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Centre Panel - The Gift

This moment pictures Mary and Joseph just as all the visitors have gone. The wise men's gifts are on the table; the baby is named ‘Jesus’; and he is wrapped in a Tallit, a Jewish Prayer Shawl.(Whether or not Jews in Mary and Joseph's time wore one we don't know. But I wrapped Jesus this way because I'm sure that his parents must have held him in their prayers. Jesus was, after all, born into the Jewish family.)

I remember what it was like when I took my first baby girl home and Gordon and I were left ‘on our own’, wondering what on earth to do next! How daunting it was! How are Mary and Joseph feeling? It seems to me that Joseph is looking out to the future. How must he feel? And Mary - was she remembering what the Angel had said, or was she just overwhelmed with love for this tiny person? What did the gifts on the table signify? I wonder if one of the shepherds might have brought the fleece lining the cradle, perhaps another might have whittled a child-sized crook as a gift for the little one. Why did those wise men choose gold, frankinsense and myrrh to give? Where they just traditional gifts for a King? And what is the most precious gift here if not this tiny baby − God's Son.

The donkey (I had to add a donkey!). One had carried Mary all the way to Bethlehem, and in years to come, one would carry Jesus the man to his last days in Jerusalem. The crown − The symbol of Kingship. This tiny, fragile baby is the King; the gift of God to the human race. I put a large pearl in the centre − the only jewel. But I remembered Jesus' parable of ‘the pearl of great price’; and what joy the man, who searched for it, felt when he found it, valuing it above all that he could own or achieve. I will never forget the day in 1984 when I first acknowledged that there was, is and always will be, God; after years of dismissive refusal of the possibility, the joy I felt in finding Him was amazing. I had found something of infinitely more value in my life than anything else I could have bought, been given, made or earned, and it was beginning of such an exciting and rewarding journey.

Ros Baldwin 2014