December 23, 2015

Nativity Stained Glass

This month has been far busier than usual. Of course there's the usual busyness of the season: family gatherings, travel, shopping for gifts, and still trying to earn a living.

As part of a bid for a new employment opportunity, this month I also took the time to design a stained glass window. I spent 24 hours over the course of 2 days to design it. So it's a bit of a rush job, but they were wanting to see how much could be done and in what amount of time. The nativity was the only prompt as far as subject matter, so I wanted to do something that was colorful, exemplified good design, employed a traditional treatment of figures, and yet was completely original (as opposed to lifting figures out of old masters' paintings). I also wanted to lend some meaty Christian symbolism to a scene that tends toward sentimentality and quaintness.


The Latin text of the angel's banner should be familiar to most: "Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus" translates as "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men." The peace is represented by a dove, which perches in the rafters of the stable. The dove calls to mind the cessation of God's judgment, as it did when the floodwaters receded in the time of Noah.

The cross motif is found three times in the scene: first, in the nimbus of the Christ-child, which symbolizes his divine nature (Philippians 2:5-7); second, in the lantern, which represents Christ as the light of the world (John 8:12); and third, in the rough, wooden beams of the stable, which descend directly to Jesus, foreshadowing his death.

Some have asked why a Lutheran would also place halos around Joseph and Mary's heads. Lutherans, after all, do not hold to the same view as Roman Catholics concerning sainthood. Joseph and Mary were sinful descendants of Adam and Eve, the same as you and me. Yet, Lutherans also hold to the biblical truth that all believers in Christ are simul iustus et peccator—at the same time saint and sinner. Without exception, human beings are sinful, but are made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-26). On that basis alone, I feel perfectly comfortable signifying the sainthood of any deceased believer with a halo. Add to it the fact that Joseph and Mary are described as "a just man" and "highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" So in this design, the halos reflect not only a long Christian tradition, but also the righteousness imparted to them by faith in the Son of God.

Typically the manger scene is depicted cluttered with animals, especially in popular culture. I opted to include only a lamb. The singular lamb foreshadows Christ's role as the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

At the foot of the manger is the fruit by which the devil first tempted Adam and Eve to sin. It is the piece of the story that necessitated Christ's incarnation, his death on the cross, and his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Immediately next to the fruit is the serpent, its head crushed by the sign of Christ's complete humility. Thus the beginning of the story of salvation is placed in context with its conclusion.

No comments:

Post a Comment