Dear Friends

I am hoping, as we all must be, that by the beginning of December either the worse of the pandemic will be over, or that an effective vaccine can begin to be rolled out to protect the population, and that we can return to some semblance of normality - this is my prayer, and, I am sure, that of many of you.

Meanwhile we can perhaps dare to dream of a ‘traditional’ Christmas, if not, necessarily, of a white one (we rarely get snow for Christmas here in the south of England), with the possibility of singing, or at least listening to, seasonal carols, as well as sending and receiving cards and gifts and even (possibly) meeting up once more with friends and families to celebrate.

My favourite Christmas cards are those that depict biblical scenes of the stable, the shepherds and the Holy Family, most of which take their inspiration from the early chapters of St Luke’s Gospel, which may, in turn, have been inspired by the text from lsaiah l:3 — ‘the ox knows its owner and the donkey its crib.’ Such scenes are reproduced countless times in paintings such as The Nativity of circa 1520 from the workshop of Bemadino Luini (see elsewhere in this issue, under ‘Notable of the Month’, for a little more information about him). It shows Mary and Joseph admiring, perhaps worshipping, the new-born Christ child, as the animals, situated behind them, poke their heads out of the stable. Less traditional in this painting is the group of cherubs in the top left-hand corner. Also, in the middle distance a couple of shepherds can be seen, one of whom is bearing a lamb on his shoulders, pointing to the role ofthe Christ-child as lamb of God. This detail is reminiscent, also, of the earliest depictions of Jesus in the catacombs, in which he is shown as the Good Shepherd, likewise carrying a lamb on his shoulders.

However Christmas may be for you and your loved ones this year, l pray that it will be a merry and joyful one, as we give thanks, once again, for the greatest gift of all, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.