Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Beyond the fairy tale nativity.

This Christmas I have been challenged by going beyond the "fairy tale" nativity and considering what was going on some 2000 years ago. The Victorians did a "good" job at giving us a Christmas card story, but as you dig deeper you realise that the real story is far from meek and mild.

Mary, a teenager is pregnant out of wedlock and risks being stoned to death as a result. She has to make a long journey throughout probably one of the most volatile areas of the world to a town which remains as volatile today as ever. "O Little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie" - Yeah right!
And then we get the somewhat romantic mills and boon picture of Jesus being born in a stable (resembling a flat pack shed from B & Q) with a nice wooden manger filled with golden hay, and "Little Lord Jesus, No crying he makes" - Whatever! The reality is Jesus was probably born in a cellar or cave below the house or hotel and others who couldn't afford to stay in the main rooms would likely be down there too. This means that Jesus would not have been born round the corner in a shed occupied only by his family and a few "lowing" cows, but amongst the everyday people (and their animals). Immanuel - God with us!

But then comes the bit that we don't see on Christmas cards. The mass slaughter of thousands of boy babies. Funny we also don't see on cards, Mary and Joseph fleeing for there lives and more significantly for the life of their son and seeking asylum in Egypt.

Then there are the visitors to consider - Shepherds, tough but low paid workers and Astrologers looking for the future in the stars! - This just doesn't fit too well with Western Christianity so how about we sanitise it by calling them Kings or Wise Men?

The Christmas story was I suggest very different to the nativity crib scene story we often get today, but at Christmas people don't want to hear of teenage mums at risk of being stoned, dangerous journeys through volatile lands, Jesus being born in a crowded cellar or cave, God revealing himself to minimum wage shepherds and those seeking the future in the stars. They don't want to hear about the mass slaughter of baby boys and the young holy family fleeing for their lives and becoming asylum seekers in foreign lands. Or do they? Maybe the real story would be more compelling, encouraging and understanding to our world but we may just need to ditch a few carols in the process!

Monday, 28 December 2009

A brilliant church?

While web surfing the other day I noticed a google ad on the right hand side of my screen which made me sigh. The ad was for a large (numerically speaking) church in Manchester who we'll refer to here as "Holly Church Manchester". So what narked me? The heading! "A Brilliant Church". Since when was church called to be "brilliant"? This stinks of show language. Churches surely should be diverse, fragile and journeying people who are community together. I don't think we are called to be brilliant but real!