I want to share this amazing artwork with you, because it means a lot to me. I first encountered THE NATIVITY AT NIGHT in the National Gallery in London a few years ago. It’s by the Dutch artist, Geertgen tot Sint Jans and was painted in oils on an oak panel sometime between 1455 and 1495. It’s small–only 13 by 10 inches. You might easily walk past it in search of larger works by better known artists, but I confess I spent quite a while standing before this little jewel.
It’s a dark painting. There’s a small fire in the distance where a shining angel is announcing the birth to terrified shepherds. Light emitted from the manger shows a serene Mary and, deep in the shadow behind her, Joseph stands guard. There’s a donkey and cow gazing down at the baby with interest. A quintet of little angels occupy the left side of the scene, all lit only by the light coming from the Baby. The artist took real gold and painted narrow beams radiating from the Child–his spin on Jesus as the Light of the world.
But strangely enough, the focus of this painting for me isn’t the shivering baby. It’s the little angel standing behind the manger, the one closest to the cow. All the other angels are in lock-step worship mode, somber expressions and folded hands. But her hands are lifted in surprise and though you can’t see it clearly here, she has a look of utter astonishment on her face.
You can almost hear her thinking, “God in this tiny bundle of flesh? What on earth is He up to now?”
Political Correctness . . .
If you do not celebrate Christmas, I mean no disrespect. I am frequently wished Happy Hanukkah. I return the greeting, though I do not keep the Feast of Lights. Many of my writer friends celebrate the winter solstice. I respect their choice, but it’s merely an astronomical event to me. I am not offended when they share their celebration with me.
I’m a Christian, so I celebrate Christmas and to wish you a generic “Happy Holiday” or “Season’s Greetings” offends my writer’s soul. Stephen King is big on specific, descriptive nouns. Why say ‘bird’ when you can say ‘cardinal’ or ‘penguin’ or ‘vulture?” Same goes for Christmas. Let’s call it what it is.
So please accept my hearty Merry Christmas. When I say it, I wish you joy and light and love.
Thank you . . .
I’m getting ready to take a little blog break till the end of the year, but I couldn’t let you go without telling you how much I appreciate you. So many of you have been with me since my blog tour in 2009 and some even before that. I love the little cyber-community we have here and look forward to sharing 2011 with you too. I’m so blessed to count you my friend. See you in January!
Wishing you a little Christmas magic,