Father figure?

Exactly four years ago I wrote a post on this blog, bemoaning the absence of fathers from television Christmas advertisements. After running through that year’s crop of ads, highlighting the invisibility of men in their sentimental seasonal narratives, I added the following reflection:

Of course, it could be argued that fathers are somewhat peripheral to the story of Christmas. When our children were young, we bought a set of Nativity figures to display in the fireplace at Christmas. When we unpacked them, we found that the set consisted of seven figures: Mary holding the baby Jesus, an angel, two shepherds and three kings – but no Joseph. It’s as though he’d been erased from the narrative – and I suppose some would say that the notion of a virgin birth makes a human father pretty redundant anyway. 

Even when Joseph is present in representations of the Nativity, he’s often a peripheral figure, sitting or standing in the background and looking on while all the attention is focused on Mary and her newborn Child. You’d look in vain for images that present Joseph as a model for ‘hands on’ fathering.

So I was really pleased to come across this reproduction of a 15th century French icon, via Scott Hahn’s Facebook page. It shows Joseph caring for baby Jesus while Mary studies the Scriptures: a great example of caring fatherhood and equal parenting! 

Merry Christmas!


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