Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Christmas scene of perfect plausibility

I was out shopping for a few more Christmas cards when I found a box with this painting by Marianne Stokes, a painter of the pre-Raphaelite school. I have to admit that for the first few seconds, I just thought, "Pretty. Conventional stable scene, childlike cherubim, very nice."

Then I looked more closely. And I nearly burst out laughing, right there on the card aisle at Village Stationers. Then and there, I knew I had to have that box of cards. For here was a scene, heretofore unexpressed by any artist I was familiar with, that really must have happened.

There are the cherubim, gamely strumming a lullaby on their harps, but looking a bit concerned. Because their tunes are not having their expected effect. Mary, apparently completely exhausted by the long trek, her labor, and the spectacular events that followed the birth of her Son, has fallen deeply asleep on the hay. But the Christ Child is bright-eyed and wide awake!

That's the part that will ring true with absolutely every parent who has ever lived through the desperate fatigue of those first weeks with their first newborn. Your baby is supposed to want to nap. You certainly want to nap. But all those guaranteed sure-fire lullabies and other infant sleep inducers you stocked up on, preparing so carefully for this -- naught availeth. Except that they put you to sleep.

Unattested by Scripture? Sure. But I'd bet plenty that it really happened this way.