Growing up, I think the Nativity was one of my favourite stories — if not the favourite.
There’s the obvious reason, of course, it meant Christmas was coming, which always meant presents.
But, beyond that, it was great tale full of imagery and meaning. It was a story I was confident about, I knew how it went and how it ended. When you’re young, there’s something quite comforting in that sort of familiarity.
I also got to act in it. My primary school always put on a major show. Preparations seemed to go on for months and the production played to a jam-packed school hall. It was quite an honour to get chosen for a part and I remember my folks being delighted that I was in.
“So, what part are you playing?” my dad asked.
“The robber,” I replied proudly.
Now remember, I was only about eight. This was the part I wanted and had eagerly stuck up my hand when the chance came round to audition for it. The fact that it had only been me and one other kid who wanted the role hadn’t really bothered me at the time — neither had the fact that I didn’t know there was a robber in the story. Still, I got the part.
“A robber, oh, well, that’s great, dear,” said mum, or words to that effect.
As crestfallen as they would have been (my dad was a policeman, which probably didn’t help matters) I wouldn’t have noticed and remembered playing my role with enthusiasm and gusto. By the way, if you were wondering, I got to ‘menace’ Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem. Don’t ask me why, probably the teacher trying to add something new.
And that’s the thing. This is a story that’s been told and re-told. From the traditional to the contemporary, I guess it’s all about interpretation. So, imagine for a moment, a tech-enabled Nativity.
Just imagine what Christmas would be like if Joseph could have paid his taxes through Internet banking. No trudging across the desert with his pregnant wife on the back of a donkey. They could have stayed in Nazareth, and Mary could have put her feet up in front of ‘Judea’s Got Talent’.
Just imagine what Christmas would be like if they could have booked ahead. What if they could have jumped on wotif.com and made a reservation before setting off for Bethlehem? They could have got themselves a nice little en suite, two bedrooms, maybe, with spa and Sky.
Just imagine what Christmas would be like if one of the shepherds had a smartphone and had uploaded the angel’s appearance to YouTube.
Just imagine what Christmas would be like if the three wise men had GPS. No need to follow a star. All they’d have to do is input the right co-ordinates and they’d be at the stable in no time.
And just imagine what Christmas would be like if Luke had tweeted his thoughts instead of writing the Gospel in which the account of the Christmas story appears.
As intriguing as all this sounds, the Nativity just wouldn’t be quite the same without a stable, a manger, a star, and everything else. And I think I prefer it that way.