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St Johns Southgate

11 Dec 2018

Baubles and bollards

The beginning of the festive season in Melbourne saw the erection of a large abstract Christmas tree at Federation Square.

At the same time, it was being assembled, the pavement across the road in front of Flinders Street Station was being ripped apart. Concrete and soil were being shifted so that safety bollards could be implanted, their purpose being to minimise casualties during homicidal attacks of the vehicular kind. At first glance, it seemed to be a stark contrast. But on further reflection, I saw in these two very different installations a paradoxical symmetry.

Need

The humble bollard, try as it might to be inconspicuous, brings to mind the need for protection from premeditated acts of violence in places of mass gathering. While the Christmas tree, at least for those to whom it carries Christian significance, brings to mind the birth of Jesus – whose coming would “shine light on those… in the shadow of death, and guide our feet into the way of peace.” Both the bollard and the tree disclose a shadowland we’d prefer not to talk about, but into which the top-of-the-tree star must shine. The streets need to be as safe as possible from mass-casualty incidents, and our hearts and minds need to be kept from the dark, empty spaces of universal aloneness.

Rescue

The shiny new pillars of protection do more than hint at a need. The fact is, they are built for a purpose and if that purpose is called upon, they could be someone’s salvation. In the same way, the heady scent of pine needles and the adhesive sap of the Christmas tree trunk point to the deliberate deliverance described in the birth narrative of Christ. He was given the name, Jesus, precisely because it means, “he saves.”

Peace

A city with protective infrastructure is a city in which its people can dwell with a greater sense of peace than they might otherwise. The installation of bollards isn’t giving in to fear, it’s a warranted remedy to a clear but invisible danger and will give a certain peace of mind. Christmas too, sends fear heading for the door. The scriptures describe the angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” The aforementioned shadow of darkness is done away with at Christmas as the glorious light of a new day shines. The Christmas dawn brings with it the promised possibility of peace, with each other, and with God. It reminds us that despite the dangers of the world, there is rescue, and there is peace to be known in the original Christmas gift.

Recent acts of violence could cause one to despair, but the way of hope is undoubtedly the better route to travel. Christmas is a time of hope. A time to remember that yes, there are realities that we need rescue from, but there is safety to be found, and even the promised possibility of peace.

This Christmas I’ll be praying for our community’s safety from harm and danger, and that God’s peace might be known by all the people of this city and the world.

Tom Hoffmann - Pastor

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