The East End of St Margaret’s Church in Collier Street is blessed with a triptych of windows showing the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The left and right panels are definitely older, perhaps Victorian, possibly dating from when the church was built in the mid-19th century.
The centre panel is clearly much newer and 20th century in style, and the colour in the glass has not faded to the same extent as the others. It is shaped to match the other windows in its ornamentation, so is perhaps a replacement for an earlier window which was broken or damaged.
Taken as a whole, the windows point to a strong identification with God as Holy Trinity – three panels, and three figures in the foreground of each one. There is also a clear triangular shape in the design of each picture.
When we look at the windows in detail we can see more than just a picture. Through the skill and ideas of the artist we can look through the glass into the Love of God.
Taken together the windows illustrate not just the life of Jesus, but also the lives we are called to as Christians. They also point to themes of Care, Sacrifice and Hope that Jesus’s life demonstrates, and we seek to honour in our lives.
The Incarnation - Care
The left-hand window shows the Incarnation. While we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, Holy Week is a good time to reflect on why he was born.
This is the child born to be the Salvation of Mankind. He is shown lying in a manger, the straw poking out beneath him on the basic wooden structure (Luke 2:7) - no golden throne for this King of the Jews (1 Kings 10:18).
The Holy Child is identified by a halo, but his bare shoulder and tiny arm creeping out from under his covers show how small and weak he is. This is God almighty, emptied of the power that created the universe in order to come amongst His creation as one of us, completely dependent on us, that we may depend on Him.
His mother Mary kneels at his side, not only to care for him but also in prayer and adoration; for the power is still there – the power of Love – the Love that will give of itself in sacrifice for the world.
Behind Mary, Joseph cares for Mary as she cares for the child (Matthew 1:20). He holds her clothes from dragging in the dirt - a small and touching gesture of love.
And above them all, the angel watches over them, playing the harp and making heavenly music in celebration (Luke 2:14).
The scene is set. The Christ is born. He has what appears to be a very serious expression, indicating the importance of His task. He is born with a purpose, the purpose of Redemption.
He glows with light, this light of the world, illuminating the faces of His earthly family above Him, Joseph’s lamp practically redundant in the presence of the Light of the World. (John 8:12)
Outside the window, the fruit on the tree is ripe for picking; an expression of a fertile moment where Love is made manifest in human form. Beneath the manger sleeps a lamb, while He who will be hailed as the Lamb of God (John 1:29) lies above him. Beneath the lamb, green plants grow from the earth. All life on earth is present as part of God’s creation.
Blessed Lord Jesus,
You came into this world as a tiny child,
dependent on the care of others for support and survival.
You came as new life so that you might give it for me.
Let me not forget the love of God by which the world was created;
Let me not forget the care that your family showed for you;
Let me not forget the love and care that you showed for others.
May I be willing to give of myself,
to love and care for my neighbours as you love and care for us,
and to love and care for your created world.