The Liverpool Nativity was shown on BBC 3 this evening, and is repeated on BBC 1 on the 23rd of December. [Update: you can watch it here for a while at least - might be UK only, I'm not sure. Thanks Rhys.] I thought it was really good, but I’ll let some others tell you about it as I am suffering from mild cartoon malaise.
This was no cynical re-telling, but a contemporary, serious, politically aware take on the Christmas narrative, writ large as public spectacle. Thousands and thousands had turned out to the Dockside to join the spectacle, performed live throughout the city. What is fantastic about these events is that they appear to tap into the rich Christian root in our heritage – a heritage that I think people are beginning to see is vital to our coherent future, rather than being consigned to our past. I think this could be interpreted as a move into clear post-Christian water, where people are happy to be part of events like this without it being tied to ‘the church’.
The Flashmob Operas, the Manchester Passion, the Margate Exodus and tonight the Liverpool Nativity: all of them affirm the ongoing English love of gathering for a celebration of the deep mysteries which link people, music, story and place. And the latter three events also acknowledge that, as one writer put it this week, “ours is historically a Christian culture.” That writer goes on to share a concern that “children who grow up ignorant of biblical literature are diminished, unable to take literary allusions, actually impoverished,” and a great thing about events like these is that they play a significant part in helping these narratives resurface and be reborn, in the mainstream.