A few pieces of art that have meant something to me this season are Brian Kershisnik’s “Nativity”, some lines from Hamlet I spent a bit of time considering, and Sara Groves Christmas album.
If you click on Kershisnik’s painting, you’ll get a better look at the movement of the piece. The crowd of angels or saints are huddled in mass around Christ, those in front of Him pressing toward the child, but not to stop, but to move through and beyond toward something else. It’s an evocative statement. I think this is Kershisnik’s nod toward God in three persons, the crowd moving on to worship God, as though Christ came to point us toward the Father. In the painting, many of those who have moved past Christ are singing.
And I like the expression on the face of Joseph, his hand over the eye closest to the crowd, yet uncovered toward his son. He seems human, and in dilemma for having been given a child, who was God, but who was also his child. I wonder in what way Joseph loved Jesus. The Child was not His own, biologically. And Joseph knew the child was from God. I think the painter captures something special here.
And the size of Christ, smaller than a baby might be, as though to accentuate the fragility and humanity of God incarnate, nursing, dependent on the creation, all in humility. He became man. And also the litter of puppies at the feet of Mary, perhaps to bring out the earthy reality of birth, and further elaborate the theme of humility. Not that one pup is moving toward the Christ, while the mother is turned toward God.
This quote from Hamlet feels right, perhaps, because Portland has been so quiet in the few days leading to Christmas. There are no planets striking, no witches charming. God quieted the town. I love that Shakespeare would use a bird to prophesy the coming of Christ, and nod to the child’s victory over evil. And of all holidays, Christmas has a most sacred feel. It is commercialized, sure, but no market force will compete with the overwhelming spirit of love and intimacy that invades us as we celebrate the coming of Jesus.
“Some says, that ever ‘gainst that Season comes; Wherein our Saviours Birth is celebrated, The Bird of Dawning singeth all night long: And then (they say) no Spirit can walk abroud, The nights are wholesome, then no Planets strike, No Fairy takes, nor Witch hath power to Charme: So hallow’d, and so gracious is the time.” Shakespeare From Hamlet, Act. i scene i.
And as of late I’ve been listening to Sara Groves. I’ve been to Sara’s home in Minnesota, and I can imagine her at Christmas, back in her studio, reflecting on the birth of Christ. Her music has endeared me ever since I heard her a few years ago now. There is a subtle depth of meaning in her Christmas reflections that I appreciate. She has been a good guide, this advent.
Merry Christmas to you and yours. Christ has come.