Our first child, Zoe, was finally here and home. I was exhausted but joy trumped my need for sleep, I was keen to show her off. Just a couple of days following her birth we set off for church, very slowly and carefully with our precious cargo and prepared to introduce her to the world. Following the service I was swamped and encircled by adoring eyes, cooing voices, understood sighs of delight. But very soon the excited energy became too much for me and I suddenly needed a way of escape. We slipped out of a side door, the cool air refreshing my face, the open space a welcome refuge. We headed home to peace and quiet and I made a note not to repeat that exercise next time!
This makes me think of Mary with her new baby, how must she have felt in that place of vulnerability to then have shepherds arrive and come around them and with such grand declarations?
From my first sighting of this painting, The Nativity by Gari Melchers (1891) it has arrested my heart and imagination. A truer depiction I am yet to find; Mary exhausted propped up against a wheel, the raw unremarkablness of the room, it's stillness and faded tones. Joseph looks tired from his ordeal also, he sits considering his child and wife, weighing his thoughts. Yet to arrive are the shepherds, brimming over with chatter and exultations, bubbling with tales of angelic visitations and the best
news they'll ever hear. Here they are, alone with their son, possibly considering the journey ahead of them. The world is hurrying by not far from the featureless door, a frantic crowd of lives busy finding their place. And here we have the most important event in history unfolding without notice, tucked away in the unseen, in obscurity. The lone distinctive light in the painting is the radiant glow surrounding the baby, the Christ Child, He is the light amidst the shadows.
As you look ahead to the coming week, I pray that you also will have room and time to contemplate the True Light amidst the shadows. I hope that before the excited hubbub and activity of celebration descends upon you that you find yourself alone, in the quiet spaces with Him. If it all gets to be too much, it's ok to take yourself aside to gaze upon Him and regain some calm, in fact it's needful.
I also see in this painting the kindness of God, the provision, not merely for Mary and Joseph in providing a room which was sheltered, private and dry, but in the utter humility of God and agape love towards us His children, to stoop so low and go to such lengths in order to reach us and bring us home.
This Christmas, may we not see the lack but only the provisions of grace. May God help our hearts be filled with a deep unshakable sense of His matchless love when we might feel unseen by those we love around us. Where there are shadows let us look upon the True Light which illumines every darkness. May our hearts ponder the promises of Christ, that He is with us always.