The real Christmas heretics
So Greggs’ Bakery is in trouble for substituting a sausage roll for the infant Jesus in a nativity scene, perhaps the indignation expressed will prompt outraged clerics to examine the heresy to which they annually subscribe. Christians concerned about heretical presentations of the nativity might do be better to focus their attention on their own annual nativity plays, the yearly dressing-up in dressing gowns, tea towels and paper crowns.
Church and school nativity plays show little regard for the biblical stories they purport to represent; at best, the performances trivialize the harshness of the story, at worst they reduce it to a farce. The nativity tale found in Saint Luke and Saint Matthew is a grim one and it is a heresy to present it in any other way.
Christians who don’t have some sense of Christmas being horrible haven’t read their Bibles. Look at the story. Look at Saint Luke’s telling of it. The child is born in a place where cattle are fed. Does anyone staging a Nativity Play ever take seriously what it really meant for a teenage girl to give birth to a baby in the midst of mud and dung? Does anyone ever try to imagine the fear and the mess and the blood?
And who turns up? Shepherds. Shepherds were not the nice sort of people one would find in most churches; they were not respectable, they were rough, they were unclean, they would have used bad language, you would have smelled their presence. Where are they to be found in the pretty nativity scenes? How many Christians criticizing Greggs are prepared to include realistic “shepherds”?
And what about Saint Matthew’s account of the coming of the Magi? What about King Herod having babies butchered? Do you ever hear that bit when the kids in silk robes and paper crowns are making their appearance while the congregation sings, “We three kings?” They weren’t kings, the Bible doesn’t even say there were three of them. They were the sort of people who would now attract the attention of immigration officials. They were subversive in supporting one who would challenge the established authorities. Where are the subversives in the nativity plays? How many Christians criticizing Greggs have to avoid the authorities, in the way that the Magi do, because they fear being arrested for subversion?
The biggest heretics are those whose nativity scenes deny the reality of the story they say they are proclaiming because that reality is simply too disturbing for them. How many Christians really take the Christmas story with any degree of seriousness?
The Christian nativity scene is a conflation of narratives that have been diluted with large measures of sentimentality and materialism, and not a little untruth. It is heresy in the most literal sense in that it is a matter of choice, it is a choice not to accept the nastiness of what the Bible says. A sausage roll in a nativity scene should be the least of worries for Christians.
Let us not forget that by the time those bearded Gentlemen of an Arabic persuasion did a-come adoring (if they ever did), Jesus was no longer a baby in a manger but an infant of several months…at least.
I find the notion quite disturbing. But can I ascribe anti Jewish or Muslim with the use of the prescribed food thereby cutting them off from the holiday. Albeit in a passive way, I’ve a feeling I can.
On the Nativity. What I find interesting is that while shepherds would’ve been outside the town society they would’ve been seen as wealthy and protectors. They were seen round the Med something like the English see Hawkins and Drake, depending on which side of the blade, the Spanish might see things otherwise.
The Magi have always been a bit of an oddity. If we assume they were there then the 100 or so years between the birth and the writing might have blurred the lines somewhat. At least as to what caused them to turn up. Ancient astronomers knew all the usual travelers in the sky’s, and they wouldn’t have been stumped with the return after long long periods. Me I’d say the Star was a star, but one that flared only to extinguish. Or the other option would be a comet strike, but none I’ve read occurred in the area. And given the subject matter I’d say we’d know by now.
And, as Herod the Great died in 4 BC, their arrival would have been around 6 BC.
The shepherds have always been attractive characters – rough rustics with little regard for convention or polite society.
“And, as Herod the Great died in 4 BC”
Maybe. Maybe even ‘probably’ (I’m not up on the latest theories).
There tends to be a bit of squeezing to fit facts. But what also tends to be missing is a reasonable balancing of probabilities.
I’d say there was a local census in that region during the period when Herod was a client of Rome. You see Rome didn’t give a hoot where you came from, so there would be no reason to return to a town or clan region. But a weak ruler might want to hold a town hostage to the good behavior of it inhabitants no matter where they were in his jurisdiction.
I suspect the facts were mashed.
“I suspect the facts were mashed.”
Ya think? But Joseph trekking back to the Land Of His Fathers to comply with His Imperial Majesty’s Revenue & Customs Service’s demands had the benefit of not only getting the Messiah born where he was supposed to be born but also showed he was obedient to Rome. And what heavily pregnant 13 year old girl could ever resist a rooOOad triiiip with an older man?
I was present for the birth of my Eldest and I can recall being shocked at the words that came out of my beloved, sweet, butter-wouldn’t-melt Xian Wife. Words I didn’t think she knew and some I actually had to look up myself (I’d only been speaking fluent German for a year or so at that point so my knowledge of German swear words was not as encyclopedic as it might have been). I wonder if sweet innocent Mary…
I have no problem with the Greggs advert. ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. Our daily bread these days is more likely to come in the form of a suasage roll, especially for the homeless who might very well be bought one from Greggs by a passer by.
Jesus is food for the body and, I guess, so is a sausage roll. the Christian church use metaphors all the time (all language is metaphor). At least it has got people talking about Jesus, though sadly, once again, we Christians have come over as being rather humourless, hypersensitive and unable to laugh at ourselves.
I think we need to get over ourselves and start to talk about what the story of the baby in the manger might really mean. Preferably over a picnic. And sausage rolls are the perfect food to go.