To Bring Light to the World
Rembrandt, Adoration of the Shepherds, 1646
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12).
In 1646 the Dutch artist Rembrandt created a painting called “The Adoration of the Shepherds.” It depicts his vision of what it was like for the shepherds to see the baby Jesus. The painting is dark because it is a night scene inside a barn. The dark tones force the viewer to study the images carefully. In the center is the Babe in the feeding trough. Mary is by his side, Joseph not far away. The shepherds are gathered around, intently studying the baby whose birth was announced by the angelic choir. If you look into the gloom, you can see outlines of the sheep. The shepherds couldn’t leave their sheep outside so they brought them into the barn with them. To the right a rickety ladder leans on a crossbeam. Next to the ladder is a rooster.
Soon it hits you that the ladder and crossbeam make the dim outline of a cross. The rooster is a symbol of betrayal in the distant future. Even in this joyous moment, the cross looms over the baby Jesus. But the most significant feature is the light. Unlike other Renaissance artists, Rembrandt didn’t paint Jesus as an angel with a halo. He is a very normal, very human baby. All is dark in the painting except for the baby in the manger. The light isn’t shining on the baby; it’s shining out from him. This was Rembrandt’s way of saying that all hope and light shines from the manger—lighting up a darkened world. This beloved Christmas carol says it well:
Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.
Is there hope in the world? Yes! Hope invaded the world 2000 years ago at Bethlehem. If we want that hope to invade our lives, we must do what the shepherds did so long ago. We must come to Bethlehem and bow before the newborn King. Hope is available but only to those who will humble themselves and bow in faith before the Lord Jesus Christ.
Will you bow before him and crown him as your King?
Lord Jesus, there will always be room in my heart for you! Amen.