by Rev. Antony W. Ball
Well, at least they got the date right – we do celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th – but most of the other details on that drawing need to be taken with a very large a pinch of salt. Even if the magi (wise men or astrologers) were kings, would they have brought their coronation robes (including that crown) in their saddle-bags? What about the body-proportions of the Baby Jesus – does he look like a baby or even a toddler to you? And don’t get me started on how or why that cute little kitten has put in an appearance! If nothing else, such ‘imaginative’ drawings as this remind us that there were no photographs in biblical times, so we really can’t be sure quite what anyone or anything looked like – however clever or well-informed a modern artist may be, (s)he’s essentially ‘working in the dark’.
According to the creation story in Genesis, the first words ever spoken by God were “Let there be light”:
God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light;
and God saw that the light was good,
and He separated light from darkness…1
‘God saw that the light was good’ is the Bible’s first declaration that light is intrinsically ‘a good thing’ – enlightenment is better than ignorance. In the first chapter of John’s Gospel we read that…
All that came to be was alive with His life, and that life was the light of men.
The light shines on in the dark, and the darkness has never mastered it.2
…and Jesus eventually called Himself ‘The Light of the World’3.
All this emphasis on light is not to be confined to God and Jesus – Jesus tells us to become lights ourselves:
And you, like the lamp, must shed light among your fellows,
so that, when they see the good you do, they may give praise to your Father in heaven4.
Let’s remember that the result of our good works should be “so that, when they see the good you do, they may give praise to your Father in heaven.” Many people love others and serve them in countless ways – and that’s commendable – but if we can find some way of letting others (both the people we’re helping and any who are working with us) know that our motivation comes from being Christian ourselves, then the result may be praise for God rather than taking the credit ourselves. That may turn out to be easier said than done, because people often don’t take kindly to preaching – I still remember taking a school assembly and noticing one boy scribbling something, which I naturally confiscated. It read →
O Mr Ball, Mr ‘Boring’ Ball,
Always will preach until he falls
Preach in the day,
Preach in the night
Preaches in Assembly,
Oh God, what a sight.
So boring is our Mr Ball
So boring, I prefer Mr Hall
I slipped that scrap of paper into my pocket-Bible, where it has remained ever since, as a reminder of my failure. So it won’t be easy but, somehow or other, we should be letting God take the credit for any good that we’re able to do.
1 Gen i 3,4 (NEB) 2 Jn i 3-5 (NEB) 3 Jn viii 12 (NEB) 4 Mt v 16 [Sermon on the Mount]