Quirky Christmas Card Designs Offer a Modern Take on the Nativity and Revelation Relevant to Us All
I love Cheshire priest Hana Amner’s Christmas cards, writes John Dempster.
One depicts a downtown nursery – a homeless couple in what looks like a bell tent on a street corner, cuddling a beloved newborn baby. Between tall buildings, a star hangs in the night sky.
And did those three kneeling figures in hi-vis yellow park their garbage trucks around the corner? No sheep or cattle – just a curious mouse. This, we discern, is a holy place. The presence of Jesus makes it so.
Often the nativity scenes we see involve children in the manger holding toy sheep, or are cute, sanitized depictions of the stable, the manager, the visitors, the holy family. Hana’s drawings capture something of reality as it unfolds today: the awe and adoration of Jesus born on the pavement amid the cold and discomfort.
But is it just a quirky, whimsical design? Jesus Christians still believe in associating with the socially excluded, the deprived, the helpless, those who suffer and struggle. This vision shapes Hana’s work: she is a pioneer pastor at St Mark’s Church in Saltney, responsible for starting a new church in the town of Wrexham Road.
Her ministry, she says, is for everyone, including those who have been “shamed, hated and blamed”, “fencing doubters”, “strugglers, sad people, lonely people who are considered by some as impious. “For me, what is central,” she says, and she speaks of the personal experience of God’s love, is that “towards Jesus I will announce. In all human complexities, through and in him, we are made whole.
Hana’s commitment resonates here in the Highlands. Mark Hadfield, leader of the Inverness Street Pastors recently spoke about Jesus in the street. God is with those who suffer, he assures us. When we befriend them, we meet God in them, and they meet God in us.
Another of Hana’s cartoons takes place in Westminster – you can see Big Ben in the background. In the night sky, the star shines and the street children hear its invitation to follow it. There is a power far greater than political power: when we look up in weakness and helplessness and respond to the invitation of the star, we welcome the love that sustains the universe.
The third photo shows a busy downtown. An ordinary-looking couple in the foreground appear to have halos. It is as if Mary and Joseph had left the donkey at home and taken the bus to Bethlehem. “Next stop: God with us,” reads the destination sign. As we realize that Jesus is here with us – that the world is “soaked in Christ” as Mark Hadfield puts it – we awaken to holiness, to the enchantment of everything, for God is closer to us than our own. breath. “This stop: God with us.