Christmas is only two days away and I am sure you have had your fill of nativity plays and the like. The sort that have cute children playing a serene Mary and Joseph, shepherds with tea towels on their heads and girly angels with frilly dresses and wings. Well I am sorry to break it to you all, but the real nativity was nothing like this, and here are a few inconvenient parts of the story that we like to change/forget:
- The wise men weren’t there. Yup, you heard me right. The wise men/magi probably turned up around 2 years after Jesus was born. They saw the star that rose when Jesus was born, then had to plan and actually travel there (by camel!). By the time they arrived Mary and Joseph were long gone from the shabby stable that Jesus was born in, and back home in Nazareth. So perhaps we need the have a “fast forward” part of our nativity play and show the toddler Jesus trying to break the gold, frankincense and myrrh with Mary chasing him around frantically! (Matthew Chapter 2 has all the details on this)
- Mary probably didn’t look as calm and collected . Lets face it, she had to give birth in a strange town without any of the lovely drugs we enjoy today. It was normal in the culture for men to not be allowed anywhere near a woman in labour, so Mary probably would have been completely isolated not in her home town in her first labour (she might have had some distant relatives of Joseph with her, but no-one trained!). My first labour was 36 hours long, so I feel for her. I imagine she looked pretty tired and sweaty when the shepherds decided to drop by and give her an audience.
- Shepherd visit might not have been welcome. Angelic kids with tea towels on their heads bringing a cuddly sheep is what we normally think of. Well change that view to roughest, hardest teenagers around that no-one in normal society wants to interact with and you’re probably closer to the truth. Known to be dishonest and smelly, the shepherds probably weren’t the first visitors that Mary would have wanted for her sweet baby.
- Angels were boys (and may not have had wings). All named angels in the bible are male, so we can assume that the pretty frilly dresses were nowhere to be seen, even though this is traditionally a part played by girls in the school nativity play. Not all angels have wings either (there are stories of people entertaining angels and not realising it – I’m pretty sure wings would be a giveaway! Look at Hebrews 13:2) so that shatters that picture too.