A Light In The Cellar
The Nativity by Gary Melchers 1891
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If the title of this painting was not "The Nativity" you would miss the fact that we are looking at Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Gary Melchers seems to have transported the traditional manger setting to a stone cellar that is almost unused at the moment. There is a walking stick in the corner and some old wooden wheels against the wall. Mary appears to lean against them perhaps to keep "the damp" of the walls from penetrating her worn out body.
They have traveled all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey for the census. That would be tiring enough but Mary did this trip while pregnant--almost nine months along. She rode while Joseph walked.
Coming into the crowded Nazareth it came time for delivery! But, unlike today, there is no hospital here -- no clinics -- no midwives. They could not even find space at an inn! What to do? Imagine the alarm and exhaustion and urgency for such an important moment. Did Joseph spot this unused cellar with the door open to the village and decide this had to be the place?
There is much left to our imagination as to what happened, but with the water jug and bowl to the right of Mary we surmise that her baby was born here on the cold cellar floor. It has left them both exhausted. Mary slumps stretched out on the floor after a grueling, physical ordeal. Joseph sits on a stool with coat and blankets to keep warm. He watches over his wife and son. Joseph looks emotionally exhausted and drained.
Once our eyes have taken in the very weary parents, we come to rest on the only bright spot in this cold place. Here in a water trough, made up to be a bed, lays their little son. He appears sleeping and totally oblivious to his sore accomodation. Jesus is literally the bright spot amidst the cold, stone, dark cellar, and the weariness surrounding Him.
Through the open door we see the brightness of a new day and here in the dark cellar we see the brightness of a new life shining out of the darkness. Long ago John the Baptist prophesied that Jesus would come as the light that would shine in the darkness. There is no place so hopeless and dark that He cannot shine. He came in fact to be the light of the world. Those are good generalities but how does this fit into your life and into mine?
I believe that it's when we are out of our own bright ideas, our own energy and resources that our life is prepared for the light of the Son of God. When we sit in darkness with no where to turn and no one to help, we actually are in a place to let the light of Christ shine. Jesus Christ wants to be the light and life of every man. But, he cannot shine while we are the center of attention. God shares His glory with no man.
Be glad that you have "run out of steam". Be glad if you have no good ideas. Be glad if you have no money. Be glad if you have no more energy. Your Lord can now shine in the cellar of your life.