I watched the first episode of The Nativity last night on BBC 1, well it made a change from the increasingly dreary and magazine-like Channel 4 News. It is difficult to bring freshness to a story so well known and Tony Jordan the scriptwriter has managed this well. The Nativity was sensitively written, well cast and acted, and a gently moving rendition of the story. If you missed the first episode the second is on tonight at 7.00 pm.
The preview of the series in The Times by David J Chater told us that the story is “a timeless love story between Joseph and Mary.” It seems that Tatiana Maslany, the actress who plays Mary, thinks “It isn’t so much about belief in God but the enduring power of love.” An understanding of the story which seems to avoid the best biblical summation of the nativity, John 3:16. It does not, however, detract from an affecting interpretation of Mary.
However, even more intriguing is Chater’s description of the origins of the story. To quote Chater “The Nativity was adapted by Tony Jordan (of Life on Mars fame) from an original story in the Bible.”
That he assumes that readers of The Times need to be told that the “original story” of the nativity comes from the Bible tells us something about either the TV critic of The Times as a representative of our media interpreters, or something about the readers of The Times as representatives of our ruling establishment. Or perhaps it tells us something about both.
It does tell us something about the failure of the Church in the UK. It indicates that we have allowed ourselves to be pushed so far to the cultural margins that it is assumed that even supposedly educated people have to be told that the story of the birth of our Lord and Saviour comes from the Bible.
Don’t allow my comments regarding Chater to put you off the programme itself. The first episode of this dramatisation was so good it bodes well for the rest of the series to be broadcast each evening until Thursday. Give Jon Snow a rest a yourselves a treat.