Saturday, 24 December 2011

Getting Ready for the Authentic Nativity

Now this was all Hanef's idea. I don't want to pre-judge, so I'll save saying "Hnaef's fault" for later after the children have performed it.

In our Authetic Nativity you get the story of the First Christmas, as it really happened. Or, at least, as it really happened according to some smug historo-critical scholars whom everybody ignores the rest of the year while they're working out the author of the second-half of verse 27 of the fourth chapter of 1 Samuel and deducing that, on the basis of the word order, the subject matter and their own-presuppositions, he was probably called Deutoronomy of Gath. Or some church leaders who hope that, if they shatter the illusion, people will remember that they exist.

No, in our Authentic Christmas, Mary discovers that, because of the mis-translation of a word in Isaiah, she's going to have a baby. Her betrothed, Joseph, initially arranges to have her stoned but later changes his mind for no apparent reason. When the call to attend a Census arrives Joseph is confused by the lack of any coherent chronology and decides to stay where he is. Which means, confusingly, that there is some room in the cellar of a bunk-house in Bethlehem, because the shepherd who normally sleeps in a pile of hay in an appropriated feeding-trough is at work, and nobody else needs it. The shepherd himself is on the hills abiding with his mates, but has no need to rush back into town due to the total non-appearance of a group of supernatural beings imported from Babylonian mythology. So he just sits there. Watching sheep.

Two years later, some astrologers turn up in Jerusalem looking for a king. The king's advisers tell them that, due to another dating error, Herod's already dead. And they won't be joining the shepherds around the manger as a shepherd's asleep in it after a long year's abiding. Furthermore, the advisers point out, the astrologers themselves are simply invented to create a spurious fulfilment of a prophecy about the Riches of the East coming to Israel. At which point of of the astrologers - nobody knows which of the seven it was - thumps an official and says "nobody calls me a spurious fulfilment". Having caused a diplomatic incident they mount their camels, before remembering they don't have any camels and they'll have to walk home.

Mary and Joseph bring Jesus up in Nazareth. They get increasingly worried about his messianic complex, and his odd belief that he is actually from Judea. They often wish they could take him on holiday - maybe to Egypt - but can never afford it.

As I say, I'm told it's "authentic" but it's not a very good Nativity. To be honest, I'm not totally sure I believe it happened like that at all.  Happy Christmas.

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