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Friday, 24 December 2010

The Nativity

After almost a week, there is so much about which I would like to post - but not enough time to cover everything!  However, I did watch three of the four episodes of The Nativity - the much-heralded adaptation of the Christmas story by Mr Tony Jordan, to which reference has already been made, below.  Sadly, his adaptation seemed to owe as much, if not more, to his regular work as it did to the Biblical record!

Accepting that there is scope for some intelligent 'padding' (I have done so, myself, for many years) there were parts of the portrayal that I liked.  The dialogue was modern, and this could have been an opportunity for the mini-series to have made a real impact.  Unfortunately, a great deal of the original story line was distorted, omitted, or unnecessarily expanded!

For example, after Mary's initial - and natural (the concept of a virgin becoming pregnant was as far-fetched then as it is to so many today!) - confusion when she was told by the angelic visitor that she was going to bear a Child, this adaptation had her contiunue to argue with the angelic visitor about the possibility of her becoming pregnant when she was still a virgin (yes, even then people were aware that this was not 'normal'!).  However, the Biblical record shows that, far from continuing to argue, she responded, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38; RSV) - a perfect submission from which many of us could learn!

The character of Joseph, in The Nativity, is almost diametrically opposed to that shown in the Gospel record.  Far from shouting, and verbally abusing his betrothed (betrothal was a state that may be thought of, conveniently if not absolutely accurately, as half-way between a modern engagement and marriage), we read that "... being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, [he] resolved to divorce her quietly." (Matt 1:19-20; RSV).  He was also assured that she had not been unfaithful with another man, at that time - not, as Mr Jordan portrayed the situation, on the night before they arrived in Bethlehem for the census!  It should also be noted that, in the New Testament records, there is no hint of him having to be coaxed, by her father, to take Mary with him.  Even when the couple arrived in Bethlehem, Mr Jordan's rendering had them being turned away from every home - including that of a cousin of Joseph - because of Mary's alleged 'whoredom'.  The Biblical narrative states, simply that there was no room.  It is highly unlikely that the stories about Mary's alleged infidelity would have reached Bethlehem from Nazareth, in an age when there were no mobile 'phones, or social networking sites!  Yet everyone in Bethlehem seemed to know about this young girl's pregnancy!

I was disappointed that there were three Magi!  The only indication in the Biblical record is that there were at least two - but there might have been four, or six, or a dozen!  This was, it seems to me, just a 'sop' to the traditional, medieval, Nativity Play!  I also wonder where Mr Jordan, the script-writer, got the idea that both the shepherds and the Magi were informed of the birth of this Child before He was born!  Was this so that all could come together before Him, as in the traditional 'manger scene'?  The last straw, at that point, was to have one of the Magi quoting the words of John the Baptist - thirty years before he uttered them; and another quoting Jesus Himself with words from what is commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount!  It should also be noted that, contrary to what was portrayed in The Nativity, the Magi didn't avoid either Jerusalem or Herod!   The record is absolutely clear: "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying,  'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.'  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; ... ... Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, 'Go and search diligently for the Child, and when you have found Him bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.' When they had heard the king they went their way; ... ... And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way." (Matt 2:1-12; RSV).  A couple of verses on is the clear evidence that this was more than a year after the birth of the Child!
Like anyone who is already familiar with the Biblical record, I could go on - and on, and on.  However, I trust that this will encourage some of my readers to check out the original script - written, not to gain a television audience, but "... that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His Name." (John 20:31; RSV).  At one point, in the final episode, the wife of Thomas - one of the shepherds (by the way, we missed out on the host of the armies of heaven!) - made a statement that, like that of the High Priest some 33 years later, was more true than Mr Jordan may have realised.  "One man cannot change the world", she declared.  This Child, Whose birth we celebrate tomorrow, is the one Man Who did change the world; the one Man on Whom time itself pivots; the one Man Who changes the world, by changing individuals, as He brings new life - "life in all its fulness" (John 10;10).

A very Happy CHRISTmas to one and all.

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