Saturday Dec 15th
Jamie had stayed overnight at his club after a party, so we had a late lunch together and then dealt with computer problems (aaaargh!! yes, still problems....yesterday's blog was written at Sutton Library!) and then, once we'd managed to get in contact with the Internet (HURRAH FOR WONDERFUL NEPHEW!!!!!) we found out that the new film "The Nativity" was playing at just one cinema in London at 6.30pm so we hurried there by Tube.
It's good. At first I was a bit put off because there are a lot of Middle East scenes with people talking in accented English and wearing homepsun and grinding corn and things, which makes the whole unfolding story seem very far-away-and-long ago. But the actual Nativity itself - Star, baby, Wise Men, angel appearing to shepherds, beam of light over mucky stable - was suddenly powerful and one thought "Golly, it really did happen. God was born as a baby. One of us. Gosh."
We thought St Joseph was much too young - I am sure his relationship with Mary was sort of patriarchal, whereas here he was something between a brother and a terribly decent fiance - but I liked the Wise Men, and Herod was suitably horrible and plausibly so.
Afterwards we went to have something to eat - the scene where Herod gives the Wise Men a meal had made me terribly hungry - so in lieu of something Middle Eastern we popped into a Greek restuarant very near the cinema and had a tasty meal with some exceptionally nice feta cheese. J said the waitress sounded Polish and I agreed she had that sense of innate dignity that so many Poles have and which most modern Bris absolutely seem to lack. Afterwards we went to Notting Hill Tube station and there I suddenly realised I had left my specs at the restaurant - went back, and the nice waitress had them waiting for me. I said thank-you in Polish, and Jamie's hunch was right - she was Polish. Most satistfying.
Jamie says that some people claim - and people have claimed over hundreds of years, so it's worth taking seriously - that Our Lady didn't suffer the normal pains of childbirth. But in this film she does. We discussed. Surely she must have suffered pain, since Our Lord did on Calvary? And we know she suffered with him there, and stood at the foot of the Cross.....
I added that women down the centuries have taken comfort from the thought that Mary endured the same pains of childbirth that they had to endure, but J. said that wasn't neccessarily evidence.
A more complicated point, but to me a relevant one, is that one couldn't specifically eliminate childbirth pain without eliminating other pains, too - I mean, if Mary had, say, jabbed her hand accidentally on rock in the cave, would she have felt pain? Of course. Tiredness on the long journey? Naturally. Exacerbated by being with child? Of course. But then that latter part is all part of the childbirth experience - when could you say that discomfort ends and pain begins, and why would one be seen as part of Mary's ordeal but not the other?
And if the birth wasn't a normal one, but just a sort of sudden miraculous arrival with no normal birth procedure, why does the Gospel go into such specific detail about all the other homely bits - Joseph's worry about Mary's reputation, the practical arrangements such as bringing the swaddling-cloths and using the manger as a cradle? At which point does all the normal sense of a truthful account - which is partly what makes the Gospel so compellingly convincing - disappear? If the Son of God was not born of a woman in the normal way, but just arrived suddenly and painlessly into her arms, surely the Gospel would say so?
Anyway, this took us into v. deep discussion and we wanted to continue it on the Tube but didn't because of people listening, so I just went on thinking about Christmas and God coming into human history. At the cinema, a couple of nice (black, and I am sure Christian) girls said "Makes Christmas seem, like, real, doesn't it?" Yes.