The Danish painter Pieter Bruegel’s painting, ‘The Census at Bethlehem’ depicts the political turmoil that Netherlands was facing in 1556. Added to his, Netherlands was also facing one of its most severe winters which resulted in a major food shortage. The tone and images in the painting eerily depicts the people’s fears and anxieties.

In the painting we see the slaughter of a pig to feed the hungry masses. We see a crowd of people gathered together to get some shelter. In the distance you also see a leper who is a victim of the plague who appears to be begging. All this to depict the harsh reality that they were all living in.

But in the midst of all the chaos and hardship we see familiar scene of Joseph walking alongside pregnant Mary who is on a donkey. The artist is placing the familiar Christmas scene right in the middle of the pandemonium to make a very poignant point, that despite everything there is hope because God is in their midst.

Their situation however chaotic does not mean that God has abandoned them but rather in their midst. It is a reminder that God is not in a distant land, away from their problems but among them, Shining light through the darkness. Bringing hope at a time of utter hopelessness.

It echoes what the proclamation of the angels in Luke 2:10-11

“Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord”.

It is a proclamation that stands true through the ages regardless of the tumultuous situations we find ourselves in.

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