Quirky Christmas card designs offer modern-day take on nativity and a revelation relevant to us all
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I love Cheshire priest Hana Amner’s Christmas card designs, writes John Dempster.
One depicts an inner-city nativity – a homeless couple in what looks like a bell-tent on a street corner, cuddling a beloved newborn. Between tall buildings, a star hangs in the night sky.
And have those three kneeling figures in high-viz yellow parked up their bin lorry round 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 nursery kids clutching toy sheep, or else are cute, sanitised representations of stable, manager, visitors, holy family. Hana’s drawings capture something of the reality as if it were taking place today: awe, and worship of pavement-born Jesus amid cold and discomfort.
But is this simply a quirky, fanciful drawing? The Jesus Christians believe in still associates with the outcasts in society, the down-and-out people, the powerless ones, those who suffer and struggle. This vision shapes Hana’s own work: she’s a pioneer minister with St Mark’s Church in Saltney, tasked with starting a new church in the town’s Wrexham Road.
Her ministry, she says is to everyone, including those who have been “shamed, hated and blamed”, the “on-the-fence doubters”, the “wrestlers, the sad, lonely who are deemed by some as unholy”. “For me what is central,” she says, and she speaks from personal experience of God’s love, is that “towards Jesus I will herald. In all human complexities through and in him we are made whole.”
Hana’s commitment is echoed here in the Highlands. Mark Hadfield, leader of Inverness Street Pastors spoke recently about on-the-street Jesus. God is with those who suffer, he assures us. As we befriend them so we encounter God in them, and they encounter God in us.
Another of Hana’s drawings is set in Westminster – you can see Big Ben in the background. In the night sky the star shines, and street kids hear its invitation to follow. There is a power far greater than political power: when we lift our eyes in weakness and powerlessness and respond to the star’s invitation we are welcoming the love which sustains the universe.
The third picture shows a bustling city centre. An ordinary-looking couple in the foreground appear to have haloes. It’s as though Mary and Joseph had left the donkey at home and caught that bus up to Bethlehem. “Next stop: God with us,” says the destination board. As we realise that Jesus is here with us – that the world is “Christ-soaked” as Mark Hadfield puts it – we awaken to the holiness, the enchantedness of everything, for God is closer to us than our own breath. “This stop: God with us.”