For today’s Christmas activity, we had the opportunity to view Christmas through the eyes of over 100 artists’ nativity scenes from around the world in the Night of the Child Exhibit at The Upper Room Museum.
More than 30 cultures were represented, in media ranging from wood to porcelain, wax to paper, and everything in between.
The exhibit was amazing. Each scene spoke something of the birth of Christ, and about the culture from which the artist came. From pocket-sized nativities meant for those who couldn’t make it to Cathedral at Christmas in Hispanic cultures to an exquisite oragami nativity, each was a wonder to behold.
In addition to sculptures, there was also a lovely collection of paintings of Mary with Jesus as a baby. Many were rich with symbolism and expression reflecting the paradox of a mother raising God Incarnate.
My favorite nativity was an elaborate one, taking up a whole corner of the museum. The scene was a busy Bethlehem. There were merchants, and busy households, musicians, children playing, men fishing, etc. I had to look carefully for the manger scene, tucked away behind one of the houses. And indeed, up behind the city was a group of shepherds tending their sheep, but no one was paying attention to them. It was strange that the artist depicted so much going on while Jesus was lying in a stinky barn in the background. Why weren’t all of the characters facing the manger? It was as if they were so wrapped up in the busyness of the census that they never realized that their attention should have been focused only on a tiny baby just inches from them who had come to save the world.
And in a quiet corner of The Upper Room Museum, I saw a reflection of us, and of me. Busy with party after party, baking, wrapping, standing in line, shopping, grading papers, worrying about two precious children who may not even know that it’s Christmastime. Meanwhile, the Savior of the World waits quietly to for us, for me, to take note.
And really, every artist’s reflection echoed the same message. Quiet. Humility. Pausing to kneel. Worshipping. God With Us.