Numbering at Bethlehem
My favorite Christmas painting is a painting by a Flemish artist entitled simply, "Numbering at Bethlehem." You wouldn't have a clue that this painting had anything to do with Christmas save two things: a Christmas wreath on one of the shop doors and the snow on the ground. Otherwise, it just looks like a painting of an ordinary Saturday at any Flemish village in the 19th century. A pig is being slaughtered behind the butcher shop, a young teenage boy is flirting with a young teenage girl, people from out in the sticks are coming in to trade goods, etc. If you were at an art museum you'd stop right there, smile, and move on to the next exhibit in the museum. But then you'd remember the title and go, "Hey wait a minute! Where's Mary and Joseph?" So, you'd look again. And, only if you'd have a very keen eye, would you notice...in the lower right corner of the canvas, and literally lost in the hustle and bustle of a 19th century version of Black Friday...a donkey led by a man carrying a saw and holding a young bewildered woman expecting a child...Mary and Joseph coming to Bethlehem.
It's here that you'd realize that Bruegel is not only a master painter but a master theologian. Almost everyone missed the first Christmas! They were so busy tending to their own story, that they missed the Big story...God Emanuel...God coming down to be with us.
Spiritual Lesson to be learned: if you want to find the real Christmas, train your eye away from the hustle and bustle and toward the lower right or left corner of your life!
Last Sunday I thought the Big Story was my sermon (Yes, I'm still egotistical enough to think that...sorry), or maybe our Charge Conference (it was great by the way). But my wife, Cyndy, came home with an entirely different story (a better one I might add).
It seems while I was conducting the "big show," in the lower right corner of the Christ showed up in the form of two thoughtful leaders of our church, both breast cancer survivors, quietly approaching Cyndy and giving her a gift passed down to them marking her surviving one year of breast cancer.
Moving halfway across the country, changing jobs, adjusting to a new congregation hasn't been easy, and to be honest, during all of that there have been times where that the one Huge Story...Cyndy bravely battling Cancer...has been put on the back burner. I'm not proud of that but it's the truth.
Receiving that gift brought a warmth to my Lover's heart that I cannot be more grateful for---it brought our family's attention back to the real Christmas story...Cyndy alive and well and cancer free! We are so thankful for the strength and perseverance God has placed deep inside of her, and for our friends at Bear Creek who know how to love with the same spirit and understanding as our Great Redeemer and friend, Christ.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone! As for me, I'm going to spend my time pouring on some love for my tough, brave survivor. And don’t forget: don't be a turkey, just give thanks! Love, Brook