Tag Archives: Christmas

Don’t Allow the Pandemic to Make You Miss Jesus this Christmas

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.

The Uffizi, author photo

Devotion:

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,

The Holy Family by Michelangelo, photo by author

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)

Adoration of the Christ Child by Honthorst, photo by author

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.

https://www.uffizi.it/en/artworks/adoration_of_the_child_gherrit_van_honthorst

Art Project—a pop-up card to help everyone see Jesus!

Supplies

  •      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
  •      markers
  •      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.

!

I Almost Missed Jesus

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.

The Uffizi, author photo

Devotion:

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,

The Holy Family by Michelangelo, photo by author

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)

Adoration of the Christ Child by Honthorst, photo by author

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.

https://www.uffizi.it/en/artworks/adoration_of_the_child_gherrit_van_honthorst

Art Project—a pop-up card to help everyone see Jesus!

Supplies

  •      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
  •      markers
  •      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!

The Christmas Pictures from the Isenheim Altarpiece

It was still dark when we got to Gare de L’Est in Paris to take a super fast train to Colmar, a small city near the Rhine River in eastern France. We had been in France for several weeks and now we were headed to see the Isenheim Altarpiece, one of the great works of northern European art.

 

 

 

The altarpiece was created around 1514 for the church of the monastery of St. Anthony in Isenheim, a town a few miles south of Colmar.

The monastic brothers there cared for people who were sick, especially those with skin diseases such as the terrible St. Anthony’s fire. A common disease in the Middle Ages caused by eating bread made with rye grain infected with a fungus, it often led to a painful death. The brothers treated the disease with good quality bread and herbal ointments and brought patients to view the altarpiece for spiritual comfort.

We don’t know much about the artist, Matthias Grunewald. His real name is believed to be Mathis Gothart, and he lived and worked in western Germany from around 1475 to 1528. He received important commissions from several archbishops, but only a few paintings and drawings still exist. The Isenheim Altarpiece is his greatest work.

The altarpiece is now displayed in the chapel of a former Dominican convent in Colmar, a picturesque Alsatian city owing much to its German heritage.

At the convent, now a museum, we walked through a quiet cloister, and paused to look through its pointed Gothic arches to an enclosed garden, shining bright green in the morning sun.

From the cloister we stepped into the chapel and stopped. The impact of the high, Gothic chapel, the quiet, and the size of the altarpiece are overwhelming. Light streams down on panels 11 feet tall and 19 feet wide, taking our breath away.

The

 

 

altarpiece was a polyptych with many wooden panels that once opened like cabinet doors to create additional painted scenes. Today it’s been taken apart so all its scenes from the life of Christ can be viewed. The panels stretch the length of the chapel, and people wander among them or sit quietly on benches set in front of each large grouping.

Other northern artists, such as Albrecht Durer, had traveled south to study Renaissance ideas, but Grunewald continued to paint in the Medieval tradition, with off-center compositions and strong emotional appeal. The Isenheim crucifixion and resurrection are among the most creative and powerful in all western art. I hope to write a post about them around Easter.

But for this post I will concentrate on the Annunciation and what is called the Christmas Picture.

The Annunciation, Matthias Grunewald, author photo

The Annunciation is set, as many were at that time, in a Gothic chapel, not unlike the present one and perhaps like the chapel of the Antonite monastery. A red curtain has been pulled back to reveal a stunning scene. Mary, dressed in somber colors, is kneeling and reading her Bible, traditionally open to Isaiah 7:14 telling that a virgin will give birth to the Messiah.

Annunciation detail, author photo

On the right Gabriel comes in a whirlwind of gold and magenta to greet Mary and announce that she will bear God’s son.

A white dove hovers over Mary to represent the coming of the Holy Spirit upon her.

Grunewald has captured the intense drama and wonder of Jesus’ miraculous conception.

Now separated, but once on the right of the Annunciation panel, is the Christmas Picture. In it angels sing and play music to welcome the Christ child. Behind Mary light streams down from heaven, while on a distant hill, angels announce the baby’s birth to the shepherds.

 

Christmas Picture, detail, author photo

In this panel what captures your attention is the warm and appealing scene of Mary and the baby Jesus. They aren’t centered, but Mary’s red gown and blue mantle make sure you don’t miss them. Mary has just bathed Jesus in the wooden tub and now holds him and cradles his head as must be done for all young babies. Jesus gazes back at his mother while his hands hold a coral necklace, thought at this time to ward off diseases.

Grunewald has captured Jesus’ humanity in this scene of tender love between mother and child.

In the Isenheim Annunciation and Christmas Picture Grunewald weaves the miraculous into and around the everyday, balancing Jesus’ humanity with His divinity. Let us do the same—running to Jesus with all our concerns, knowing He shares our humanity and sympathizes with our weaknesses, and worshiping Him as our God and Savior.

I pray that you and your family will have a blessed Christmas, celebrating the miracle of Jesus coming to earth to live with us—Immanuel—God with us!

______________________________________________________________

And please pray for the French people right now. We recently spent many days in Paris and around the country, meeting lots of hospitable, helpful people, and are now concerned as they experience a time of great turmoil. Pray that people on all sides will be able to work out satisfactory ways to end the violence and provide help to those in need.

Here at the end of 2018, I want to thank all of you who follow my blog. Please join me in the New Year for a series of posts about Monet’s cathedral and haystack paintings, (also from my recent trip to France). Each post will have lots of pictures, related activities, and pictures of Molly showing off her new French interests!

 

All photos in this post were taken by the author.