The Adoration Of The Kings 1
‘UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN’
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,
saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
We are so familiar with the story of the birth of Jesus that we recognise a painting such as ‘The Adoration of The Kings’ by Jan Gossaert, as a depiction of the Nativity. It could be a Christmas card. Surely this is how it was – this, or something like it. And yet when you consider the detail of the painting, this is not a straightforward interpretation of the story from Matthew.
This painting introduces many elements that are improbable from a realistic point of view and I do not believe that it is intended to be a realistic vision of the actual occasion. So what are these ‘improbabilities’? Well, let’s consider…
There is an emphasis on symbolism, and perhaps this is the clue to the interpretation here. I am sure that you are probably ahead of me by now, for this is not a depiction of the Christmas scene that we might expect illustrated on the aforementioned Christmas card. Nor is it an Artists Interpretation. No, this is an interpretation by the book. And the book of course, is the Bible. But the painting weaves various stories together to illustrate more than just the visit of a few dignitaries to the baby Jesus. It is a work which attempts to interpret the spirit of the story, and present the viewers – who would be before the altar – with visual theology. This is a Christmas sermon in pictorial form. Nowadays we might see a film version of these events.
Like Muslims and Jews – who share a lot of the same texts – Christians are people of The Book – a Word that has been poured over and interpreted for centuries now – but unlike these other faiths, the earliest Christians can say that they have seen their God – Jesus was ‘the Word made flesh’, and it can therefore be said to be a religion of the image. Our Lord has been interpreted and re-envisioned over and over again, and yet no artist will ever capture the thrill of a personal relationship with the Living God. Through the eyes of those who knew Jesus, we too, see Him.
I recall a discussion I had some years ago with a dear man of God, who disagreed strongly with this interpretation of scripture as visual, and I understand his point-of-view. Jesus is ‘the Word’. My own feeling is that these words are intended to impact in us in a complete and all-embracing way and that includes a visualisation within us, which is part of our connection to the Almighty through His Holy Spirit. Not how Jesus actually looked but of how He shows Himself to us. Often, I can recall moments when the Holy Spirit has touched me, with memories of where I was and my circumstances at the time.
However, He speaks to us in different ways, according to our individuality, and praise The Lord that it is so! These Kings, or wise men, bring their gifts to the birth of the Divine Spirit. They bring aspects of the eternal God, from God, to impart to His birth in us.
MEDITATE ON THESE THINGS
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
GABRIEL’S MESSAGE — Moya Brennan
PRAYER requires CONCENTRATION
ON THE MOUNT with God, you saw that all power has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth. Are you going to be skeptical in the valley of humiliation? You have gone to God about the thing that is perplexing you over and over again and nothing has happened.
"Why could we not cast it out?" Our Lord never gives an answer to questions of that description, because the answer lies in a personal relationship to Himself.
"This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting," that is, by concentration on God. That is the one purpose for which we are in the world
[from ‘The Love Of God’ by Oswald Chambers]
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GEORGE and GILL STEWART