At this time of year I often hear the phrase ‘it’s what Christmas is all about’.
It’s often applied to children: ‘Ah yes,’ people say wistfully, ‘children: it’s what Christmas is all about.’ The Christmas story certainly appeals to children: who couldn’t be moved by a children’s nativity play?
Nativity plays involving adults can be quite affecting, too. When the BBC drama The Nativity was broadcast at prime time, it was highly acclaimed. It was written by the EastEnders scriptwriter Tony Jordan and his reflections on writing it were fascinating. He researched for it for two years and said: ‘The first people I saw were historians and theologians and every one of them said to me ‘Of course, you know, it didn’t really happen.’ And then they gave me lots of reasons why the story never happened.’
I went away, and I kind of accepted that, at the back of my mind, it was a kind of fairy story. Then I started to do the other kind of research that I do, which is my day job: looking at characters and stories and trying to find truth within characters.
And as I wrote, as I momentarily – between the rum and the cigars, and everything else I do in my writing process – try and become Joseph, and try and be that character, and then ridiculously, try and be Mary and what do you say when you’re faced with an angel? And what does the angel say? And spending those long evenings, two o’clock, three o’clock in the morning, just the four of us alone, I suddenly realised that, ****, it’s true. It was nothing to do with the research. All I tell you is, you know a truth when you hear it, and I know bull when I hear it, and I came out of the whole process crying and thinking it was true.
Tony Jordan found the real meaning of Christmas: the great and wonderful love of God embracing him and all humanity through Jesus. That’s what it’s really about. He found it through engaging with the Christmas story. May that be your experience this Christmas. And may God bless you through it. Happy Christmas.”