My new favorite Nativity scene is probably in an empty gallery this year. It’s “Madonna in the Rose Arbor,” by Stefan Lochner, 1440-1442. It’s in Cologne’s Wallraf-Richardtz Museum, three glorious floors plus a fine cafe, no doubt empty in the great pandemic of 2020.
The caption explains “the Lord God is in the details” of the painting. The Virgin’s halo, for example, is a version of the lunar cycle and points to the medieval link between astronomy and theology. And the brooch she is wearing features a unicorn, a traditional symbol for Christ. Who knew?
As for me, I just love the gentle expressive faces, the delicate roses, and the child-angels gathered around, as though waiting for a play-date with the child.
Just before Christmas 2019, I was in Germany, stuffing my days and nights with lights and music and holiday cheer.
The Angel Market in Cologne was populated with angels and happy mortal folks.
A few blocks away, we attended a sublime choral concert at St. Gereon Church.
This pandemic year, there’s none of that. There were no grandchildren at my house, no in-person Christmas service, no gatherings at all.
Of course my cats thought 2020 was the best year ever because we mostly hung around the house with them.
We had more wildlife visits even than usual.
It was still Christmas in the Rocky Mountains and we counted our blessings. Someone went around to our homes a few days beforehand and videotaped us holding Christmas Eve candles. On the night, we watched our online service and then went in family groups to leave our candles in the snow outside the church. We wore masks and gave our friends air-hugs from a distance.
We’re looking forward to a brighter 2021, to traveling again after a good long time of dreaming and planning. Wishing health and happiness to all!