Friday, December 10, 2004

Naïeveté scene

Romantic nativity scene

One thing I'd appreciate for Christmas is a realistic nativity scene. I've never seen one where Jesus and his family look Palestinian. I've never seen one where Mary and Joseph look like they've just finished a huge journey just so some beurocrats can do a head-count. And, of course, I've never seen one where Mary looks anything like she's just given birth.
The Christmas story's always so sanitised and pacified. It's been castrated (but without any pain or mess, of course).

It also seems pretty bizarre.
In the Christmas episode of Mr Bean, Mr Bean plays with the miniature nativity scene in a department store. Jesus is visited by the shepherds and wise men, but also by a robot and a Tyranosaurus. All the visitors are shhhed by Mary and Joseph for making to much noise.
Eventually, Jesus must be air-lifted by an angel to a doll's house, which the Mary and Joseph figures indicate is a much more suitable place for a newborn baby.
That scene (as in the scene in the episode, not the nativity scene) says a lot to me. The nativity scene version of Jesus and his parents is as alien to 1st century Palestine as the robot and dinosaur. They'd feel much more at home in a suburban, middle-class home in a wealthy country during the 21st Century than some dirty stable where anyone can walk in off the street.

I think it's a bit late for me to put together a more sensible nativity scene for this year, but I can start thinking of ideas for next year. I can almost smell the manure. If you have any ideas, tell me via the comments.

20 Comments:

At 7:12 am, Blogger matt said...

A brave entry - I totally agree with your sentiments!

 
At 9:59 am, Blogger Maryam said...

You're right!! Would certainly make kindergarden Christmas plays more interesting too.

 
At 1:09 pm, Blogger Jess said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 1:10 pm, Blogger jesslin said...

hmmm ok.... that was the wrong profile I used. Anyways-- here's what I posted:

Nice. That's one of my pet peeves how every image or icon of Jesus in the book stores or anywhere is this white d00d with a beard. And those bumper stickers that say "If English was good enough for Jesus, its good enough for me" lol it's ridiculous. Why are people so scared for Jesus to be represented as the Hebrew he was? Great post, I loved it :)

 
At 3:45 pm, Blogger Christop said...

Are there seriously bumper stickers that say that? Oh dear...
Thanks for your feedback everyone.

 
At 12:42 am, Blogger photizo said...

Yeah I think Joseph should look something like Bin Laden. Some blood in the Nativity scene could go alright too! And the sheperds would smell like sheep.

 
At 3:52 am, Blogger Christop said...

What do sheep actually smell like? I don't think I've ever been close enough to a farm sheep to actually know. [I think the only times I've seen sheep up close have been at the Melbourne and Dandenong agricultural shows, when I was a kid, and they'd have been clean as then.)

Speaking of bin Laden, could a cave have been used as a stable? A lot fo the Christmas card stables look kind of cave-like.

 
At 1:56 pm, Blogger Digger said...

I have actually heard that it probably was a cave rather than a stable. Either way it doesn't affect me.

I liked the post though Chris, its just all way too lovey dovey and sanitized for my liking. I wonder is there is anywhere out there that actually does portray Jesus as Palestinian?

Btw, I heard there's a big controversy in Britian at the moment cos some company has made a nativity scene with Posh n Becks as MAry n Joseph, and other famous people standing around. Very good marketing no doubt.

 
At 3:57 pm, Blogger Cliff said...

Quite wonderful post. I've never stumbled on your blog before and I'm glad I did. You'll be on my blogroll in a moment.

Historically, yes it was likely a cave that they stayed in that night. We also know that the only census of that type was done in about 3BC, and that shepherds would not have been in the fields later than October.

So, as far as timing goes, we westerners have it ALL messed up.

When you think about it, Easter is a far more important holiday than Christmas, and the gift given required infinitely more sacrifice.

 
At 4:00 pm, Blogger Cliff said...

Oh, one more thing. The ad at the bottom of your page when I visited was for the site http://www.newbornking.com/ where one can buy a nativity scene that is not only white, but *plush* and fuzzy.

Fitting.

 
At 1:14 am, Blogger Christop said...

Here is an article from Scotsman about the Madame Tussauds nativity scene which features Posh and Becks as Mary and Joseph.

 
At 1:17 am, Blogger Christop said...

Tab has posted a thought-provoking blat on why Christmas isn't actually about Jesus at all.

 
At 5:18 am, Blogger blondzila said...

Very nice post. Westerners anglicize everything. And unfortunately, because western society is commerical, Christmas has become so as well. The white Mary and Joseph, lily white in fact, surrounded by smiling cows and ceramic pigs, all sold at Walmart at half price when you buy the matching Christmas tree skirt. Naivete indeed.

 
At 11:42 am, Blogger Digger said...

Hey that link to the thought provoking blat (whatever that is!) doesn't work.

 
At 1:08 am, Blogger Christop said...

Thanks Digger. (I just copied Tab's comments link, forgetting that she doesn't use Blogger comments.)
Try this.

 
At 8:31 am, Blogger moodymicello said...

I'm happy to note that the nativity made by my mom has dark skinned characters and the Mary and Joseph look a little road worn. Great post. Michele

 
At 5:51 am, Blogger timsamoff said...

Great thoughts... You made my Top 5! :)

 
At 12:29 am, Blogger ande said...

Really good, you make my top 5

 
At 11:09 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go to ancientsandals.com if you want to see the kind of home that one Bible scholar, Terry Hulbert (Columbia Int'l Univ.) thinks was like the birthplace of Jesus. A mistranslation of the word kataluma reads (traditionally) that there was no room "in the inn". Hulbert and other scholars believe this word meant "upper room", as in the kind of guest room mentioned for the last supper, or pentecost. The census would've brought many relatives to town, and it seems reasonable that there was no room in the kataluma (guest room), so the family room adjacent to the level where animals could come and go, was used.
The manger on the lowest level would've been available for a resting place for the baby Yashua. Check out the interesting pictures and floorplan laid out by Hulbert for his students. It's very interesting how the story is shaped by the clarifications on this site.

You mentioned historical inaccuracies of the nativity. I'm working on an original painting of the birth of Yashua with some of these historical elements. It will depict Mary in labor rather than the baby in perfect peace.

- Marshall Roemen
marshallroemen@yahoo.com

 
At 1:53 am, Anonymous Liz said...

Quite so... I've been looking for years for a nativity scene with Joseph and Mary looked like they had travelled a great distance on a dusty road and then Mary had given birth (...and that they were Jewish...)!

All the ones on sale look so CLEAN! ...which I find difficult to believe was likely under the circumstances!

 

Post a Comment

<< Home