Boxing Day Blah
One of my favourite Christmas artworks is a painting called The Nativity by contemporary artist Brian Kershisnick. The first thing that strikes you is the hundreds of angels swooping across the canvas to get their first glimpse of Mary’s new-born son. After this your eye falls on two delightful details—first, that it isn’t Mary or her midwives who see these angels, but a dog and her pups who’ve wandered into the scene—and second, Joseph. Eyes closed, a hand covering his face, he looks bewildered, as if to say, What have I gotten myself into!
Boxing Day Blah
I’m drawn to that painting today because, after yesterday’s festive fun, Boxing Day can feel a bit blah. Where once we had candle-lit carols, now All Ye Faithful have come and gone home, Wham and Mariah have disappeared from supermarket speakers, the slippers you bought your mum are suddenly half price and those expensive puddings are now three-for-£1. Whether it’s the ‘happiness hangover’ researchers talk about, or the after effects of a little too much feasting, Boxing Day blah is apparently a thing as we stuff wrapping paper into bin bags and vacuum up yesterday’s crumbs.
It makes me wonder what the first Boxing Day was like. The Bible doesn’t tell us, jumping seven days ahead to Jesus’ naming ceremony. But after a four-day walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a last-minute scramble for accommodation and Mary going into labour far from home; after mud-clogged shepherds turned up last night unannounced, a night spent on make-shift beds with a baby breaking their sleep with his cries, and post-birth pain wracking Mary’s body, we can imagine this morning feeling more mundane than magical. And here’s Joseph, the husband but not the father, the child not his but God’s. What has he gotten himself into.
Into the Mundane…
There’s another detail in that painting I like. Joseph’s left hand is resting on Mary’s shoulder, and her hand is resting on his. Whatever he’s in for, he’s in it with her, and she’s in it with him. And what neither of them see is that after catching a glimpse of Jesus, those swooping angels have spontaneously burst into song. It’s what countless others have echoed through centuries since—that the One born yesterday is with us today, ready to bring light into our blah days and joy into the mundane—whatever we’ve gotten ourselves into.
First broadcast on BBC Radio 2’s Zoe Ball Breakfast Show (listen here)
Thank you for sharing. I have never seen this painting before, but it is fascinating and you have so well depicted each character right down to the dog and her pups. After watching The Chosen’s cinematic depiction of Christ’s birth, it seems unfathomable that the Divine would choose to show grace and forgiveness to us, sinners, in such a common way – through childbirth. But, as our priest said yesterday, the unimaginable became the imagined that brings us to faith and belief. That for one moment in history, God chose to break into our history to bring salvation to the world.
“The unimaginable became the imagined that brings us to faith and belief.” Love that. Thanks Gayle, and a blessed Christmas to you.
Dear Sheridan you have caused an uproar with this painting in my family. I have shared it with my children who found “things” in it that moved their tender hearts. The one has lost a child through suicide. the other has lost a new born baby of 3 days. The one is a dog-lover and the mother dog has been her focus which of course brings us back to the family and baby Jesus. Thank you very much for this wonderful text. God bless you.
That sounds like a good kind of ‘uproar’, although the circumstances you mention your family enduring are beyond my ability to fathom. A blessed new year to you all, in the gaze of the One who prompts songs in the heavens.