When I was in school I saw a lot of religious art like this. And I wasn't crazy about it. Maybe because my professors always got the stories behind the art wrong (art scholars, not necessarily Bible scholars) which irritated me. But also because I think it's hard to depict a scene from the Bible in a way that is serious and Christ honoring.
However, something in this picture really struck me. It's not that I think it's the most excellent piece of artwork, rather that this one did explain something. See, this past year I learned a lot about The Curse and especially how it pertains to women.* It hits us in our relationships with spouse and children and just in the family unit. But it also serves to point us back to Christ. It makes us realize that something is wrong and that we need someone else to fix it and that someone is Jesus. I can't imagine the pain and sorrow experienced by Adam and Eve. We are used to a broken world; it's all we know. They knew perfection! And they are the only humans who experienced a perfect and broken world. They also bore the shame of bringing all their children (us included) down with them. No parent wants to give their children that kind of future or leave that kind of legacy.
While learning more about The Curse I also realized that right away God set his plan for salvation into motion! The gospel is first clearly given while God is cursing the man, woman, and serpent! It's right there in it! Only our God would give a curse that is designed to turn men and women to redemption. He's amazing that way!
So this picture for me meant something because it showed how since the beginning of our history we have needed a Savior and that Savior came as a baby to live with us and die for us and rise again to save us all. All the pain and sadness that we as humanity live with every day can be changed into something beautiful because we have a gracious and loving God. I see a lot of comfort, compassion, and hope in this scene. It shows how though God cursed women, in the curse he said he would bring redemption through childbirth and years and years and years later he gave woman the blessing and privilege of bearing the Redeemer. This is not meant to sound feminist at all...nor is it meant to exalt and honor Mary more than she should be...but this picture to me shows that God loves women. Woman helped bring sin into the world and God allowed woman the privilege of playing a part in the remedy.
This year more than any other Christmas that I can remember I've been really thinking about some of the lyrics in the Christmas carols. Hark the Herald has these beautiful lyrics:
"Mild He laid his glory by
born that man no more may die
born to raise the sons of earth
born to give them second birth"
"Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus our Emanuel!"
And Joy to the World:
"He's come to make his blessings known far as the curse is found..."
It's not just celebrating the birthday of Jesus...it's celebrating His love and perfection and power. This was the moment in history where started the physical fulfillment of his promise to redeem us. This was his entrance to earth where he would one day die for us. It's quite serious and very beautiful.
This year I feel that Christmas is just the beginning of a season of celebrating. I feel like it starts with Christmas and ends with Easter. We waited for his arrival as a baby and then we wait for the fulfillment of his Resurrection. We can celebrate his fulfillment of prophecy in birth, all he did and taught during his ministry, and his victory of death and sin! He won!