Countless artists have attempted to capture the beauty and the majesty of Christ’s birth, and we tend to see so many of these images around this time of year that few really reach out and grab us. I find this particular painting, however, especially beautiful. Adoration of the Shepherds was painted by Gerard von Honthorst in 1622, and was composed of oil on canvas.
I love that the source of light is Christ Himself, which points to the day when Jesus would say “I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12). Just as the world lay in darkness before Christ entered in, each of our hearts are buried in the deep shadow of sin until Christ steps into our hearts and fills our world with light, joy, and understanding. This painting reflects these rich theological truths in a beautiful way.
Notice also the balance and symmetry of the piece. The three shepherds are positioned into a triangle, and Joseph, Mary, and the ox form a second triangle. This balances both sides of the painting, giving a sense of perfect symmetry and “rightness”. And that enhances our sense of calm as we gaze at the painting. Jesus entered the world quietly, but in that single moment His work began to redeem and restore the world back to what it was always meant to be. Likewise, though our lives are filled with chaotic events, the moment we meet Jesus our trials and sorrows are traded for peace, balance, and lasting joy.
As I gazed at this painting this morning, the following words from Max Lucado’s Cure for the Common Life came to mind:
“Don’t we love the word ‘with’? ‘Will you go with me,’ we ask, ‘to the store, to the hospital, through my life?’
God says He will. ‘I am with you always,’ Jesus said before He ascended to Heaven, ‘to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20). Search for restrictions on the promise; you’ll find none like ‘I’ll be with you if you behave…when you believe…on Sundays in worship.’ No, none of that. There’s no withholding tax on God’s ‘with’ promise. He is with us. God is with us.
Prophets weren’t enough. Apostles wouldn’t do. Angels won’t suffice. God sent…Himself; He sent His Son. ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14).”