A few years ago, in a simpler time where the Student Loans Company gave me money rather than charged me interest higher than my salary-dictated loan repayments, my friend Susie and I combined our two favourite loves of chocolate and Jesus to tell the nativity story. What you can’t tell from the photos is that the backdrop is a mouldy, freezing, slug-infested house full of second year undergrads whose main communication method was passive aggressive notes on the fridge. Again, simpler times!
Rather than write a hot take on a steak bake, here’s the story of divinity’s collision with humanity (where Jesus is portrayed by a jelly baby in a hollowed-out mini roll as a manger).
God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, to a virgin whose name was Mary. The angel said to her ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid. You will give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.’
Side note: continuing the perpetuation of Mary in blue even though it was highly unlikely she ever wore that colour.
‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’
If you’re wondering how we made this happen, the answer is folded over sticky tape.
Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’
Now in those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree than a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria). And everyone went to their own town to register.
Side note: does anyone else get the Calypso Carol stuck in their head when they read this verse?
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem to the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
Fun fact: there is no mention of a donkey in the Christmas story, also, for the sake of historical accuracy, Mary probably didn’t ride a reindeer to Bethlehem either.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in a manger, because there was no guest room available at the inn.
Freddie the innkeeper looks like a real jerk with that grin if you imagine him turning away a pregnant lady. Also <insert millennial rant about the price of Freddos here>
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord… Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praying God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’
Our shepherds don’t look that terrified, if I’m honest. And the angel and heavenly host contingent don’t look that fearsome, either.
The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Please note the ox and the ass in the back right hand corner and the sheep in the right corner who appears to have keeled over. Actually, don’t note that, that’s bad for (marshmallow) animal welfare.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. When King Herod heard this he was disturbed… Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’
Yes, I know Herod looks the same as Caesar Augustus but I promise they are two very different chocolate Santas. Susie and I believe in equality which meant we bought an even number of all chocolate items.
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his Mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
I knew I was a legit Anglican when I stopped being annoyed at not being allowed to add the wise men to the nativity set before Christmas and started silently (and not so silently) judging other people who did. Hold your horses until Epiphany, people!
In all seriousness though, listen to these amazing words from the beginning of John’s Gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God became man and made his dwelling among us. If you have ever doubted the extent to which God loves us, he rendered the heavens and came down to us. In the incarnation, divinity and humanity collide and we witness the glory of it. And we all witness it: marginalised women who the rest of society scorns, those whose lives are hidden and humble, the people who are strangers to us, we all get given the opportunity to become children of God.