Keep Jesus out of Christmas
“Are we going to do something about Christmas?” asked a student.
“We are,” I said.
“Are we going to watch a video?”
“Yes, I have found one that tells the story in a very realistic way. It is very good.”
“It’s not about Jesus, is it?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Oh sir, can’t we watch a proper Christmas video?”
“I would have thought the story of the birth of Jesus was a proper Christmas video. Isn’t it what Christmas is meant to be about?”
“Oh, sir, that stuff is boring.”
“Sir, is that the story we did in primary school where we dressed up in crowns and that stuff?
“And dressing gown and tea towels?”
“Yeah, it was weird. People wore all sorts of strange stuff.”
“I think that’s probably a version of the story.”
The class sat and watched the eighteen minute video in a detached sort of way, as if to indulge me and to pass the time.
The Christ Child is the best dramatisation of the birth narratives of Saint Luke and Saint Matthew that I have encountered. The people are poor, the places are rough, and the characters are convincing. It comes from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), but there is nothing in it with which most Christians would disagree.
Particularly enchanting is the arrival of the Magi to visit Jesus. Faithful to Saint Matthew’s account, the foreigners come to see not the child in the manger of the school nativity plays and the Christmas carols, but a two year old little boy who stands bemused at the behaviour of these strangers.
Students who think a video about the birth of Jesus is too religious for an RE lesson would not welcome the commitment of the Misa de Gallo, the nine dawn Masses leading up to Christmas that are celebrated in Spanish-speaking countries and in the Philippines. Today was the first day of the Misa de Gallo, the that Masses are celebrated to mark the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.
The tradition is that they took nine days to make the 145km journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The tradition suggests that they travelled just sixteen kilometres, or ten miles a day, it seems slow progress, but on rough roads, with a young woman who was nine months pregnant, perhaps those who began to mark the tradition were being realistic. Pethaps they would have recognised The Christ Child as a fair representation of the journey that was made.
There is a sadness in the thought that not only do the students not know the story, they do not want to know the story.
I went through what amounted to a legalistic formation pretty much from the age of 4. So I’m far from certain this lack is altogether a bad thing. Indeed I’d argue it allows a ditching of much of the Imperial add-on’s and getting back to the Message.
You’re probably right. A Nativity story without the baggage of the church might have a greater capacity to shock.