Dialog Box

On Christmas and sitting with ambivalence

A pastoral reflection

Christmas - a cartoon by Michael Leunig

Image courtesy of Michael Leunig


As Christmas gets ever closer, the messaging grows more upbeat: joy, goodwill, peace. The commercial messaging becomes urgent and insistent: hurry, or you’ll miss out! And life on both work and home fronts is sometimes weighed down by pressures brought about by deadlines or familial demands.

Joy? Goodwill? Peace? At times we struggle to connect with these sentiments. It can sometimes feel like the abundance of tinsel, trees, and wrapped gifts can resemble the experience of being lost in a dense jungle. Throw COVID into the mix and the rising anxiety levels around “family gatherings” for Christmas … it can feel somewhat overwhelming.

How to make our way through to the other end? Perhaps a reframing of the question might be helpful. Perhaps, the question is, how to “hold” all of the contradictory emotions as having a valued place in our Christmas experience. 

What can come to mind is “ambivalence”. A definition of ambivalence, generally goes like this: “the state of having two opposing feelings at the same time, or being uncertain about how you feel.” There is something about ambivalence that resonates with the experiences of Christmas. And as we gather with family, friends, and significant others, something of the sentiment shared by Michael Leunig in his cartoon above may speak to us in some way or other.

In the midst of such ambivalence, we may want to connect with both the ancient and ongoing story at the heart of Christmas: the birth of the Christ-child. The extraordinary thing about Christmas, once you strip away all the trappings, is that it turns around a little baby who is vulnerable and powerless and yet, in that powerlessness, we gain an intimation into what it might mean to be truly human: to love and be loved!

As life speeds up exponentially, as we look back over a year that has been tough and demanding, let’s for a moment look at our world through the wide-eyed, open-mouthed receptivity of a tiny, fragile child and celebrate this great, incredible gift: Life!

Christmas poem - a cartoon by Michael Leunig

Image courtesy of Michael Leunig


Paul Zammit | Senior Manager | Pastoral Care | Mission and Identity


21 December 2021
Category: Blog
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