Archive for December 22nd, 2021

John Singleton Copely: The Nativity

John Singleton Copely: The Nativity

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Joy and Lamentations

Preparing for Christmas

“The sixth century B.C. was an age of crisis, a turning point in the history of Israel. With the destruction of the temple and the interruption of its ritual, the exile of the leaders and loss of national sovereignty, an era came to an end”. (Senior 1017) Today joy surprises us from the depths of despair as a people lifts hope high . . . waiting for the coming of the Messiah.

This book of verses expresses the profound grief of a people stretched beyond the limits they had imagined bearable. The jubilant bride has become the bereft widow. Abandoned and disgraced, suffering the wrath of a conquering nation, besieged by guilt and every kind of negative emotion, the people of God await rescue. The faithful raise high their outrageous hope that God will transform their lives as they rely on the Lord’s infinite compassion and love. Joy seems a distant memory to the people of God . . . yet, we know that the awaited Messiah arrives in this holiest of nights. The awaited Messiah is indeed already among us.

Verse 2:15: All who pass along the way clap their hands in derision at you; they hiss and shake their heads at the daughter of Jerusalem, “Is this the city of which they said, ‘The perfection of beauty, a joy to all the earth’?”

These verses presage the story of Christ’s passion and death on Calvary when passers-by mocked him, taunting him to call on God for deliverance. These words recall a sweet time of happiness when all was well, and they foretell a time when the rescue they so sorely need will arrive as promised.

The five laments in this book “combine confession of sin, grief over suffering and humiliation of Zion, submission to merited chastisement, and strong faith in Yahweh’s love and power to restore. The union of poignant grief and unquenchable hope reflects the constant prophetic vision of the weakness of man and the strength of God’s love; it also shows how Israel’s faith in Yahweh could survive the shattering experience of national ruin”. (Senior 1017)

joyJust as these ancient people place their hope in God who saves and heals, so do we place our hope in the child who comes into our lives this night of nights. Let us take a few moments today to study Copely’s rendering of The Nativity above, and let us gather our lamentations over all that pains us. Let us also gather our individual and collective hope and know that despite dire circumstances and ruin, with God all will be well. And let us open ourselves to the joy that God has in store for us for God, Emmanuel, is among us.

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urge you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar.

Image from: http://framingpainting.com/famous-paintings/famous_nativity_paintings.html

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 1017. Print. 


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