John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
This is one of my favorite paintings of the birth of Jesus. There is just something about the expressions on Mary and Josephs faces as they look at the new small being in their life that draws me in. I once saw the original in the Boston Museum of Art and this tiny painting on black slate captivated me as no others have.
However, I must admit that despite loving this painting, I don’t see the nativity as an actual historical event. It has been a long time since I believed in the virgin birth. I am a scientist by training and I know that while ‘virgin’ births do happen in nature, it’s called parthenogenesis, they only occur in certain species of worms and small crustaceans called daphnids. So this event was a no go for me not long after my first serious biology class. But the importance of the birth story is not in history, it is in the symbolism of new life breaking into the world in the form of God within the person of Jesus of Nazareth. New life, not of a baby’s, rather a new life lived in a world where all achieve their God given potential. Living in the world as Jesus did, with limitless love and compassion, offering justice and mercy to those who are in need, and offering a peace that fills the soul. Well then again maybe it is like the birth of a baby, for we all experience new insights as new birth within us.
So why I may not believe Jesus was born in an actual stable I do believe he was been born in the stables, and dark corners of our minds, societies, and cultures. Jesus is the one who birthed new life in those dark recesses of our hearts and minds. Who lit up the alley ways where suffering, pain, and violence reside bringing the light of love to those who were the unlovable. In prayer and action we, you and I, continue to carry that light. We take it to prisons, hospitals, hospice rooms, to the homeless, to the hungry, to anyone in need of the light provided by “The Way.” At least we are supposed to.
Today I ask you to use the above painting for your Prayerful Tuesday Meditation using Visio Divina.
- Look at the painting slowly, taking a first glance and noting the colors, people, places and things. Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.
- Take a second, deeper, look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination. Where are you in the artwork? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges? What moves you in this painting? Does it draw you in or call to you in any particular way?
- Respond to the image with prayer. Did the image remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Offer that prayer to God.
- Find your quiet center. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms and legs. Rest in this quiet. Let God pray in you. God prays beyond words.
May you be blessed with the birthing of new life within you. Merry Christmas everyone.
Ruth Jewell, ©December 23, 2014