I almost missed this painting of Jesus. Small and tucked away in an out-of-the-way gallery, it was overshadowed by the larger, more famous paintings at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
In this post the devotion is first, followed by an art project the whole family can enjoy together. Next is a very short bio of the artist Gerrit van Honthorst. And last of all a couple of photos of Molly and me in the snow. I hope you’ll enjoy any or all of these.
Like other famous museums, the Uffizi is crowded. People fill every gallery. Many are tired. Not everyone is polite. As we stood in front of one especially famous painting, someone in the crowd actually rested a camera attached to a selfie stick on my husband’s head! (selfie sticks are now banned in most museums!)
But to visit the Uffizi was a once–in-a-lifetime experience,
so we persevered, even though we often had to wait and then stand our ground for space to gaze at great Renaissance art. I marveled at the rich colors of Michelangelo’s Holy Family and so many other beautiful paintings.
At the end of the day when we trudged into a small, plain gallery, my feet ached, and my head was on art overload (yes, even art teachers get there!) I collapsed on a bench, like this guy I photographed at the Louvre, and didn’t even look at the art on the walls.
So my husband saw it first—a small nativity painting by Gerrit van Honthorst that uses light and shadow to focus on Jesus. I had come to the Uffizi on a mission to see the big Renaissance artworks for real. It took a small painting by a not-very-well-known artist to show me I was missing Jesus.
Long ago people had to go to Bethlehem for a once-in-a-lifetime experience of a Roman census. Crowds of tired people were on missions to find rooms. Not everyone was polite. Tempers flared, and children cried. And most missed Jesus. He was small, like any baby, and He was tucked away in a stable behind one of those inns. No halos, crowns, or beautiful garments made Him stand out. Instead Mary had wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger.
But the shepherds stopped everything and hurried to see Jesus, because they believed the angels’ announcement: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12 (NIV)
They truly saw Jesus. They saw the One who created the stars lying humbly in a manger. They saw God’s most amazing miracle of all time–Immanuel, God come to dwell with us and in His great compassion save us from our sins. They worshiped Him with wonder and delight. Let’s make sure we don’t get so focused on our holiday missions of shopping, gift-wrapping, and baking, that we miss Jesus, God’s greatest gift to us—Himself.
If you can’t gather with friends or family this year send them a link to this blog or the one to the painting at the Uffizi and then zoom with them to talk about the painting together. Ask them to tell you what they see and share with them the wonder of Immanuel, God with us.
Art Project—a pop-up card to help everyone see Jesus!
- pencil, ruler, scissors
- 1 piece of medium blue cardstock, cut a little smaller than the white card
- 1 piece of white or other light-colored cardstock
- small pieces or scraps of yellow and/or brown construction paper
- old Christmas cards with nativity scenes or scraps of white cardstock to draw on
- white glue and glitter or glitter glue
Directions (This is a fun project to do as a family—adults or older children helping younger children)
1. Score and Fold both blue and white cards in half
2. The blue card:
A few inches from the top on the inside draw a wavy line for some hills and add a few small buildings and palm trees. Leave room for the big star!! (look at towns on old Christmas cards for examples). Use blue marker to color the buildings and trees. Leave some windows and doors to fill in with yellow marker after blue marker is dry.
3. To make the pop-up section on the blue card
Refold the card and on the outside at the fold, place a dot at the middle. About an inch on each side of the dot draw one line that extends 1 ½” up from the fold and with the card still folded, cut along the 2 lines. Do not cut across the top.
Open the card and poke the cut section through to the front. Scoring for the folds helps.
Crease along the two scored lines so the cut portion stands up like a bench.
4. The Star
In the sky above the little houses on the blue card, draw a large star and outline in glue. Make dots for small scattered stars. Sprinkle glitter over the stars and allow to dry.
5. Attaching the blue card to the white card
Turn the blue card to the back and thinly spread glue over its back, being sure not to get glue on the poked-to-the-front section. Center the blue card on the white card, lining up the folds and press to stick.
6. The Manger Scene
Cut out a manger scene from a Christmas card (You don’t have to cut out every figure—maybe just a shape that includes everyone). Or you can draw and cut out your own from another piece of cardstock.
Glue the manger scene to the front of the “bench” so when the card is opened, the manger scene will stand up. Cut yellow and brown paper into small, thin pieces and glue at base of manger for straw.
Place your manger scene where everyone can see Jesus!
If you’d like to send your card to someone, turn the card over to the white front and add a Christmas message about Jesus! Decorate around your message with markers
A very short Bio of Gerrit van Honthorst, who painted The Adoration of the Christ Child:
Gerrit van Honthorst was born in the Netherlands in 1590. He studied art in Italy, learning how Carravaggio created dramatic lights and darks. While in Italy, Honthorst painted many night scenes, mostly religious. Although not very well-known today, Honthorst helped bring the dramatic Baroque art style to northern Europe, and influenced Rembrandt in the Netherlands and Georges de la Tour in France.
Molly and I wish you all a blessed Christmas celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Thank you for reading my blog this year, and we hope to see you back here for more great art, devotions, and fun projects in the New Year!