The Child Jesus
When I came home, after a holiday in 2013, to find Lesley’s beautiful drawings for the Triptych, I was quite overwhelmed. It began 4 months of a journey with a small boy and his parents which I will never forget, and which proved to be deeply significant as I thought of the years we tend to overlook in Jesus’ life. There is scant mention of his growing up in the Gospels, but these are the years when he was learning how to be part of the human family. He was growing up just like any other child.
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.
Left Hand Panel – The Little Apprentice
Jesus has crawled, toddled, taken his first haltering steps, spoken his first words and is now about 6 years old. We’re told he became a carpenter, like Joseph. I know, from personal experience, that to become good at anything needs a good teacher and also lots and lots of practise! Here, Joseph is patiently training Jesus in his trade, watching as his little boy miss hits several nails before starting to get them straight. I think the most profound significance of this drawing is that we are seeing Jesus nailing into a plank of wood; a foretaste of his crucifixion? On the hill the sheep are at peace, secure in the knowledge that they can trust their Shepherd; and the palm trees are a hint of Jesus’ triumphant entry to Jerusalem.
Right Hand Panel – I am
We read in Luke 2:41-52 that, when he was 12, Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast with Mary and Joseph. He stayed behind questioning the teachers in the temple courts and Mary and Joseph were not best pleased when they realized that he wasn’t with them on the journey home. His reply to their admonishment is “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father&apos’s house?”. He is 12 years old and as with all 12 year olds he is beginning to know himself and who he is − the fulfilment of the prophesies in the sacred writings of the Jewish nation. In the alcove I have pictured the Star of David, showing Jesus’ lineage from King David, and the Menorah, the symbol of Judaism. Perhaps the teacher/priest is challenging Jesus’ confidence. This could be the first of the many challenges to his authority. I remember myself the challenge of realizing that my daughters had their own opinions and they didn’t always coincide with mine! On the hill − the peaceful sheep and also, in the distance, The Mount of Olives where Jesus spent his last night with the Disciples in the garden of Gethsemane. In the sky – a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, hovering and waiting for Jesus’ Baptism when he was a man.
The making of the panels
In May 2013 Rev. Annie Goldthorp asked a group of needle-workers in the Church to a meeting to look at making the Children’s Corner more attractive. A blocked up window loomed over the area and I offered to work with Lesley to create a wall-hanging to cheer it up. I started thinking that, for it to appeal to the children, it should be about children, and as there were 3 sections to the window, it seemed a good idea to picture scenes from Jesus’ childhood. That’s when the idea of a Triptych was born. My design links the panels through the sky, a hill and the roofs of buildings, with a frieze of children, centred on the young Jesus, at the bottom; but I am no artist and so Lesley offered to draw the figures. Mike agreed to make MDF backing boards for displaying the panels, while making it possible to remove them for cleaning. I covered the MDF with wallpaper lining paper outlined the backgrounds and went on holiday, leaving them on the lounge floor so that Lesley could do the drawings. While I was on holiday I found some wonderful backing fabrics with stone and wood designs, and then I came home to Lesley’s wonderful sketches. Then came the fun part: tracing each detail for the bonding and then sewing the backgrounds and choosing the fabrics for dressing the figures. The bonding was then applied to the fabrics and all the pieces were cut out and attached to the backgrounds. It was rather like playing with a huge jig-saw! The frieze came later and was as much fun as dressing dolls! Several parents gave me tiny pieces of their children’s clothes to dress the figures in and I also included my four grandchildren. I then machine appliquéd all the figures and added further details which came to mind. The panels were then wadded and backed and then machine quilted to give perspective and texture. Lastly came the lettering of the quotation from Luke and finally Lesley and Sylvia came to help me to hand sew the borders.
I must thank Mike Hare for making the backing boards – no mean achievement; Lesley Jones for her inspired drawings; Sylvia Barrett and Lesley for helping me with the hand sewing; Pete Ball for helping to put up the boards and my dear Gordon who – for the 6 months of planning and sewing – cooked, cleaned, ironed, shopped and encouraged and supported me. And, finally, I must thank the little boy who accompanied me on this journey and who grew to be the man who gave his life for me.
Ros Baldwin 2014