The clip is an entertaining interpretation of the Christmas story from the angels’ point of view acted by some very cute children. There were some poignant comments that illuminate both the fragility of the Christ child and the enormity of the salvation message. I was amused by the gun-ho attitude of the boys who wanted to bring Christ to earth with an almighty army to conquer the world. The girls came up with some practical questions of where He will live and who will be welcoming Him. God shocked both the boys and girls by choosing a peasant girl to give birth in a stable! One angel showed impeccable logic and asks “What if they don’t notice?”. God’s answer is worth listening to carefully. All the angels were horrified that Christ was being born with animals! and hay! and POO! The look of disgust when they said “Poo!” was classic.
Christ was born physically in the same way that we all are, as a helpless baby born through the vagina of a woman, then suckling at her breasts. We can take joy in the physicality of our bodies whatever shape we are in - God certainly affirms the importance of our bodies. We are all fragile lumps of vulnerable flesh in a harsh, difficult and even hostile world. Christ’s humble natal family show us that we can all be agents of God regardless of our status in society. Christ’s example shows us that we all have the capacity to have an intimate relationship with God creator. Being rich and privileged does not give any advantage with God. Christ became one of us with a vulnerable physical body. He needed to eat, drink, have warm clothes and shelter, just like all of us.
And he died - just like all of us will.
The production was made by St Pauls in Auckland, New Zealand.
View on youtube: “An Unexpected Christmas”
It is a beautiful photograph with the boy standing in front of a rose bush and decorated with toy eyes. His stance is relaxed and observing the viewer. He is wearing slacks, but no shirt. Unfortunately the Sydney Children’s Hospital board has deemed this image as inappropriate to use in their fundraising art exhibition - because of a lack of a shirt.
This is very sad. When did a child’s chest become offensive? Do we have to place children in Burkas to satisfy the conservatives? Artists are becoming afraid to represent children at all.
“The fear around any form of representation of children is rendering them invisible.” Tamara Winikoff from the National Association for the Visual Arts said.
“The depiction of children in art has steadily diminished in recent decades as attitudes to childhood itself have changed.” Felicity Fenner, Guest editor, Artlink magazine.
Surely a children’s hospital should celebrate depictions of children, especially beautiful images such as this one. I cannot fathom why the photo is deemed inappropriate by the hospital board. The boy was Del Kathryn Barton’s son and he is not doing anything provocative.
If a bare chested child is seen as offensive, then heaven help the surf life-saving community. Life-savers have been an integral part of Australia’s identity, along with beaches and the outdoors generally. Go to any beach or swimming pool in the country and you will see dozens of bare chested children playing joyously, feeling free.
These incidents are becoming more frequent. Art is being censored by conservative attitudes that restrict artists’ freedom of expression. I do not think that art should be held to ransom by a small alarmist minority. Do not get me wrong, artistic freedom is not a licence to harm anyone. But there is absolutely no evidence that any harm has been done or even has the potential to be done by showing this photo. Is our community becoming afraid of the body? Are some people so afraid of their sexuality that they are projecting their sexuality onto children. This boy is not posed in a sexy way, he is simply standing. He is obviously not afraid of the camera or the viewer. He does not look pressured in any way.
As I said in my Christmas Greetings, God made our bodies and we should take joy in that and celebrate how wonderful our bodies are. We should all feel a great sense of dignity in living in bodies that God has made. “For we are God’s workmanship,” Ephesians 2:10. This boy stands with dignity.
As an artist, I am concerned what this means for my art practice. Some of my women look very young but I make sure all my models are over 18, even checking their ID if I am unsure.
See related articles from The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, WA Today newspapers, Yahoo, Nine MSN and the ABC.
Again we consider the Christ child, the incarnation of God. In this child we see the wonder of God’s creativity and compassion combined. We see God becoming human, experiencing all the joys, excitement and wonder of a human body as well as the irritations, limitations, frustrations, pain and emotions of living in a physical body. This experience sanctifies all our bodies. God truly knows what it is like to be us! And God has compassion for our troubles and experiences.
God coming to earth as a baby makes parenthood a sacred calling. Unfortunately, despite a rhetoric of equality, mothers still do most of the organising and physical work of child rearing. This results in fewer hours available for their careers, so mothers take a career hit when they have children. Employers say they support families while at the same time implying that reduced hours means a lack of commitment.
It is hard for mothers to feel respected when their careers crash or are blocked and the skills of mothering are disregarded in the workplace.
I am in awe of how wonderfully the human body is made. I aim to articulate the magnificent way that God made the human body through my art. The more I learn about the intricacies of how we are made the more I respect God’s creation and the more motivated I am to articulate that respect in my art. Looking forward to a productive year.
“You made all the delicate parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!” Psalm 139:13-14 Living Bible.
Christmas is also a time to re-connect with family and loved ones. We have time off work to celebrate Christmas and this gives us time to reflect on other aspects of life. It is not good to be tied exclusively to the working world and risk neglecting friends, family and other connections. It was a great joy to us that modern technology enabled us to see our son who is living overseas. May you all have enjoyable times with your friends and family over the holiday break.
Wishing you all the strength and resources to fulfil your aims and goals in the New Year.
I have written about different types of nudity before (10/07/2008). Child nudity has been discussed a lot recently in Australia especially in relation to art. The discussion centres on the idea that if a child naked and is under 16, which is the age of consent, then, by definition, the nudity is pedophilia. As stated in The Independent, 8 July 2008, “But for Ms Johnston, and like-minded people, all nude images of children are sexual and should be banned.” I disagree with this simplistic explanation. I am not excusing pedophilia. Sexual exploitation is a serious crime and can have serious developmental consequences for growing children. However it would be sad to be so afraid of sexual exploitation that artists and journalists are not permitted to explore other meanings. Nudity has many meanings and purposes.
If children are told that their body is shameful and they need to be embarrassed every time they have their clothes removed, then later when they are adults, sexual relationships may become difficult. When shame is imposed upon children without also an obvious respect for the human body, they loose respect for their own bodies and become uncomfortably self-conscious and may develop body image problems. This is a loss of innocence.
In fact, nude photography can enhance a person’s body image and can be a healing tool. Ellen Fisher Turk has been photographing young women with eating disorders for some fifteen years. Fisher Turk’s therapeutic photographs show the young women’s bodies in a new light and they begin to see themselves as beautiful. It is a healing process.
In The Weekend Australian the children’s nakedness expresses vulnerability and loss. Their nakedness emphasises that they have lost everything. There is no hint of eroticising the children. They are photographed in a documentary style. The photographer has a high viewpoint as if he/she is much taller than the children emphasising that the children are small. The children’s lack of clothing is not contrived nor staged, it is simply how they are. They really have lost everything. These children truly are innocent and the photographer has captured their innocence and vulnerability with great skill and respect.
photo copyright Margaret Kalms
To all the new parents I ask you to remember the moment you first saw your new baby. Remember the sense of awe and excitement of a new human in the world. I certainly felt it when each of my children were born. Despite my biological training and sex education, I still asked in wonder ‘Where did you come from?’ It was a spiritual question, not a biological one. I knew the practicalities of creation but the practicalities did not prepare me for the force of emotions that overwhelmed me when I first looked into the eyes of each new child. This emotion is spiritual, full of hope and joy. I photographed newborn babies for several years in Canberra’s hospitals and I never tired of the awe of holding and looking at a newborn baby. As I said in ‘Passages Through Parenthood: real life stories from Australian parents’ (Anne Godfrey. Lothian books 2000)
I still feel a sense of wonder when I hold a newborn baby. Each baby represents another try at life, another chance to explore what it is to be human. Maybe this baby will make fewer mistakes than I, achieve greater things, inspire or help more people. Each new baby brings hope. We can look into a baby’s face and imagine any future. They help us to think of and plan for the future because it will be twenty years before they are full members of the community. Babies give us a continuum of life that is difficult to describe, a sense of history, a sense of generation following generation and of time flowing on. Who of us has not marvelled at those beautiful tiny fingers and toes of a newborn and not wondered at the sheer mystery of life. When we grasp how much of a miracle birth is, we also know that life is precious.
This experience is one aspect of Immanuel – God with us. God came to earth as a human to experience ALL of our emotions and to share the experience of our lives and to live in perfect harmony with God. In doing so in a mysterious and miraculous way He reconciled God and humanity.
As a Christian I am asked to see Immanuel – God with us in everybody. As a human it is relatively easy to see Immanuel – God with us in our friends and family, those whose company we enjoy. It is harder to see Immanuel – God with us in people we do not like, people who have betrayed or hurt us, people who are cruel or violent, or people who look, dress and smell differently from us. Christmas is a time to remember all our fellow humans to see the miracle of creation in every person, to see the mark of God within no matter what their life situation, to look beyond our personal preferences. Our church reaches out to many during the Christmas season by giving food hampers to local people, hosting community events, giving Christmas shoe-boxes as presents to children and by sending any money offerings gathered on Christmas Day to Baptist World Aid for suffering people around the world.
Last night we received a call that our son had a ‘bad landing’ when he went para-gliding. He is in a country hospital recovering from his injuries 50km from home. This is a dread that any parent fears. Of course we drove to the hospital immediately. It was a sombre mood during the drive to the hospital in the dark last night. We wondered exactly how injured our son was and how it may affect his young life in the future. I am reminded of the fragility of life, how quickly circumstances can change. Although our son’s life is not in immediate danger, this fall has reminded us of the possibility of death. Another reason to see Immanuel – God with us in all of us, is that life can be taken from us at any time. In the developed countries like Australia where I live, it is easy to forget the fragility of life. We know life expectancy is around 80 years so we expect everyone to live ‘til their 80s. We have a tendency to take each other for granted, to take life for granted. But death happens at all ages, even in Australia. Life is a gift to be treasured. But not held on to. I still do not want to wrap my children in ‘cotton-wool’. I’m glad they are doing exciting things and I will not restrict their adventures. I know they are learning from experienced trainers who will teach safety issues. I hope that when my time comes to die, I will be doing something exciting or something worthwhile, because we ALL die.
I wish you all a Happy New Year bringing you many blessings, that God is with YOU and that you achieve good things and grow closer to your life purpose.