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Picture taken by Redeemer member Julie Hang

Artwork in the fellowship hall

The story of my Nativities dates back to 2016 when I created my first one. However, what inspired the Nativity scenes began long before 2016. Unfortunately, this is not a happy story. . .

The Nativity scenes were borne out of loss and suffering. It was a beautiful Tuesday morning in New York City – the date was September 11, 2001, when my sister Andrea Haberman entered the World Trade Center’s north tower for a meeting on the 92nd floor. This was her very first business trip. Andrea was 25 years old at the time and newly engaged. In an effort to condense this story, she was in the office of Carr Futures prepping for her meeting when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower, striking it between the 93rd and 97th floors.

My beautiful Andrea and 2,976 other innocent victims had been murdered that day. And at that moment, her life, my life, my family’s life, and 2,976 other families’ lives took on a new trajectory that none of us could have imagined in our wildest dreams. To say the least, the past 20 years have been about finding new purpose and resolve, with a heavy reliance on faith. There is much to tell and share about what is now a 20-year-plus journey. But in an effort to condense this, I’m going to fast-forward to 2016 – the Nativity’s “birth.”

How It Began
Growing up, Christmas season at our house was always such a wonderful time – it was a special family time. Andrea, Mom, and I would begin our holiday prep in September, gathering ideas for Christmas decorations and also planning our annual Christmas project – together we’d create and give them as gifts each year. So, as you can imagine, the holiday season can be tough to navigate.

WALL IT Creations was borne in 2016, so I was embarking on my first Christmas season. (This is a very busy time for an artist.) It was my debut holiday season, and I couldn’t get into the spirit. I was struggling with the heartache of Andrea, thinking about how we should be doing this together. Andrea was an exceptional artist, and I am proud we shared the love of creativity. I just was really struggling.

As I was praying and asking God for help, I began to think about what it must be like to spend Christmas in Heaven with God. . . the celebration and joy in Heaven as they relive and celebrate the birth of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. This thought was very comforting to me, and I wondered how I could paint that. I imagined a glorious sky bursting with colors, the traveling Three Kings, and Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the stable. I wanted to create a feeling of awe into the Nativities, and also the feeling of God’s love, peace, and comfort. I wanted to incorporate beautiful, rich colors; the symbolism would have to be very strong.

And thus, my first Nativity was borne. Most everything in each Nativity has a meaning. The colors and how I use them are painted in a way to tell a story. (See Biblical color key.) There is heavy symbolism reflected in my paintings. Reclaimed wood is used as my canvas because Joseph was a carpenter. Using it creates the most amazing effects – the wood grain and character of the wood help me lay out the design. My goal is that each Nativity creates a feeling of comfort and peace that Christ and God are always with us – that they are holding our loved ones close.

Since 2016 I’ve created many Nativity scenes, each one different, but each telling the same story. Many are hung year-round as a reminder of God’s everlasting love and peace. I also want to convey that through this tragedy and suffering, God’s promises are to use them for good; that from darkness comes light.

I am reminded of Matthew 5:3-4: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” 

My Latest Project
My latest Nativity for Redeemer Lutheran Church depicts God’s love for us, through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, which He gave freely to us with his promise of everlasting life.

About a year ago my friend and neighbor Kay mentioned the rebuilding of her church – Redeemer Lutheran – and the huge blank wall that needed “something.” After some conversations with me, she presented some of my Nativity scene samples to Pastor Mark Rohrback, the decorating committee (Mary Belling and Lynn Trimberger), and various other members of the congregation. After many meetings and presentations, Redeemer commissioned me to create an art piece for their wall.

As plans started taking shape and the subject of my choice of a “canvas” (barn wood) came up, Mary offered to talk with her daughter’s relatives, the Behrens family, who own a farm in Grafton. On a hot Saturday morning in late July, a small group of us went to their place. And voila! What awaited us in their barn was an amazing array of beautiful 151-year-old barn wood. In late September we returned to select some stunning 12’x12” pieces of red cedar, which they graciously donated for the project. We transported it to Kay and David Budzien’s garage. For the next two weeks, David helped me “distress,” chisel, cut, saw, arrange, and rearrange five pieces of now-11’x12” pieces of wood in the best possible way. We then attached plywood to the back. He took it upon himself to tackle much of the construction on his own, including creating a long, wooden “French cleat” device on which to hang the art. Half is fastened to the artwork and the other half to the wall. If not for his help, I’d still be prepping! I can honestly say that this is always the most difficult, time-consuming part of any project. In early October, we transported the piece to church where it was mounted securely to the wall. And then it was my turn! The first brush stroke took place on October 19, and I completed the work two weeks later.

In addition to those I’ve mentioned, I’d also like to express my deepest thanks to everyone else who helped me in any way throughout this project. I am so grateful to Pastor Rohrback for his kindness, encouragement, and making me feel welcome. I am also thankful for all the people of Redeemer for allowing me to paint on site (and for navigating around my daily mess!). It has been a pleasure getting to meet many of you! Thank you for your kindness and your faith in me that I would bring this idea to fruition. It has been an honor to create this artwork for Redeemer Lutheran Church. May God bless you all!

Julie Osmus
November 12, 2021
WALL IT Creations
(NOTE: To see pictures of past Nativities, as well as the Redeemer project, please see my website.)

Biblical Color Key
  • Amber – Glory of God, judgment upon sin, endurance
  • Orange – Fire of God, Deliverance, Passionate Praise
  • Pink/Fuchsia – right relationship
  • Scarlet – royalty, fine linen for Tabernacle
  • Red – Blood of Jesus, Love of God, blood of the Lamb, Atonement, salvation
  • Blue – Heaven, Holy Spirit, authority
  • Purple – Priesthood, Kingship, Royalty, Mediator, wealth
  • Gold – Glory, Divinity, Kingship, Eternal Deity, foundation, altar, beauty, Majesty, righteousness
  • Wine – New birth, multiply, overflow
  • Sapphire – Law, Commandments, Grace, Holy Spirit, Divine Revelation
  • Turquoise – River of God, sanctification, healing, New Jerusalem
  • Green – Praise, growth, prosperity, new beginning, flourishing, restoration
  • Silver – Word of God, purity, Divinity, salvation, truth, Atonement, redemption
  • White – Bride of Christ, surrender, harvest, light, righteousness, conquest, victory, blessedness, Joy, Angels, saints, peace, completion, triumph
  • Brown – end of season, rags/filthy, people, pride, weary, faint
  • Yellow – Faith and Glory of God, anointing, Joy
  • Black – darkness, sin, Earth, affliction
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