Advent Firesiders

Carols ii (2012)

If you were choosing a cast for the greatest story on earth, would you settle for an unmarried mother, a somewhat shadowy fiancé, a new born baby, a clutch of shepherds and a clutch of enigmatic late-comers variously understood to be sages and kings? True enough, Matthew's "Genealogy of "Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1), records rather unorthodox births, Matthew is sympathetic to Joseph and it is possible to  formulate a credible picture of shepherds and magi. But the baby? We are unable to form any impression. And, as to the set, the hackneyed out house is a plain misunderstanding of the architecture of, and animal arrangements in, First Century Palestine taverns.

A Stranger in Bethlehem (and other Christmas carols)

Still, a dramatist or lyric writer could not wish for a better set of circumstances: a young girl in labour and the worry of whether she or the baby will arrive first; the slamming inn doors; the baby indisputably placed in an animal feeding trough. Shepherds and magi, being types of people rather than individual members of the Holy Family, allow for legitimate imaginative construction and Herod is a gift to beef up the second half.

What goes wrong with the overall production is the detachment of the final scene in the Temple which  goes a long way to explaining why this baby is so important, so important in particular to us gentiles for which he was a light. Our modern sensibility tends to be somewhat impatient, so as soon as the Summer holidays are over the shops stock Christmas goods and when we stagger out for a new year hangover cure we are confronted with hot cross buns, so we need to make a special effort to keep the Christmas candle alight until Candlemas, so when you take down the tree, we should make sure that there are still candles in our windows.