I have a confession — I love Christmas advertising. Golden decorations, sumptuous feasts, attractive families with the correct number of children and in-laws gathered around the tree. I particularly love mothers in glamorous sleepwear and flawless hair and make-up, smiling at their children early on Christmas morn. Not to mention the spotless white clothes those children are wearing, which will somehow emerge unscathed from the day’s festivities.
I love it because it’s beautiful and perfect…and a fantasy. I guess other people love it too—fantasy sells. But when I think about the memories I treasure most, it’s the small, personal things that come to mind (and, okay, one amazing Christmas lunch at the Hotel Intercontinental): the smell of a freshly-cut pine tree, the bespoke ornaments courtesy of a pre-schooler, the glorious six in backyard cricket, eyes shining with expectation, sleepy heads in the car on the way home…
And it’s in the small and personal that the Christmas story begins, its earthy reality in stark contrast to the glittering Christmases “As seen on TV”: a humble town in the Middle East, a stable, a young family, shepherds. And yes, angels too. Because in the midst of the ordinary, something extraordinary is heralded: the babe of Bethlehem will become the King of kings. Or should that be the other way around? As Jerome wrote: “For our salvation, the Son of God is made the Son of Man…He who shuts up the world in his fist is contained in the narrow limits of a manger.” Out of love, the one who holds the universe together became human so that humans might reconnect with the divine.
The advent of the Christ Child is a reason to celebrate, and I hope you enjoy Christmas with all the trimmings. But unless we receive the gift of a restored relationship with God, all we’ll be left with is empty wrapping paper and a lot of washing up. Encountering Jesus in a quiet, personal way transforms “joy, hope and peace” from a slogan to a promise, from fantasy to reality, from transient emotion to eternal possession. I hope you find Him under your tree this Christmas.
Edwina is the Lecturer in Church History at Morling College. She is married to Peter and they have two wonderful children, Joel and Lara.