Children’s nativity play today at our church with three of our children playing critical (at least in my eyes) parts – angel, shepherd and special effects (held the star). Lots of fun and all the normal gaffs and blunders that add the human element to the story.
But the story jars with our experience of the Christmas season here in NZ. The weather is getting hotter (Stats here); the trees greener (and the grass soon to be browner); people are beginning to wind up to Christmas and the big summer holiday afterwards; school children are looking forward to 5-6 weeks off school; and shops and churches are getting “festive”.
So how to connect what happened in a small Middle Eastern town a couple of thousand years ago in the winter with a culture that’s looking forward to barbeques, beaches and the bach (NZ holiday house)? What is the common ground, if any, between the experiences of a few shepherds, a teenage mother and some eggheads from the east and the average kiwi? How can the impact of the story – with its tension, terror, fanaticism, pilgrimage, wonder, joy and sheer humanity – be heard today? What is a distinctively NZ Christmas story with a corresponding theme of grace? And how can it be related over the cacophany of northern hemisphere images, carols and mind-set coupled with overwhelming demand to consume?
Will be thinking a lot about this.