Archive for December 11th, 2018

11
Dec
18

12.11.18 … “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” …

Christmas Tradition # 8: The Nativity, The Christmas Pageant and the Story.

I know some families place their Nativity set out first. I have friends that have collections of crèches and some have very ornate sets. I have one. I bought it when my kids were little so they could touch the pieces. It is very simple, childlike.

Since it goes on my mantle, it is an in between decoration. After the paperwhite bulbs and Advent wreath and calendars, but before I decorate the house, inside and out, get a tree and decorate it and prepare the dining room and the meals. I need mental, emotional and spiritual preparation and then I need to stage the holiday. So the Second Week of Advent works for me.

And I love my friend Elizabeth’s story of her family’s Crèche and the figures, ‘santons” in her home in France. Here is her post: https://www.facebook.com/149546181768451/posts/2057854630937587/

Speaking of the Nativity, a few years ago I experienced the Neapolitan Crèche at the Art Institute of Chicago. It is so over the top that it is overwhelming. It is beautiful and complicated. I try to shift my appreciation of it tI allow myself to be awed.

Sacred imagery reenacting the Nativity has its roots in fourth-century Rome but by the 13th and 14th centuries, in part due to its association with St. Francis of Assisi, such scenes had become a permanent feature of Neapolitan churches. During the 18th century, the period from which most of the figures of the Art Institute’s crèche date, these relatively simple tableaux underwent a transformation into highly dramatic and theatrical renderings. Traditional sacred elements of Nativity scenes—the Holy Family, wise men, angels, and shepherds—were combined with profane aspects not of Bethlehem but of contemporary Neapolitan life—rowdy tavern scenes and bustling street activities—in dazzling displays of artistic techniques

Source: Neapolitan Crèche: A Holiday Gift to the City | The Art Institute of Chicago, https://www.artic.edu/exhibitions/3219/neapolitan-creche-a-holiday-gift-to-the-city

The Nativity thus is a multi sensory multi- dimensional telling of the Bethlehem story, an experience.

So what are other ways I have experienced it?

I participated as a child in the Christmas Pageant, the recreation of the Christmas story in my church. I never graduated beyond an angel. A small aside, my childhood church served an historical white upper middle class congregation, but in the 70s it actively reached out to the student and international community at nearby Georgia Tech. And my father was clearly irritated when the children’s annual Christmas Pageant was replaced by congregants from this the international ministry: think grown Wise Men in elaborate international costumes and adults playing Mary and Joseph holding a real baby, and old men shepherds and live sheep. Definitely changed the focus of the story.

But back to my experience of the Nativity. My children were angels and sheep and shepherds. So my boys graduated to shepherds, but no one made it big time, no Wise Men, no Mary, no Joseph. But did their participation enhance their understanding of the story?

As with my simple Nativity, participation in a simple child oriented Christmas Pageant creates an introduction to the story that cannot be created by elaborate art or over the top Pageants.

But more important than the The Nativity decoration and the Christmas Pageant is what I think about the story. I’ve never worried about the facts, the historically proven events, but I focus on the “truth” of the story. I believe in the story because it has had a transformative effect on me, on my family, on civilization itself. Until recently we referred to time as “in the year of our Lord. “ and even now C.E., Current Era, dates from the same starting point, the calculated/miscalculated birth of Jesus.

But I do like to understand why I accept the story, why I believe with my heart. And in that light, I have enjoyed this article recently. Read the whole thing, it refocused my understanding of the Inn, the Manger, and the timing (probably not winter, probably not first night in Bethlehem).

In the West, the traditional telling of the birth story of Jesus is overlaid with mythology. I am not referring to Santa Claus, snow, bells and Rudolph, but rather to our understanding of the biblical text itself.

Across the centuries we have introduced into the Scripture itself a remarkable number of mythological elements. Some of these are so old and so pervasive that they are unconsciously affirmed.

For example, we assume that Jesus was born the night the Holy Family arrived. What Luke 2:3 actually says is that the Holy Family “went up” to Bethlehem. Then, v.6 reads, “While they were there her days were fulfilled….“ This naturally means that the last stages of Mary’s pregnancy took place in Bethlehem (two weeks? a month?).

At Christmas time in the average Western church, Luke 2:1-7 is read; but, clearly, it tells of the birth some days after the Holy Family arrives in Bethlehem. The children of the congregation then enact a play which has the Christ-child born the night of their arrival. Amazingly, this glaring discrepancy is seldom noticed.

Source: The Manger and the Inn: A Middle Eastern view of the birth story of Jesus – The Presbyterian Outlook, https://pres-outlook.org/2006/12/the-manger-and-the-inn-a-middle-eastern-view-of-the-birth-story-of-jesus/

So “handle” the characters in the Story, reenact the story and ponder it. And reflect with awe on the impact of the story as recreated and retold.

12.11.18

And I had to add this:

‘Bethlehemian Rhapsody’ by Marwood Youth Club & URC Junior Church. 

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