Sunday, December 21, 2008
Whose Nativity Scene is it?
The nativity scene at a church near my house. Charming, though a little kitschy. You can't see it well in the picture, but there is a little Angel hoisted above the manger with a piece of rebar. Because I'm a neurotic stickler for details I thought something was not quite right. For some reason I didn't think there was an angel at the nativity scene, at least not as its told in the bible stories.
Quick refresher. Of the four Gospels only Matthew and Luke have stories about the birth of Jesus. Mark and John start their gospels with Jesus already an adult. Matthew tells the story of the three wise men, but Luke leaves them out completely. Luke tells the story of the shepherds in the fields woken up by angels in the sky. Matthew leaves the shepherds out.
And yes, I was right. Neither story says there were Angels at the manger.
Its a minor detail and a forgivable one in the name of artistic license. The reason it bothers me is that every year at this time we have horrible arguments about who owns Christmas and what it really means. I think that if you're going to be like Bill O'Reilly or the Catholic League and bully people into believing that your version of Christmas is the correct one, to be forced upon the rest of us, then you should at least get the details correct from your own source.
Make of the holidays and the various traditions what you will. Its yours to imagine. Or to ignore. If you want zebras and helicopters in your nativity scene go for it. If you want gay shepherds or a black Virgin Mary go for it. It is your spiritual path, your story, and your symbols. Please recommend this post