The story of the first Christmas has been a powerful source of inspiration for artists for most of Christian history. They haven’t just focussed on the stable, the shepherds and the magi. They have painted and sculpted every part of the tale, from the angel appearing to Zechariah, to tell him that he is to become the father of John the Baptist, to Simeon and Anna greeting Jesus in the Temple forty days after his birth and acclaiming him as “the light that enlightens the Gentiles”. In between those points virtually every human experience is found. There is new life, hope, love and tender care in the story, but also fear, death, shame and poverty, things we may all feel in the course of our lives. That’s why depictions of the events around Christ’s birth have such universal appeal; we can see our own lives reflected in them. They may seem to be pictures of things that happened long ago and far away, but in reality they are happening right here, today, in our lives and the lives of those around us. Christians believe that in Jesus, God came among us in flesh and blood; “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… full of grace and truth” (John 1.14) That means we can find him just as much in our own lives as we can in a straw filled manger.
This Advent series of thoughts, one a day from Advent Sunday onwards, focusses on a different picture each day and on a different character or group of characters from the Nativity story. How does each of these characters or groups fit into the bigger picture of the story? Can we identify with them, or recognise what they might be feeling and thinking from experiences in our own lives?
Read along – a post a day – and see what you think. Links posted here every day through Advent.