Reflections for

Nativity of the Lord, Dec 25, 2016

Proper 1: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)


Proper 2: Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:(1-7), 8-20


Proper 3: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12); John 1:1-14

On Art

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1448–1494)

The adoration of the shepherds was a very popular theme north of the Alps in the 15th century. Domenico Ghirlandaio learned about the subject in 1483 when Thomas Portinari, a Medici representative working in Flanders, brought a work by Hugo van der Goes to Florence. The Florentines favored the Epiphany scene of the Adoration of the Magi because in medieval Florence Epiphany was celebrated on the same day (January 6) as the baptism of Christ, and John the Baptist was the patron saint of Florence. The birth of the Messiah, according to Luke, has the power to lift up the lowly, the despised and the violent (1:52). The occupation of shepherds may have conjured up an image of a despised and potentially violent group (see Josephus, The Jewish War). However, by their actions these rustic shepherds align themselves with a more positive portrait of the good shepherd—an image already evoked by the mention of the city of David, for David, of course, was himself a shepherd before becoming king. The Christ Child lies before a prominently placed Roman sarcophagus that foreshadows his death and that bears an inscription foretelling his birth.

Poetry

Kant at the laundromat

Between the plate glass
And the security bars
Hung a red and gold sign:
“Felíz Navidad.”

As my socks and dirty underwear
Churned with my jeans
I browsed a book
On that “most famous” passage in Kant
That lays open
The deep gash between
The world that is
And
The world that ought to be.

Above the rusty dryers
Another sign:
“Do not put babies in carts.”

Easy to imagine
The ugly gash
If one tumbled head first
To the unforgiving floor below.

No more I suppose
Ought a responsible mother
Put a newborn in a manger.

Ironic then
That we who say
“Felíz Navidad”
See beginning there
The convergence of
The world that is
With the world
That ought to be

 

Revised Common Lectionary © 1992 the Consultation on Common Texts. Used by permission.