The BBC Nativity series is missing something crucial...
Blogged by James Preece on 23rd December 2010
I've not watched all of it, which will of course make me vulnerable to accusations of being the sort of person who criticises things without having watched them, but I have watched most of it. The truth is, I've watched enough.
If you think that real life is like Eastenders then you'll love it. If you think that human beings are highly predictable two dimensional characters who bumble along according to modern stereotypes and expectations then you'll think it's great.
Personally, I always find these "realistic" dramatisations a bit tedious. The writers are always so keen to make the whole thing "believable" that they feel compelled to come up with reasons and explanations for everything. Nobody is allowed to do anything because they freely choose to, everybody has to do things because "that is what most people would do if they found out their girlfriend was pregnant". An explanation is given for why Mary was getting married (the priests were putting pressure on her parents) and why it was Joseph (he was the only guy available with teeth) and why Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem (her dad makes it clear that she will be killed if he doesn't).
Things happen and the cast are along for the ride.
If we are supposed to identify with the characters, we certainly can't do it at the level of "what would I have done in that situation?" we can't because the only answer to the question is "exactly the same thing, what choice would I have had?".
Nobody has any choice. It's all so tedious.
Austen Ivereigh loves it.
Many have criticised the scene where Joseph accuses Mary of adultery, I can understand the point those people are making but honestly - there is a serious case of gnat straining going on here.
The real problem with this dramatisation is far, far worse.
In the Gospel according to St Luke, Mary says "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." In the BBC nativity she does not.
This is crucial.
In the BBC version, she has no choice. In the BBC version the angel character turns up, tells her she's going to have a baby and Mary gets cries about it. "You have been chosen" says the angel but she has no choice. It's just another thing that just happens to her.
In real life, Mary said yes.
Mary's "Yes" is the arguably the most important moment in the Gospel of Luke. The birth, death and ressurection of Jesus are monumentally important, but without that "Yes" you can call off the whole show. Put away the crib and send the wise men packing because baby Jesus is cancelled.
Now you might think I'm making a bit of a fuss considering it's just one line, but the truth is that Mary's "Yes" changes everything. The BBC Mary is a victim, she was minding her own business when *wham* God makes her pregnant and she has to deal with it. The real Mary actively participates in the redemption of mankind, she says "Yes".
The wimpering BBC Mary goes to see Elizabeth because she is fretting about whether the angel thing even happened, the real Mary announced to Elizabeth that "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" and "he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name".
Mary is the prototypical disciple and a model of the Church. The message of the real nativity isn't "look at all these things that happened to these poor people" but rather "look at what wonderful things happen when people say yes to God".