A Father’s Love

Joseph and Jesus

If you are reading this, it means you survived yet another Christmas. Congratulations! We have just celebrated the birth of Christ so it may seem a little premature to highlight a painting of Jesus as a little boy, but the more I looked at this painting, the more I fell in love with it.

This scene depicts Joseph, the carpenter father, working with his son, Jesus, in a woodshop. The artist, Pietro Annigoni, was an Italian best known for his portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and his work designing medals. This painting hangs alongside other classic Renaissance works, yet even though it is modern (1963), it fits in well as his work was in the Renaissance tradition, contrasting with the modernist style that prevailed in his time.

This painting is life-size, so if we were standing in front of it, we would feel like we were there. Can you smell the sawdust? See how Joseph looks lovingly at his son. Notice how his hand hovers over his son’s head. Look at how intently Jesus focuses on his task before him. I love the intimacy that oozes from this moment captured in time.

But also notice the beam of wood leaning on the workbench. It hints at the cross that waits for Jesus when he is no longer a little boy.

John tells us that the Word became flesh, which means the Word—Jesus—became vulnerable. Jesus experienced humanity first hand: hunger, loneliness, homelessness, torture, injustice, grief, loss, betrayal. He also experienced the love of a father, a hug from his mother, the teasing of a brother. Good and bad, Jesus knows what it means to be human—to be us.

Being Human connection: Because when the Word became flesh, we didn’t just get a new religion, we got a person. And we didn’t just get a representative of God, but God himself. Jesus is not one more prophet or sage pointing to God, he is the God to whom all the prophets and sages point. All other religions say, “Live this way and you will be accepted,” but Christianity—Christ—says, “You have been accepted, so please live this way.”

Featured Art: Pietro Annigoni, “St Joseph and the Christ Child in the Carpentry Workshop,” 1963, Church of San Lorenzo, Firenze © Christian Art Today