Many church windows include illustrations of the nativity and Lavenham is no exception, but our window is not easy to find until you know where to look. Go to the east end of the church and look in the sanctuary, that part of the church containing the altar. There on the right hand side is a group of windows illustrating the infancy of Jesus. One of these shows the Virgin Mary, the infant Jesus on her lap, Joseph standing behind and three shepherds. One of the shepherds carries a lamb, the others kneel in adoration.
The familiarity of the story sometimes detracts from its significance. First of all, Mary is placed at its centre. This was unusual in the patriarchal societies described in Hebrew scriptures and in the Greece and Rome of Jesus’ time. Luke’s gospel contains many stories about women. The evangelist Luke also introduced shepherds into the birth scene. Shepherds were despised by the religious elite of the time because their pastoral duties made it impossible for them to follow the rigorous rules of cleanliness and worship. These may have been special shepherds. Lambs to be sacrificed on the Temple altars had to be perfect, so the Temple authorities had their own sheep flocks near Bethlehem.