We are being invited to see where Christmas began.
It’s part of a larger painting. The baby Jesus lies in a manger. He is lying quietly, gazing at those around him, naked body glowing with an ethereal light. The glow illuminates the shepherds with their weathered faces and work-scarred hands and the serene face of his mother Mary.
She leans over him, hands coming together as if to pray. She is clothed in red, cloaked in blue, head covered in white. The red of her dress symbolizes the presence of the holy spirit; the blue of her cloak symbolizes heavenly grace; the white of her head covering indicates her virginity and purity.
The faces hovering over the baby Jesus are amazed, wondering. They lean into his light out of the surrounding darkness.
Guido Reni painted this adoration of the baby Jesus by shepherds for the monks of Saint Martin’s Charterhouse in Naples. The beauty of the scene reflects the beauty of the story it tells. It must have helped to inspire and comfort them as they went about their daily lives.
It’s a picture that reflects the heart of Christmas and the beginning of all they believed in.