The most accurate portrayal of the nativity that I've seen is in the film Children of Men. The movie tells of a not-so-distant future where people are no longer fertile, and humanity is gradually dying out. There are no babies, no children, and no hope.
As inevitable anarchy descends, communities and their cities are destroyed; allegiance and faithfulness fall away. Friendship, forgiveness and trust are quaint relics from the past. Then one day there's a whisper, an impossible rumour of a woman who is pregnant. As the rumour spreads, the world fights for ownership rights to the baby.
Towards the end of the story, the protector, mother and the crying newborn make their way to a place where the baby's survival can be guaranteed. The people fighting in the street hear the cry of a baby.
They can't work out what could be making that noise. They haven't heard that cry within living memory. But when they recognise it for what it is, they drop their weapons, they drop their guard, they even drop their determination to survive. Just for that moment, the world stands still.
Don't let a Christmas carol tell you otherwise: the cry of a baby when the world has been holding its breath is the most beautiful sound imaginable. It's perhaps the only sound that can ever change the world. Whatever chance we get, in whatever place we can, whether we choose Christianity as our faith or whether we visit it twice a year, all of us are called to seek out that cry and find where it might be born in the world.
Cheryl Lawrie works for the Alternative Worship Project in the Uniting Church in Australiago read the rest - The Age
is a daily newspaper in Melbourne, Australia; Cheryl Lawrie's blog is [hold :: this space]where she posts amazing liturgy and poetry from her work creating worship in prisons and hospitals.
Reading her blog reminds me that this work is real...that facilitating worship and bringing people the sacraments is really precious, not just to me, but in reality. That communion isn't, you know, the garnish on the spiritual meal (where the meat is service and study...)