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The time is Christmas day, here shown as in the coldest depths of winter, the place allegedly Bethlehem. Yet Rossetti is describing an English winter (frozen ground, snow falls, ice stony hard, etc.). The bitterness and bleakness are in sharp contrast with the warmth and glory of the event. And, the location—stable, manger, adoring Magi, shepherds, and animals —is part of the story of Jesus’ birth as presented in the Biblical books of Matthew and Luke, and as legend has embroidered it. The simplicity isessential, theologically, to present the human vulnerability of the God/Man and yet to remind readers (most of whom, at least in Rossetti’s day, would have known Christian teaching) that the person born in such poverty was the King of Kings.
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