Nativity icon

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Mary is right at the centre of the Christmas story, which is why she’s at the centre of this picture. It was her “yes” spoken to the angel who told her she would give birth to Jesus which set the whole story in motion. It was her amazing belief that God could do what he promised that made it all possible. And it was she who gave birth and laid her son in a feeding trough for cattle, due to overcrowding in Bethlehem…

While they were there, in Bethlehem, 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 for them in the inn. Luke 2:4-7

In this picture we see Mary lying on a sort of long, red cushion (it almost looks like a bean bag) with Jesus in his makeshift cot by her side. She is pulling her cloak around her for warmth, and maybe she’s trying to catch some sleep after the exhaustion of giving birth. The artist paints Mary like this to remind us that the birth of Jesus - like any birth - was hard work and that it was a human event. Jesus was fully a human being. The way Mary wraps herself in her cloak and turns to get some sleep tells us that.

But Jesus was more than just a human being, as the words of the birth stories, and the images in this picture tell us. Here’s a prayer from the Eastern church in which Mary speaks to Jesus not just as her son, but as her God…

O sweetest child, how can I feed you, when you give food to all?
How can I hold you, when you hold all things in your power?
How can I wrap you in swaddling clothes, when you wrap the whole earth in clouds?

As one writer said, Jesus was “the son of Mary, but also the Son of God.”

Prayer and reflection

Spend a few moments in thought and prayer while you’re at your computer. If it’s night-time, dim or turn off the lights in your room.

If possible, light a candle or night-light and think of Mary and her “yes” to God. Remember her open-hearted faith.

If you’ve already received some Christmas cards, take three or four of them and pray for the people who have sent them to you. If you haven’t, pray for those you’re thinking of most at the moment.

Here is a prayer to pray for yourself and others…

May God shield us
May God fill us
May God keep us
May God watch over us.

May God bring us
To the land of peace
To the country of the king
To the peace of eternity.

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About this module

An Eastern icon of the Nativity introduces us to the main characters in the cast of Christmas: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherds and angels, and the wise men. With notes, short reflections and prayers for you to follow.

Categories: Spirituality, Art & image, Seasonal,


Module contents

arrow Introduction

arrow Jesus

arrow Mary

arrow Joseph

arrow Shepherds and angels

arrow Wise men

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