Each Christmas I love taking a few minutes to reflect on Brian Kershisnik’s painting called “Nativity”. It’s not your average depiction of the nativity.
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 and gaze, rather 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.
It also reminds me how nothing in God is fixed. God is moving and active and like all of life, in motion. Healthy things grow and move and interact and it’s a stunning depiction of that reality. Notice that in the painting, many of those who have moved past Christ are singing. This is by far my favorite painting of the nativity. Nothing in the painting is dead and everything is in motion.
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’s bewildered. He’s moving forward in the burdensome yet awesome responsibility he’s been given in the eternal story.
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. And all of them are lost to the wonder of reality. Beautiful things are happening all around them and they are bewildered and unattached. So much of the world works that way, doesn’t it?
What a beautiful thing Christmas is. Christ has come and come as a child. God incarnate. Hope for the world. And we all move through Him into the presence of the Trinity.