The Christmas Shadow

01 December 2021 | Reflections | Anthony Luxton

Have you seen Peter Pan? One of the most memorable moments in Peter Pan is when he loses his shadow and tries all sorts of things to capture it until his new friend Wendy sews it back onto him. His shadow is treated like a physical object whose purpose was to lead Peter to Wendy and mark the beginning of their adventure.

In many respects, the first Christmas was the beginning of a grand adventure, it was a foreshadowing of what is to come (Colossians 2:16-17). Let me explain. Every year we focus on the nativity journey and its climax in the stable with smiley faces, on animals and people alike. But for Jesus, his adventure was just beginning, and it is the finer and often overlooked details of Jesus’ story which point to the kind of adventure that the anticipated Messiah was embarking on.

The birth narrative unveils a remarkable aspect of Jesus’ ministry: that it is for everyone, as Paul expresses in Galatians:

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

After Jesus’ birth, it is likely his family would have received many guests, but the most notable were the shepherds and the magi. The shepherds lived on the outskirts of Jewish society, too unclean to enter many homes. How could such lowly people be convinced that they would be welcome to visit the Messiah? The magi, although wealthy, were Gentiles from Eastern lands, why would foreigners be led to the Jewish Messiah? In that time there was no doubt over the pecking order between men and women, and yet they are both prominent in the birth of Jesus, as expounded by Kenneth E. Bailey (1):

  1. Gabriel visits two people: Zechariah and Mary
  2. Two songs are sung: one by Zechariah and the other by Mary
  3. There are two witnesses in the temple: Simeon and Anna testify to the redemptive plan of God that will be fulfilled by Jesus.

The promise of Christmas is that Jesus came to save everyone, and it is only the beginning.

As we enter the advent season, I am reminded that Christmas casts a large shadow, a shadow that captures our hopes, dreams and expectations for the season. At the source of every shadow is the promise of light and Christmas is no different. It promises light during the darkest days of winter. Sadly, all too often, this promise seems tantalisingly close yet just out of reach, a Christmas that never quite reaches the heights of our expectations. But I wonder if in the shadow of Christmas we can easily get lost and fail to look for its source.

Do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)

God doesn’t promise that Christmas will be easy, but he does promise that the real spirit of Christmas, the message of the coming Messiah, is for everyone. Fundamentally, Christmas is a time to remember the advent, the arrival, of Jesus into our world and the peace, love, hope and joy that He promises everyone:

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news. (Mark 1:15)


  1. Kenneth Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, 59. Interestingly, Bailey identifies 27 sets of stories in Luke’s gospel that focus in one story on a man and in another a woman.

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