We received a very curious Christmas card.
Mary is tenderly holding the sleeping Christ child, her veil a crimson red. Behind her is the cross, and an owl peering out from over her shoulder.
It is not unusual to have Mary caressing her newborn infant Son in greeting cards at Christmas time. However, the imagery around the Mother and Child seem all wrong.
Mary is dressed in red. Red often stands for the Holy Spirit, but it also represents blood and suffering, of Christ’s passion and of martyrdom. Placed in the context of the nativity, it reminds us that this is no ordinary child being held by a mother. Her garment is a foretaste of the sword that will pierce her heart.
The Cross. Philippians 2:7-8 remind us:
“He emptied himself…coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance, he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”
Our Christmas celebrations sometimes conveniently leave us to stay at the manger scene, while to understand the full meaning of the Incarnation, we must reach beyond the tenderness of the creche to the Cross. Some of Christmas’ finest songs still remind us of the ‘why’ of the Word made flesh:
Nails, spear shall pierce him through
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made Flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
– What Child is This, verse 2