Christ is Born! Indeed He is Born!
Χριστός Ετέχθη! Αληθώς Ετέχθη!
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
“Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
Jesus Christ was born for all people of all times. To illustrate this truth, Christians around the world often depict him as coming into their own culture, in the present time. The Italians, whose visual language was predominant during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, did it. In fact, when you think “Nativity,” you probably think of the church art from that age and country—not because it offers the most legitimate representations (they are no more “accurate” than the ones below), but because the Church held particular sway at that time, in that place.
Well, the center of Christianity has shifted; it is no longer in the West. And thus if we were to survey the Christian art being produced today, we would see that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and the settings they inhabit, have a much different look. We’d see Mary dressed in a sari or a hanbok; we’d see Jesus wrapped in buffalo skin, or silk. We’d see lizards and kangaroos instead of oxes and asses.
Historical accuracy is not the point; the point is to see Jesus as the Savior of your own people, as incarnated very close to you, and relevant to life today.
Here are 19 contextualizations of the Nativity painted within the last century. Each work brings Jesus into a different place, in order to emphasize the universality of his birth.
“Nativity” by James B. Janknegt
James B. Janknegt, Nativity, 1995. Oil on canvas, 57 x 82 cm.
Crow Nation (Montana-based tribe):
Native American Nativity
John Guiliani, Mary Gives Birth to Jesus, 1999. From The Crow Series.
John Giuliani, Guatemalan Nativity, 1990s.
Leoncio Saenz, Nacimiento (Nativity), 1983. The banner reads: “I come to tell them that in Nicaragua the new man has been born.”
Nativity by Dinah Roe Kendall
Dinah Roe Kendall, The Shepherds Went to See the Baby, 1998.
He Qi, Nativity, 1998. Ink and gouache on rice paper.
A thangka (sacred wall hanging) given by H.H. the Dalai Lama to Fr. Laurence Freeman and the World Community for Christian Meditation in 1998.
Woonbo Kim Ki-chang, The Birth of Jesus Christ, 1952-53. Ink and color on silk, 76 x 63 cm.
Sadao Watanabe, Nativity, 1960s? Stencil print on momigami paper, 58 x 78 cm.
Sawai Chinnawong, Nativity, 2004. Acrylic on canvas, 32 x 37 in.
Hanna Varghese, God Is With Us, 2006. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 in.
Erland Sibuea, Nativity, 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 31 x 23.6 cm.
Kristoffer Ardena, The Meaning of Christmas, 1995. Oil on canvas, 62 x 46 cm.
Francis Musango, Christ in the Manger, n.d. Oil painting.
Fr. Engelbert Mveng, Nativity, early 1990s. Central scene from church mural. Holy Angels Church, Aurora, Illinois.
Democratic Republic of the Congo:
Joseph Mulamba-Mandangi, Nativity, 2001. Peinture grattée, 70 x 50 cm.
Greg Weatherby, Dreamtime Birth, 1990s? 51 x 64 cm.
Nativity by Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin, Baby (The Nativity), 1896. Oil on canvas. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Posted on December 25, 2011 by Victoria Emily Jones
Four years ago on Christmas Day I posted a selection of nativity paintings originating mainly in non-Western cultures. Each year since then that post has ranked as one of the five most-read posts on this site, with over twelve thousand views to date. So I’ve decided to do a part 2.
My friend Scott Rayl shared a quote with me this week by S. D. Gordon: “Jesus was God spelling Himself out in language humanity could understand.” What a succinct summary of the Incarnation!
Today we celebrate the transcendent God made immanent, accessible. We celebrate his new name: Emmanuel, God-with-us. The artists here can aid us in that celebration.
First Nations of Canada:
(Many of the Asian artworks in this post were found through the Asian Christian Art Association website. It’s a really rich resource…
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