Childhood – Stained Glass

Audio here 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

We’ve mentioned before that stained glass has one purpose of teaching, of useful telling of a story, use of symbols in pictures, especially in places that are commonly visited and thus those images retain in the memory. This is true. Yet, not all stained glass serves for this purpose. There is another practical usage of stained glass that goes beyond the artist detail. Stained glass also creates different lighting. Specifically, even without artistic design stained glass keeps that which is outside, outside. That is it blocks out the world and keeps the focus and draw upon that which is within.

Churches well utilized this feature. While we live in the world we are not of the world. Also, practically, as the lights within glow, especially in the night, the stained glass beams out their artistic beauty and the church literally becomes a light to the world as a city set upon on hill. And with this, of course, with such artistic and colorful value, you may as well make use of it with expression of that which true, good, and beautiful, that is, the things of God.

And so it is that our focus shifts the nativity window tonight. Upon first notice you see that which is proclaimed so wonderfully by Simeon in the Nunc Dimitis as Jesus was 40 days old in the temple, that this child born is a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel. This is who Jesus is, the light of the world. Thus the light shines brightly above the manger. We know of the star above the manger as well, it indeed lead the first Gentiles, the magi, to the infant Jesus. The use of the star in our window is wonderful. It is the traditional five-point star along with five dots, which as mentioned before in our medallion near the altar, is the star and dots historically used to proclaim the 5 wounds of Christ. 

This is also beautifully displayed near the bottom of our windows, ever so discretely it seems, in the simple fleur-de-lis, which translates and means flower of light. The Song of Solomon speaks of a lily among the thorns, of which the symbol became associated with. Of note, there is Trinitarian connotations with such a flower and emphasized here with the three dots as well. It soon also became the symbol of royalty, particularly French royalty, as is fitting for our King of Kings.

This lead to many also making associations with the Virgin Mary. Indeed, we as Lutherans tend to have an aversion to any talk of Mary. Though it is good that we recognize her faith and give thanks to God for serving His church through her. But the focus of the one we praise certainly must always be our Lord, who is the one who does the work of serving us through His people.

For like us, Mary is able to be distracted, to lose sight of the focus and purpose of why Jesus came in flesh in the first place. We forget that the purpose Jesus came, that the purpose of the church’s existance, that the purpose of worship is not for ourselves but because Jesus is about His Father’s business. Even in childhood He is a boy on a mission. From His birth, fulfilling all sorts of prophecies even through Joseph and Mary, to His shedding of blood at 8 days old in His circumcision, to His presentation at 40 days old when Simeon and Anna saw Him, and still at 12 years old in the same temple, everything Jesus does is about His Father’s business.

Already in the next window and our text for tonight, at 12 years old Jesus is continuing His Father’s business. Mary lost sight of this and panicked. We can do the same. Jesus ever so gently reminds her. Ever so gently He reminds us why we are here. He is here to fulfill the Law, the Commandments, even honoring His mother and father, while also keeping the First and Third Commandment perfectly, along with all the others. He is here to bring all of Moses and the Law and the Prophets to completion in fulfilling all things for our salvation. Jesus, the light of the world, pierced through for in the courts of the temple fulfilling all things as the Word made flesh.

Jesus’ childhood accounts center around the temple, the place where the Word of God was proclaimed to the people. The sacrifices, the circumcision, the presentation, and all the festival celebrations were centered upon the Temple courts. For all things Jesus does will lead Him back to the temple, that which culminates His life and ministry, that which this season of Lent leads us to, this same temple which leads to His trials, condemnation, His death, and resurrection. This is the Father’s business. 

Thus it is fitting that both stars are used in these windows. The five-pointed star which was the seal of Solomon and the Star of David which was known as David’s shield. For Jesus is the our greatest King, David’s Son yet David’s Lord, wiser the Solomon as the Word of God Himself.

As we progress through the windows, through the art, and through the Lenten season we are lead to appreciate that which is true, good, and beautiful. We keep things of the world, things that would distract, things that would have us lose focus, and keep our eyes, ears, and hearts upon the Father’s business for our life and salvation. We recall the Lord’s working all things to bring into fulfillment, to fulfill the law, the be the light of the world that enlightens us with grace, as He moves forward in love to His death to bring us through to resurrection glory. Amen.

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