Nativity Overload

Just been to the last of umpteen Children's Christmas Shows that I've been attending this year, some in my role as a minister, and one as a father, and the good thing is that this year I haven't yet had to sing "Away in a manger" whereas in days gone by I would have sung it 14 times by December 3rd!
Things really have moved on - instead of the same nativity story and the bog-standard carols of years gone by, now every year-group competes to find the show with the cleverest twist on the Christmas story, and the most upbeat songs - so we now have grumpy shepherds, silly sheep, singing stars and all manner of interpretations of what the word C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S. stands for. Of course, just like the old-style nativities, these new ones are enhanced in ways their authors never anticipated - by elves spending the entire performance with their finger up their nose; or by the Angel Gabriel tucking her wings into her knickers in the inevitable toilet stop immediately before going on stage; and by Joseph and Mary both looking mortally embarrassed at having to spend such a long period of time in close proximity to a member of the other sex.
I really could start to do a “Nativity Play” Review column in the local paper. But it wouldn’t matter… Parents will be overjoyed at whatever their little angels, or shepherds, or wise men (delete as applicable) produce.
But one of things that struck me this year was the fact that all of the performances were unashamedly Christian in their content. Even in one case where the main emphasis of the piece was about all the stuff we eat at Christmas, the teacher had clearly rewritten the ending to include the song ''Christmas Means More to Me.''
Against the background of Daily Mail bylines about the increasing pc/secular nature of British society and the shift from Christmas to Winterval or whatever, we in this little cultural backwater are remarkably privileged that a key story from the Christian tradition is celebrated in schools each year. Our thanks must go to the many Christian teachers putting long hours of effort and creativity into these events. For many homes it will be the only insight into the Biblical story that they get all Christmas… Not everyone has to sit through as many as I do.
I hope we never take this privilege for granted, at this time of year or any other…


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