Stained Glass banner image

Featured Window

Window of the Month
Our Lady of Grace, Dearborn Heights, Michigan

Click any image to enlarge.


Building Name: Third Reformed Church

City: Holland

Window Shape: 2 (rectangle)

Subject/Title of Window: The Nativity

Brief Description of Subject: John 18:37
When a person studies a work of art he must sometimes wait with a great deal of patience before it will tell him its secret. Such is the case with the third of our stained glass windows, The Nativity, which seems deceptively innocent of any great meaning. We see the familiar scene of Joseph and Mary, the Babe and the manger, and we are apt to say, “Oh, the Christmas Scene,” and let it pass at that.

For the discerning person, however, there are three cues which would lead one to suspect that the artist is trying to tell us something more than appear on the surface. One is the emblem on the shield at the bottom of the window. It is not the usual Christmas rose, nor the Glastonbury thorn which is another symbol the Word made flesh, nor the Glastonbury thorn which is another symbol for nativity. This rose with the special outline form around it is the emblem of Messianic prophecy. It hints to us that this window has to do with all the promise made concerning the long expected King.
The second cue is that there is no stable, instead a scene out of doors where all the world is the backdrop for what is happening. This picture was not meant to limit the mind to the walls of a stable, but rather to lead our thinking to a far richer view of the birth of our Lord.

With these two leads our minds are off in quick pursuit of another cue. What is mother Mary doing with her left hand? And what is that white cloth hung over the edge of the manger? She is removing the swaddling clothes. This is the unveiling of the Christ! And now we have it. This window is going to tell us of the great accomplishments which are foreshadowed in the birth of Jesus Christ.

Notice, first of all, that the great messianic promise from the old testament are symbolized in representation. Do you remember that great promise in this representation? Do you remember that great promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that they were to become a great nation and have great land? To that promise was added these words, and in thee shall all the promise and we are reminded of it in this window by the sheaves of grain which care strewn in abundance under the feet of the holy couple and at the foot of the manger. Sheaves of grain always represent the blessing of God and there they are, so abundant that they are lying on the ground so lavishly that they form the very groundwork of the picture and all it represents. The Birth of Christ is the fulfillment of that promise made long ago to Abraham that in him all the nations of the earth should be blessed.
Do you recall the Old Testament promise made through Baalim that “There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel? Num. 24:17. The star which you see in this window is not the Bethlehem star, but the star of Jacob, and the staff is that of David which is the scepter of his kingdom. By it we are reminded of another promise made by David in the 110th Psalm, “the lord faith unto my Lord, Sit though at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send my rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. (Verses 1, 2). Note that the robe of Joseph is gold in color representing our Lords kingly office. In the background are two psalm trees which always tell us of victory. These two represent the victory over sin and death. All of it is summed up in the words of Isiah, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty of God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from hence forth ever and ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

To stop here in this prophetic picture would be a mistake. Most of the Jewish people did stop here and they never recognized the King when He did come for they sought only the outward glory. This picture reminds us that this kingdom is not of this earth and that along with the glory sit eh Cross. Notice how prominently it stands out at the base made of wood which are also in the shape of a cross. Turning back to the Old Testament, we recall the promises that He would be despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Upon Him would be laid the iniquity of us all. The cross in this window reminds us of all this and tells us that He who was born King of the Jews would also be their great High priest and the Sacrifice for their sins.
In Malachi’s prophecy were read that The Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings. The rosemary in the background its green leaves thriving, signifying that healing. The evergreen also in background, is the symbol of immortality also promised through Jesus Christ again and again.

The light in the picture comes from a lamp in the hand of Joseph. This is the lamp of wisdom and understanding, of teaching and knowledge. Remember, the words of Jeramiah This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel…I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts… and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them (31:33,34) Isiah the prophet also records that God will give a light for the Gentiles “to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house” (42:7)

Putting all this symbolism and prophecy together we have in this window the representation of the three offices of Christ: Prophet, Priest and King. Thus far could a person go at the time of the birth of Christ, but to us is given the added privilege and blessing of seeing the fulfillment of these prophesies. We see not only what would happy but what did happen. Therefore, this window symbolizes all that was accomplished in the life and work of Jesus Christ.

To explain this let me belatedly refer to a text- the words of Jesus as he stood before Pilate not at the beginning of life, but at the end to this end I was born. If any words sum up this window, these do. On that day of crucifixion all the elements of this window are still there. The star of Jacob is evidenced in the fact that He was being tried as the King of the Jews. The real robes which Joseph was clad in on the day of His birth have now fallen upon Jesu’s own shoulders. The scepter, or staff, of his power was evident in all the stir and commotion that raged around Him. Person on that last day was the wood of the manger, but now it was fashioned into a Cross and stood waiting at the door. The palm tree has been stripped of their branches and seem to be withered in the street the result of the Psalm Sunday celebration. Here, standing on trial, is the One who has shed the light of the knowledge of God among men. In Him had been the healing of nations for He had spent His days healing the minds and souls and bodies of all who came to Him in trust. And even now, looking forward from the judgement hall we see the open tomb and by it the palm and evergreen with fresh life in them. To this end was I born said the king. This is the end and the fulfillment of the prophecy. All that you see on this day of crucifixion was bound up in my birth. The elements have not changed. They are only seen through a different light a different setting.

I think we may well illustrate this from the window itself. If you come to the church in the morning when the west side of the church is still shadowed, certain colors and symbols will stand out. If you come in the late afternoon when the sun is full upon the window, it will look entirely different. The sight on a cloudy day is different from that on a sunny day. Does that mean that the window itself changes? Not at all. The elements are the same. The world outside has changed but not the glass. Likewise, the world has changed but the eternal purpose of God Jesus Christ into the world has not changed. They are caught in the symbolism of this window, foretold by the prophets, inherent in the heralding of Jesus birth, dominant in the day of His death, and victorious in the day of His resurrection.

This window reminds us, finally, of this, that the phrase, “Let Christ be born in my heart” is more than a pious nicety of the Christmas season. We are reminded her that for Christ to be born in our hearts means that all the elements in this window are a part of our living faith and hope. If Christ is to be born in our hearts, it means that the light of knowledge of Jesus Christ chases away all superstition and dales as the means of our salvation. It means that Jesus Christ is enthroned in our hears as He is here enthroned in the lap of Mary. It means that the healing forces of Christ are at work in our minds and our souls as well we our bodies. It means that the tree of life eternal is growing green within us.

The Nativity
The Nativity

The MSGC is a constantly evolving database. Not all the data that has been collected by volunteers has been sorted and entered. Not every building has been completely documented.

All images in the Index are either born-digital photographs of windows or buildings or are scans of slides, prints, or other published sources. These images have been provided by volunteers and the quality of the material varies widely.

If you have any questions, additions or corrections, or think you can provide better images and are willing to share them, please contact