Day 21, Every Bit A Fragile, Tiny Baby: Reflection, Questions, and Art During Advent
About the Art: Marc Chagall, The Christ Window, stained glass, Fraumunster Church, Zurich, Installed in 1970.
This image of Mary with the infant Jesus belongs to a much larger, tall, narrow stained glass window depicting various scenes from the life of Christ. The window belongs to a series of five focused on Biblical themes: the prophets, Jacob, Christ, Zion, and the Law of God (see below).
Though there are thousands of works I could have chosen for this particular part of the Nativity story, I include Marc Chagall because it would be a disservice to fail to introduce you to his work at some point. Both his stained glass and his painting are excellent and very unique. You can spot a Chagall from across the room.
I also chose this stained glass because Chagall’s image of Mary and Jesus is, itself, fragile—as was Mary and the baby in her arms. Stained glass brings delicacy, grace, and light together to illuminate a scene that was filled with motion and life. U2’s lead singer, Bono, once described stained glass as the world’s first motion pictures, light projected through color.
Though Mary and Joseph were safely in God’s care, her pregnancy and their journey together led them both through new experiences of reckoning with the fragility of life. When this baby was born, they too would be delivered into a new way of living. Their lives would never be the same—and neither would the world into which their son was born.
“Joseph busied himself, though he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be doing. Make room, he thought. Carve out some space for her to have this baby. There was no one around to coach them, no one to tell them everything would be all right.
“They thought of the angels who visited their dreams. They thought of Adam and Eve taking the forbidden fruit and how one of the consequences of that act of rebellion was shooting through Mary from head to toe, every three minutes now.
“It was not a silent night. She strained and groaned and fought for every breath. She pushed as sweat beaded on her forehead. Joseph wiped her brow and told her a hundred times that he loved her, he loved her, he loved her.
“Swept up in waves of pain and contractions, Mary continued to push and breathe and strain while time passed. Eventually, as if cresting a ridge, her labor gave way to delivery, and her groaning gave way to the sound of the cries and the coos of little lungs drawing in the breath of earth for the first time.
“Joseph laid the baby on Mary’s chest, and to the wonder of the helpless man and the relief of the weary woman, they beheld him who, though he was the Son of God, was every bit a fragile, tiny baby.”
Take some time to imagine Jesus as a newborn baby. Imagine you were in that stable. What would you have seen?
What are some of your own vulnerabilities Jesus has personally related to? If his strength is made perfect in our weakness, what are some of your own weaknesses that leave you feeling a need for his strength?
Joseph and Mary would have likely felt that their baby was fragile, but if Psalm 139 is correct—if the Lord has numbered our days before a single one of them has come to be—then how fragile was Jesus in the manger? Applying that same truth to yourself, how fragile is your own life, really?
 Ramsey, Russ. Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative. Nashville: Rabbit Room Press, 2011. pgs. 152-153.
Chagall’s Christ window in fuller detail:
The Christ window set in context with the other four: