Stained Glass Windows Have a Story to Tell  

I stood in the center aisle of the nave and looked up, up, up along slender columns, past pointed arches and clerestory windows, to the ribbed vault high above me. This was York Minster, one of England’s great Gothic cathedrals. Light pouring through its tall stained-glass windows created sparkling blues, yellows, and reds all around me. Stained glass windows have a story to tell.

Many compare the stone architecture of Gothic churches to the cover and binding of a book, which encloses a story written in stained glass. It’s an unforgettable experience to walk around Gothic churches like York or Chartres and see the story of the Bible—creation, fall, and the hope of redemption and restoration pictured in its windows. We have that same story to tell in our writing.

Gothic churches surround us with creation’s beauty, pointing us to our good Creator

  • In articles, devotions, and story settings, let’s surround our readers with the beauty of God’s good creation. Quiet sunsets and rumbling thunderstorms. Giant sunflowers bending under the weight of their seeds and little dandelions providing food for hungry bees. Dolphins leaping free in the ocean and barnacles living all their lives glued to tidal pool rocks.
  • Let’s write biographies about people who have contributed goodness to the world in fields like science or the arts, or story characters who portray kindness, loyalty, and honesty.

Gothic churches also show that our rebellion against God brought darkness and brokenness to our world

  • In devotions let’s acknowledge that in this present world, even children live with hard things like loneliness, bullying, divorce, disease, and death.
  • For nonfiction articles let’s research carefully and present accurate information children can understand and trust.
  • In fiction stories, let’s introduce our readers to realistic characters with flaws and weaknesses they can identify with.

But Gothic churches are crammed full of hope for our redemption and restoration

  • In devotions such as God’s provision of dandelions for hungry bees, let’s remind children of God’s love and care for them.
  • In a story when things keep getting worse, and tension grows, let’s write a climax and resolution that are realistic, but leave a child with hope.
  • Let’s remember we can also give hope in stories that aren’t specifically Christian. When the BBC took a poll of who the greatest author of the twentieth century was, J.R.R.Tolkien and his book, The Lord of the Rings, won hands down. Twice! Why? Because its setting shows the beauty of creation. Its protagonists are flawed, but keep trying against all odds to do what’s good and right. And though great evil has overcome many characters and places, in the end the battle between light and darkness is won by their courage. Evil is defeated.

And Gothic cathedrals reach up to heaven

York is both a cathedral—because it has the chair or cathedra from which its archbishop speaks ex cathedra—and a minster—because minster is the old Saxon word for missionary church. There’s been a minster on this site, for over 1400 years. Its mission was to throw open the windows of heaven to reach people everywhere with the light of the gospel—the good creation, the fall, and our need of Christ’s redemption and restoration.

In our writing let’s throw open some windows of heaven for our readers to see that same story of the good creation, our brokenness, and our need for redemption and restoration.

Instead of a rose window, York Minster’s western window has a heart, often called the Heart of York. But I think it should be called the Heart of Christ, because as we strive to open windows to help children reach out to Christ, we see that Christ has always been opening heaven to reach down in love to us and them.

As we write our articles and stories, let’s remember that Christ is the One who will defeat evil once and for all and restore us and this world to a good creation that glorifies God.

What are some ways you can bring the story of creation, fall, and redemption and restoration into your writing to bring hope to your readers?

Kathy O’Neill is an art teacher who loves to show everyone they can draw. Visit her website to discover more about her writing and workshops, and her blog for a Christian view of great art and related projects and devotions for children. Kathy’s goal is to engage children’s and adults’ hearts, hands and minds to discover God and their own creativity through art, history, and nature. Kathy has written for many publications, including Light from the Word, The Quiet Hour, Appleseeds, and DevoKids.

9 thoughts on “Stained Glass Windows Have a Story to Tell  

  1. A beautiful analogy, Kathy. We don’t often think about the ways in which the very structures of churches used to illustrate biblical truth for a mostly illiterate congregation. Today, while our society isn’t technically illiterate, fewer and fewer young people and adults learn biblical truth. We’re called to write for young readers whose biblical knowledge may be no greater — perhaps even more lacking — than that of those who lived centuries ago without the Bible in their own language.

  2. Thank you, Deborah! You’re so right–our young readers may be quite lacking in bibical knowledge these days, making it even more important for us to write with a bibical viewpoint!. Thank you for such a good insight!

  3. Thank you, Kathy, for these great reminders for purposeful writing to engage others, especially our children. Our writing can and should offer beauty like the stained glass windows.

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