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Gazing at the quiet miracle of Christ | Word Alive

Louisa Florentin

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Gari Melchers, The Nativity, circa 1891, oil on canvas, Gari Melchers Home and Studio, University of Mary Washington (This image has been cropped for size. See below for the full painting.)

Gazing at the quiet miracle of Christ

A reflection for the Nativity of the Lord

by Louisa Florentin


“A quiet miracle.” 

These words came into my heart as I prayed over the readings for the Vigil Mass of the Nativity of the Lord. The same Saviour whose sandals cannot be unfastened by St. John the Baptist, and whose reign will destroy the wickedness of the earth, is the same one who was born quietly in a manger in Bethlehem, who is called Emmanuel, “God is with us.” It’s a reality captured so beautifully by many artists, but I think especially by Gari Melchers in his painting, The Nativity (pictured above). Jesus Christ and Mary peacefully rest, and Joseph stares very pensively at Christ.
What came before this quiet moment was generations upon generations of people. At a glance, I can’t connect with the Gospel reading because I get lost in the names, many of whom I don’t recognize. But when I read it word for word, line by line, I am struck by the truth of God’s very real and personal love for us.
Reading through each line of the genealogy of Jesus, you feel Him come closer and closer to you. As though with each line and each generation, God was saying, “I love YOU. I want to be with YOU.” Whether it be eons of time or the weight of original sin, no barrier is too big, no sin too grave for God to be near us — to be with us. 

He is here with you and me

I attended an online Advent retreat last week, and one of the participants shared a reflection that brought me to tears! He said how strange yet awesome it is to have a God who could breathe new life into the world, who in fact made the world, and yet chose to humble Himself by being born into humanity. He didn’t have to be like us to enter into our humanness and imperfection and save us — but He did. What is more, He didn’t do it in a grandiose way that would have helped many naysayers believe Him to be the Messiah. He did it quietly, arriving to us in a humble manger where animals eat.
Looking back at the painting above, I can’t help but wonder what Joseph must have been thinking at that moment. Was he awe-struck at seeing how the prophecy was revealed, the Word incarnated, right there before His eyes? Or was he brought to tears at how personal God chose to show Himself to him? What was it like holding his Saviour in his arms?

Receiving Jesus today

As Catholics, I love that we partake in the mystery of the Nativity when we pray before the Blessed Sacrament or receive Jesus through the Eucharist. In the absence of these sacraments during this time of lockdown, my heart laments in not being able to receive Jesus physically. Still, there is so much grace in this time. We only need to lean into Jesus and ask ourselves, “How is Jesus showing up in my life? How can I receive Him humbly in the manger of my heart?”
Jesus exists in our lives less visibly today, but His presence is just as powerful as it was in that manger and His many years of ministry. Our Saviour King wants to be with us, but can we make room for Him? However much space you can save for Him, He will take. He needs nothing else apart from you.
Gari Melchers, The Nativity, circa 1891, oil on canvas, Gari Melchers Home and Studio, University of Mary Washington

The readings for the Nativity of the Lord (Vigil Mass) are
Isaiah 62:1-5
Acts 13:16-17, 22-25
Matthew 1:1-25

Louisa Florentin is an Associate Producer for Salt + Light Media.

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