift,” she said last week. “Nativities, angels, things in nature that God made like butterflies, bird, animals and flowers.”
Like her mother before her, Nicholson uses her gift for others, donating the proceeds to missions at her church, Lake Murray Presbyterian.
“We are building a new children’s building, and that is what I’ve been putting it toward during the last year,” she said.
Each year, she picks someone, a friend or pastor, and presents them with a gift of Nativity pieces. This year she selected a new friend who began attending her church this year.
Nicholson said she suspects her mother would enjoy her dedication to the craft and to the Nativity.
“She would be thrilled,” said Nicholson. “She would be thrilled.”