Advent offering – 23 December

Today’s advent offering follows on from yesterday’s depiction of the annunciation to the shepherds to the next stage in the nativity story, as told in Luke 2.15-20:

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The Adoration of the Shepherds by 17th Century Dutch painter Matthias Stom shows us a group gathered round the manger looking at the infant who lies there. The artist uses light and darkness (chiaroscuro again) in this painting to gorgeous effect – the light that bathes the faces of the shepherds and of Mary does not appear to be from any candle or flame this time but from the (very blond and chubby) babe himself, the artist’s way of stressing his special significance. The shepherds look both awed and delighted, while Mary stands placidly by, pondering, as the Gospel story suggests, what the shepherds have told her about her son. The picture is filled with warmth, from the rich reds and blues of garments to the gold glow of light emanating from the manger, giving the scene a tone of comfort and delight that is lovely to look at. After yesterday’s drama of angelic annunciations and singing heavenly hosts, we can stop for a while, catch our breath, and cherish this quiet moment of joy.

Matthias Stom, Adoration of the Shepherds (c.1640)

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