The Christmas selfies will soon be abounding as another great excuse approaches to post thousands of personal images on social media. It is hardly surprising that so many, especially young people, have fallen for the lie that our value comes from our appearance.
External appearance is everything when it comes to advertising the things of Christmas. Whether it’s the food that’s ‘not just food’ or the ‘gifts that brighten their world’, most of our adverts involve giggling children with adorable faces and adults with gleaming white teeth, radiant skin and waists that look as if they have only ever enjoyed the very occasional mince pie – and without brandy butter. How we look is increasingly ‘sold’ to us as an important part of how we live – at Christmas time too if we are to ‘spend it well’, as conveyed by the popular store ad with Paddington Bear.
Most advertising gurus won’t consider a disabled child or a teenager with acne or a woman with wonky teeth when they look for a human partner to scene-set the luxury food and goods which will later feature in those perfectly posed Christmas selfies …and so we spare ourselves the world’s suffering for one more day.
But, what if we dare to move away from the camera and peer into the manger instead?
Perhaps that new-born baby in the livestock feeding trough isn’t the advert we want for Christmas. The cot is lacking shine and the strips of cloth around the child aren’t exactly designer. Yet gaze on this child we must, because here is God’s Selfie – and it’s not about physical appearance; it’s about the heart and perfect love.
Life is not always as it seems on the outside. The face of this baby isn’t turned away from the suffering of the world. Here is God drawing close to the world’s destitution and brokenness, as well as to its beauty. Holding it all and never abandoning, no matter how excruciating the pain. Always declaring that love is stronger than hate, and life is stronger than death.
This Christmas, look beyond the external wrapping and look into the manger. See Jesus Christ, God’s selfie, and rediscover yourself as profoundly valued and loved, and remember, it’s got nothing to do with appearance.
I wish you all a joyful Christmas.
Bishop Rachel’s Christmas media message.