“That’s such a unique perspective.” These are the words I usually hear regarding this illustration. Really, it’s a simple “worm’s eye” view of the “nativity scene” with a couple of figures in the foreground. The most complex aspect of the work is the vantage point from which the shepherd’s foot and lamb rest. Thankfully, the illusion of linear perspective exists. Quite honestly, it’s a picture which has been in my mind ever since hearing the Christmas story.
But perspectives change. Consider, for example, the likeliness which challenges the most common narrative of baby Jesus being born in some detached stable in the back. I read that a typical Judaen dwelling in Bethlehem had a dedicated space within the structure where the animals were placed for practical purposes. I also read that the “inn” is better translated as “guest room”—perhaps a guest room already occupied by other out-of-towners (of the line of David) staying within a relative’s residence. (See link below for a reference on this interesting perspective.)
Considering further the sensibility of Mary and Joseph, relatives, and a community desiring privacy and cleanliness for the birthing process leads me to believe that the Messiah’s birth was a bit different than what is most often heard in sermons and storytelling. Either way, the humility of baby-king Jesus’ birth still remains.
And how appropriate that such “humility” shares its roots with the word “humanity.” Indeed! “Humus” is the Latin word from which both words are derived. And therein lies my reason for celebration…
Pondering the words we rehearse year to year, yet seem to glance over, “the Word [God] became flesh”—as in, He became a human being. Talk about “God with us”? God ONE of US! That, my friends, has the potential to shake, rattle & roll a whole lot of things. What a risk God took in entering the very thing he fashioned; what a wondrous act of empathy and empowerment.
And as far as I can tell, the second person of Deity is still human. No, I don’t think God transformed into being solely human. But he did embody his soul so we may know him. There’s a significant difference between transformation and taking on something. God adding on humanity to himself is the operating concept. The longer I sit in this idea, the more significant my relationship with him increases—it’s like he’s really my friend or brother.
What this means for my artwork—please stay tuned; I plan on illustrating the beloved carol, O Holy Night, throughout 2021. One of my goals is to be historically and culturally authentic in my illustrations. Christmas artworks are of deep interest to me because they help me keep hope and joy alive in my soul all year long.
Merry Christmas, friends. Keep yourselves fully alive.
Inspired by the beloved Christmas carol Silent Night, this illustration was created over the span of two Christmases. The first rendering was a digital work used in a local church Christmas presentation. The following year, I revisited the work to render it in oil.
If you’re interested in purchasing the original oil painting, All Is Calm, All Is Bright reach out and let me know direct. For an interesting introduction to the alternative perspective I mentioned above, read this. Fine Art Prints of this work are also available from The Christmas Shoppe in my hometown.