Tuesday, 24 January 2017

A Different Nativity Scene

Last Wednesday Lorna and I were going to Huron University College.  I had a spiritual direction appointment with one of the students and we were going to attend the worship service at the chapel and have lunch with the students before my appointment.  Lorna had an appointment with her spiritual director. 
As we drove past a church in the small community of Ivan on the way to Huron, there was still an outdoor manger scene in evidence.  I commented to Lorna that wouldn’t be interesting if these scenes had figures from the Massacre of the Innocents as a final act of the Christmas season following Epiphany.   I was half joking but on reflection it certainly would give another side to the Christmas story which isn’t often shown in the public celebrations.
I wonder what kind of a display could be developed and what kind of images would be used in such a scene?  Here is one unknown artist’s rendition I found on the internet.
Inline image 1

10th century illuminated manuscript
Attending the worship service at Huron I discovered that the Feast of the Holy Innocents which was being celebratedquite appropriate as that day was actually designated as the Feast Day.  The service was well done as it usually is at Huron with a thoughtful and thought provoking sermon on the subject preached by Todd Townshend, the dean of theology and my homiletics teacher when I was attending Huron College.  The sermon lead me to wonder more about the story of the Holy Innocents which is the vain attempt by King Herod to eliminate the presumed threat to his throne by killing all the infants in the vicinity of Bethlehem after the news of the birth of a new King of the Jews was delivered to him by the Magi.  King Herod was the King of the Jews although Israel was a vassal state of the Roman Empire. 
In looking at the story of the Holy Innocents I think it could be interesting and revealing to consider the story as a movie plot portrayed by Hollywood.  There is an interesting cast of characters with all the other elements of a ripping good tale that any screen writer could ask for.  We have the villain of the story, King Herod.  We have the victims which are the slaughtered children.  There would be the grieving families of the slaughtered children, by the way, are not mentioned in the biblical account.  We have the seemingly willing accomplices, the soldiers who are only carrying our orders and doing their perceived dutydid any of them question their orders?  We have the Gentile Magi or Wise Men (not kings in the biblical account) that are following the epiphany they have received and follow that inspiration to find the divine revelation to the whole world; Jewish and Gentile.  There is the Holy Family who escapes to safety in Egypt by paying attention to their dreams. The Magi also were warned in a dream not to return to tell King Herod of the birth of the new King of the Jews.
There is certainly is drama and tension galore in the story.  There is the plot by the evil King Herod to kill the threat to his throne.  There is the drama of the search by the wise men that make a long, difficult journey in winter.  There are the special effects of the special star leading them.  There is the tension of the threat to the hero and his family from the soldiers of the king.   There is the tragedy of the massacre of the innocent children with no divine intervention, no dues ex machine for them in any case.   
 The story certainly does not have a traditional hero.  There is no Hollywood ending with the cavalry galloping over the hill with the trumpet to rescue the innocent children from the actions of the villain.    No traditional happy ending here for the innocent victims.  However, there is one for the Holy Family.  Not your usual hero but a hero none–the–less.  However, we know the story is ready made for a sequel.  We have the hope that justice will be done after all and the child will grow up to be the hero who will ultimately save the day; but certainly not a Hollywood hero.  He is certainly is not the typical Hollywood heromore of an anti-hero in actuality.  He will be defeated by the powers of this world and die the ignominious death of a criminal. 
However, that is not the end of the story.  It is ready made for a sequel.  We have the return, if not of the Jedi, the return of a new kind of King to rule a new kind of Kingdom.  But you will have to wait for the sequel to find out what happens.  

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