Bonding time the Nativity in Townsville. Artist Jan Hynes.


Bonding time: the Nativity in Townsville. Artist: Jan Hynes.

The location of this picture is a service station, as stables are no longer found in our urban environment. Garage workers replace the shepherds as they tend the newly born baby Jesus.

 One carries a light (the light that Jesus is to bring to the world); the second carries a tool of his trade, hinting at the instruments of the birthing process; and the third mechanic carries oil (a reference to the handmaiden oil lamps, the good oil spiritual grace, illumination and benediction, the anointing of kings and the perfumed oils mentioned in the New Testament on several occasions). Oil is a symbol in many cultures of consecration, dedication and wisdom.

The golden Shell logo, symbolic of birth (Botticelli's Birth of Venus, 1482) is commonly used in religious paintings. In many cultures it is linked with conception, regeneration and baptism. It is also a reference to Christian pilgrimage (St Christopher's attribute). Joseph, being a modern father, was present at the birth and holds the baby Jesus, demonstrating the connection of bonding. As there are no swaddling clothes, Jesus is wrapped in lengths of paper towelling, the only thing available at the service station in the parenting room. Some see the paper towelling as a reference to the ancestry of the Old Testament going back to the tribes of Israel. Joseph wears his carpenter's clothes.

Mary wears her blue dress, the colour used to suggest spirituality. The dress opens from the front to facilitate breastfeeding her baby. The buttons are red (for blood) and heart-shaped (indicating her love for her baby) Mary carries a red shopping bag bearing the Red Cross slogan of 'Blood saves lives', portending Jesus' death on the cross to save the lives of believers. In the bag a stick of bread and a bottle of red wine represent the sacrament of Communion. The potted palm equates to the Tree of Life (Egypt and Arabia) and the New Testament reference to Palm Sunday. It is also a reference to the Virgin Mary‘ you are stately as a palm tree' (Song of Solomon 7:7).

The yellow 'The Way' sign on the driveway shows the way to salvation. The arrow points to a young girl dressed in a fairy outfit but evoking an angel as she holds a lily (Christmas/Easter lily) and a gold star (Star of Bethlehem). On the roof is an ibis (the Holy Spirit) and three sprouting seedlings (the Trinity and the three crosses of Calvary).

ANDREW HAMILTON SJ, A Friendly Guide to Jesus, Mulgrave (Australia), John Garratt Publishing, 2010, page 6