Day 22, Where the Lambs Are Kept – Reflection, Questions, and Art During Advent
About the Art: Govaert Flinck (1615 -1660), The Annunciation to the Shepherds, 1639, oil on panel, 160 x 196 cm, The Louvre, Paris, France.
Govaert Flinck was one of Rembrandt’s students in Amsterdam in the 1600’s. In 1631, he and some friends traveled to Amsterdam to be near the master painter. One of his traveling companions was Saskia van Uylenburgh, who later married Rembrandt in 1634. Flinck’s life as an artist was heavily influenced and shaped by his proximity to his mentor, the Dutch master.
Flinck’s The Annunciation to the Shepherds, which he painted three years after leaving Rembrandt’s studio, is modeled after an engraving Rembrandt made on the same subject in 1634 (see engraving below). The detail and finesse of Flinck’s landscape, his characters, their positions, and their expressions reveal Flinck’s access to both Rembrandt’s masterworks and the artist himself. In the same way that a young musician will borrow riffs from an artist he grew up listening to, Flinck boldly borrows compositional elements from his teacher. Without Rembrandt, this painting from Flinck would not exist.
But Flinck does not merely copy Rembrandt. His painting draws the heavenly beings closer to the earthbound by making them similar in size, while Rembrandt makes the angels larger and uses a dark line of landscape to run between the angels and the people as a visual wall of separation. Flinck’s shepherds are calm while Rembrandt’s are terrified. Flinck’s painting shortens the distance between the angel’s and the shepherds, which works well with the message the angel’s had come to deliver. Unto them, a savior was born.
“The angels gave the shepherds a sign that left them speechless. Their Messiah and Savior could be found where the young lambs were kept. He would be the one not covered in wool, but wrapped in a swaddling cloth.
“Where the lambs are kept? This they needed to see.
“When they found Jesus in the manger as the angel said, the very location of his birth was drenched in significance. The Savior had been born into their unclean world in the same manner as a lamb. The symbolism was not lost on them.
“When the shepherds saw Jesus there, they not only saw that he had come, but they also got a hint as to why. He came to be the perfect lamb, the ultimate, lasting sacrifice. This baby’s coming was to accomplish and establish peace between the God of all creation and his image-bearers who habitually rejected him. And so it would be all his days.”
What is your greatest poverty—physically? Spiritually? Relationally?
What are some of the greatest sacrifices you can think of that others have made for your good? Why do you think those people made those sacrifices for you? What do you think they hoped for you? What are some ways you help meet the needs of others? Why do you do this caring work?
When the angels tell the shepherds that a savior has been born, he tells them Christ has been born unto them. Do you believe Christ was born for your sake?
 Ramsey, Russ. Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative. Nashville: Rabbit Room Press, 2011. pg. 159.
Rembrandt’s The Angel Appearing To The Shepherds, 1634.