Nativity 2009

Life is a little busy at the moment... hence the paucity of posts. On Friday it was so busy that my wife and I drew lots to decide who would go to the local primary school's Nativity play... I won... And so I went, a little reluctantly to see again that familiar story...

Yet an hour later I left refreshed and renewed for all that I had to do throughout that day... It was a relatively traditional rendering of the subject matter, all be it with modern music and no "Away in a Manger..." Every child in the room was dressed appropriately... Girls as angels (some complete with feathered wings), and boys as shepherds (as the headmaster said, there would be no dishes dried in Ballybeen that morning because every dishcloth was in Brooklands Primary School, adorning the heads of the shepherds) and they sang all the songs with great gusto. The "star" performers all carried off their parts with great confidence (although paradoxically Herod was a little hesitant), and some of them wouldn't have been out of place in an X-Factor audition, but the whole thing was completely free of cynicism... And again, I was thankful that, in this increasingly PC-world, it was unashamedly Biblical from beginning to end.

So I headed off to do the various things that fill up my diary at this time of year... getting home late in the afternoon to have a quick tea and head out for an evening family outing to the cinema with members of our local community project. Again, because I was so tired I would rather have been anywhere else on earth. But the chosen film was "Nativity", not the reverential re-telling of the incarnation released a few years ago (which I have yet to see), but the current film starring Martin Freeman, about 2 schools, one a run-down Roman Catholic primary, the other a fee-paying preparatory school, putting on Nativity Plays in the run up to Christmas.

Once again I was pleasantly surprised... it was a joyous, cynicism-free experience that I would recommend to anyone and everyone. The performances of the adults were excellent, but they were up-staged by the children... The two nativities were a little more avant-garde than my morning experience (the one performed by the fee-paying school based around Herod's slaughter of the innocents left me roaring with laughter because I have seen productions just like that one), but again they were broadly faithful to the Biblical story, and without any of the scepticism about issues of religion that seems to pervade the British media at present.

But I would recommend this film not only because it is warm and cosy and won't offend either your 6 year old or the local vicar, but also because it is theologically interesting. A lot of the comedy is based around a lie that grows out of proportion, and the film delivers the usual moral message that honesty is the best policy. But more interesting, is that the intitial lie comes out of personal conflict between the directors of the 2 nativities, and (NB. SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT) the resolution of the conflict does not, as is the case in most movies, result in the humiliation of the "villain", but a certain level of reconciliation between the directors (as well as the repair of another broken relationship)... And that, as much if not more than the faithfulness of the nativity to the Biblical narrative, is what makes this film a good film for Christmas... It not only tells the story in an appealing way but also gets to the core of the Christmas story... That God's response to our conflict with him and his ways was not violent retribution, but to seek our reconciliation through a child...

Do yourself a favour... Go see it... Laugh loudly and give thanks to God for the truth that lies behind it...


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