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Light of the World Nativity

Light of the World Nativity by Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS

Artwork Narrative:

In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
(John 1:1-5)

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The nativity portrays the central mystery of the Christian faith. An apparently ordinary child is born in the poor and simple setting of a stable (which would actually have been a limestone cave). However, this particular child is both like us, but without sin, and also the Son of God.

 

In the birth of Jesus, the Creator becomes part of His creation - the eternal enters into the temporal. The Divinity is hidden in the simplicity of the birth except to those to whom it is revealed by God. John’s gospel describes it as a ‘light’ entering the darkness of this world and subsequently Jesus refers to himself as ‘The light of the world’.

 

In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. John 1:1-5

 

As part of a census carried out by Caesar Augustus Mary and Joseph have travelled to Bethlehem.

 

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn. Luke 2:6-7

 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them… and said ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger…’

…the shepherds said to one another ‘Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in a manger. Luke 2:8-15

 

This mystery of the birth of Jesus leads the listener to reflect on the mystery of their own life. According to Judaeo-Christian belief, everyone is made in the ‘image of God’. The Christian faith understands that the purpose of Jesus’ life was to reclaim and redeem the divinity in every individual for the benefit of others. The humility and simplicity of the stable contrasts with that of human pride, one of the main sins that obscure the divine image.

 

The time of the birth is not given in the Biblical text but often, to emphasize the symbolism of light and the ignorance of the world which fails to recognize Jesus for whom he is, the scene is portrayed at night, as it is here.

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