Welcome to earth, O noble guest,
Through whom the sinful world is blest!
You came to share my misery
That you might share your joy with me.
– from Martin Luther’s hymn From Heaven Above to Earth I Come, LSB 358
(The image is Peter Wilke’s icon of the Nativity of Christ. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor refers to this icon at the end of his article in the latest Spectator. His comments on the icon appear after the fold:)
This image is all so simple and devout: Christ is born in the cave. The star is there, as are the ox and the ass, and Mary his mother.
When Christ comes among us, the first to worship him is Mary, the first to receive him and be sanctified by him. Notice her beautifully simple gestures: her right hand touching her heart in humility, and her left hand extended, acknowledging the Saviour wrapped in swaddling clothes, with the ox and the ass, as it were keeping vigil, perhaps keeping him warm with their breath, representing the Jewish and Gentile world into which he comes.
The Christmas image tells us that this happens for us: unto us a child is born, the child who is himself the very image of God (Colossians 1.15), and we are asked to worship and receive him as Mary does, with simple faith and love.