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Christmas realities after betrayal

Years ago, a family member gave me a print of an 1891 painting by Gari Melchers. It's a painting of the nativity without romanticism and embellishment. An exhausted Mary lies on the floor, half propped up against the wall, catching some rest while a pensive Joseph watches over the newborn. The door is open to the cold and they are alone. Only the illumination on the face of the tiny baby hints at the glorious meaning of the moment. To see the painting, look here.

If you are in the throes of finding your reality and managing your reactivity after intimate betrayal, this Christmas scene speaks to your truth. Left to struggle alone with a life-altering event, pain, exhaustion and uncertainty of safety are ingrained in the scene. But Melchers has included a few details that tell us of the couple's choices: they have shelter, a jug of water, a dish and cloth, and a place for the baby. Needs are cared for the best they can in a situation where many elements are out of their control. That's probably what you're doing too, in your unwanted place of triggers, insecurity and loss. You're doing the best you can.

When I looked online for copies of this painting, I noticed that some have turned up the colours on the original, perhaps finding that not many want a painting so dark, so cold, so desolate. Yet the somber tones of the original actually highlight the warmth of the light on the Christ child. The light from his sleeping face reflects onto Mary and Joseph, suggesting hope and even glory in the unimaginable moment of indignity - a baby birthed where a stranger houses his animals. God is present - tangibly so - though not according to anyone else's expectations. This is glory in disguise, visible only to believing eyes.

I wonder if you can give yourself two gifts this Christmas - the gift of permission to choose what you need the best you can and the gift of awareness that God is present with you right where you are. That's the meaning of Jesus' name - Emmanuel - God with us. 


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