He Qi is a Chinese artist who spent the years of the Cultural Revolution painting pictures of Mao Tse Tung in the day time as an alternative to forced labour, and in the evening painting pictures of the Madonna inspired by his fascination with Raphael’s Madonna and Child.
He Qi’s Nativity is typical of his work in terms of colour and vibrancy. His painting resembles stained glass and always feel they have an element of fun. In this picture you can see the sheep virtually dancing in response to the angels. Listening is an important element of this piece. Of course, the sheep stand for all those who know the Lord as their shepherd.
The light in this Nativity comes from heaven and is far more intense than the light any of us can hold. The light Joseph holds is dim compared to the light that Mary holds. – but then Joseph is fading from the picture with his work well and faithfully done.
Mary is pictured in the pink. Normally Mary is dressed in blue, but here He Qi picks up pink as a symbol of marriage and shows Mary as the archetype of the church who holds and treasures Jesus. Jesus is offering a red apple to Mary and the church. This is a reference to the Garden of Eden signifying Jesus as a new Adam and Mary and the church as a new Eve. This is new creation.
The apple is blood red to indicate the nature of God’s offering. Is there also an ambiguity in the shape of the apple? Is it also heart shaped to indicate that this is the new heart promised by God to his disheartened people (Ezekiel 36)?
This is the Nativity. Christus natus est. This is Christmas. Happy Christmas.
Coronation Street has a story line about the politics of casting for the local Nativity. (Hopefully Simon will get the role of the innkeeper). The innkeeper is always cast in a good light. He is the one who found room for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem when everyone else was shouting “there isn’t any room”. For Mary and Joseph this innkeeper is the landlord from heaven. For us, he is one who found room for Jesus.
I suspect that many greet a roof and bed with a sigh of relief, particularly after long travels, or through being made homeless, or through economic migration. Mary and Joseph would be no exception. Often the shine soon rubs off as they realise that they are trapped by landlords from hell.
This week’s Channel 4 documentary Landlords from Hell highlights the shameful conditions many people have to live with. Good housing seems essential for good mental health and physical wellbeing, and it is such a shame that those who are most vulnerable in our society, and have such little control over their living conditions, are subjected to really squalid shelter. I know how much I value my home and how important it is that it is comfortable, clean and reasonably orderly. That means that I have a place to relax and recover. That would seem to be a basic human right. The programme is part of a Channel 4 campaign to expose the Great British Property Scandal. Shelter’s Chief Executive, Campbell Robb writes:
Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact these landlords have on peoples’ lives as families remain trapped in homes that cause misery, and, in some cases, put lives at risk. What’s more, we believe thousands more families could suffer as changes in the Localism Act will see councils placing more vulnerable homeless households in private rented housing.
|Beulah House Hotel featured in Landlords from Hell
(Beulah comes from a Hebrew verb meaning to own– ironic!)
Jon Snow was the presenter of the Channel 4 documentary. Before his career as a journalist Jon Snow worked for New Horizon Youth Centre, a day centre for homeless young people in central London (with which he has remained involved since). At a time when we are so hacked off with journalists and the abuse of their power, Jon Snow’s example is a refreshing reminder of what good journalism is and what good journalism can do to bring to the light of day those things hidden in darkness. He confronted some of the guilty landlords with the grim realities of his findings, and hopefully they will take steps to put things right. I hope they will do that without recriminations, though I fear for those whose landlord threatens his tenants with the baseball bat.
I wonder how good the landlord in Bethlehem actually was. We aren’t told how much he charged for the room. We aren’t told whether he moved another family in after Mary and Joseph had shown him the potential for letting the room out. And it did have a misleading Michelin star over the door. I suspect that it is more helpful to be shown the rooms in the Apollo Guest House and the Beulah House Hotel (featured in Landlords from Hell) as the place of our Saviour’s birth. After all, they are the places for those for whom there is no room – bed bugs and all.
Friend Karin – @KarinLyle1
wanted to comment to this post with photos – couldn’t, so I add her comments as a PS and with thanks.
Just wanted to reply to your “Landlords from Hell” Blog with two pictures of “Hospitality from Heaven”. Neither image does justice to the ‘peace’ and the ‘fragrance’ in these two pictures, nor to the graciousness of the hosts.
If only we could offer a welcome like this to the weary and outcast in our society.
The Fruits of Sandra’s Garden
Bedroom view from St. Beuno’s
>Well done R. We have known you since you were four – and now, 14 years later, you have given birth to a son. Good luck to you, to R and your partner, and to your Mum and all the family who will be in the supporters’ club.
A long time ago in Bethlehem another baby was born. The baby’s grandparents must have wished it was all otherwise – knowing that bringing a baby into the world is hard enough in itself, let alone when the political powers herd you like cattle (the “round up” in Bethlehem) and when you’ve got a cruel king like Herod breathing down your neck.
Tonight, in the city of Liverpool, the Year of Culture is being launched with the Liverpool Nativity being shown on BBC3. One of the shots shows Mary and Joseph at the bus stop. It looks like they are waiting for the bus to go and “sign on” at the DSS. They have a battered suitcase and plastic bag for their journey and are surrounded by the rubbish of an outer estate bus stop on a cold winter’s day – including overturned shopping trolley.