Why is Christmas so important? What separates Christmas from other national celebrations? There is something intangible that is in the air on Christmas Day; a well-entrenched soothing mood that brings society to a standstill. Weeks of retail sales, red and green advertising and the planning of family or friend get-togethers culminating on the same day in December every year.
One might argue that Christmas is so important because of its Christian origins - the birth of Jesus, representative of a hope that came into the world over 2000 years ago. As a minister in The Salvation Army, I would certainly agree with this answer. But even still, other than the centrality of our Easter celebrations, there is that unique feeling that is in the air in the days leading up to our Christmas Day celebrations.
The answer, I think, is people. The fact that Christmas offers an opportunity for much of the world to stop and celebrate with one another. Families reuniting and connecting over a meal; those without a local family joining friends on Christmas Day; even those most lonely and isolated in our community reaching out to organisations like The Salvation Army, which offer a place of community and belonging all year round, but even more so at Christmas.
Indeed, Christmas is about connection with people. Even the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus wasn't a lonely affair; the birth of Jesus occurred in a town that was filled to the brim with people, in a manger that was visited not only by Jesus' parents but also 3 Wise men who showered Him with gifts.
It has become a resounding cliché, but after the year we have had in Australia, it seems like Christmas this year could be more important than ever for one simple reason: People. Much of the country has been isolated for most or part of the year, separated from friends, family and colleagues. Even the most introverted person could have felt the pinch of isolation and loneliness this year.
So, this Christmas could offer us, as a community, the perfect opportunity to celebrate and connect with one another once again. This Christmas, I'd encourage you to check in on your friends, your work colleagues and neighbours, to simply connect once again as a community. Why not invite someone to your Christmas Day lunch, someone who otherwise might not have anywhere to go or people to connect with at Christmas.
Connection is symbolic of what The Salvation Army is all about. I know that we as a movement are so excited to be re-connecting with our community again this Christmas. Christmas is already our busiest time of year at The Salvos and this year will be immense, and yet we look forward to the opportunities to support others each and every Christmas season.
We want anyone and everyone who needs support this Christmas to reach out to us. Whether you need financial assistance, food on the table, presents under the tree for the kids at Christmas, or just a loving community to belong to, The Salvos are there for all.
The Salvation Army counts it a privilege to serve those within Australia who are doing it tough. To give a family a special Christmas hamper, or to allow parents the dignity to choose presents for their kids, is the reason why we do what we do. The Salvos have been operating in Australia for over 140 years, and we currently have over 2000 services in over 400 centres across Australia, and we are just as passionate about Aussies in need today as we were those many years ago when we first commenced our services in Australia.
The Salvos will be connecting with Aussies across the country this Christmas- from Darwin to Hobart, Perth to Sydney, there is a Salvos centre near you, and we want to connect with you. If you need support this Christmas, please reach out to your local Salvos. Visit salvationarmy.org.au and allow us to journey with you this Christmas.
Major Bruce Harmer
National Public Relations Secretary for The Salvation Army