The Beckhams in Bethlehem

Note that this post is religious in tone. Do pass it by if you aren’t interested.

There’s been a lot of media attention directed toward Madame Tussaud’s Nativity scene with the effigies of various famous figures making up the tableau. Of course, as one would expect, some major and many minor ecclesiastical spokespersons have been spluttering about how disrespectful the scene is to Christianity. A patron yesterday punched the effigies of the Beckhams so hard that the scene has had to be closed. I don’t know whether they’ll repair them and reopen it or withdraw it, covered and dripping with the adoration of PR flacks everywhere. It was definitely tasteless, but that’s to be assumed for anything from Madame T’s.

Yesterday I preached at St. John the Evangelist, Larcom Street, the neighbouring parish to mine. They are relatively high up the candle as far as churchmanship is concerned, but the vicar is a good priest and the parish flourishes under his leadership. He occasionally invites me to preach (invariably in Advent or Lent) and then he invites WL and me to lunch at the Vicarage. While writing the sermon, the Nativity story surfaced and I thought of an angle I wanted to cover in the sermon. So, here is the first half of the sermon for your delectation.

“I’d first like to say a few words on Nativity scenes. We have, I’m sure, all seen the news reports and the pictures of the curious Nativity waxwork scene in Madame Tussaud’s this week. Church figures (mostly unnamed except for Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, and no C of E bishops or archbishops among them) have condemned the museum for using the waxen bodies of some famous (or infamous) people to portray those whom the Scripture says were present at or around the birth of Christ. I’m sure you know who they all are-the Beckhams as Joseph and Mary, the three Wise Men as two politicians and an aristocrat, the shepherds as show business figures, all watched over by a singer as an angel.

“The publicist for the museum certainly earned a bonus with this stunt. Newspapers and webpages all over the world showed David and Victoria Beckham together watching over the manger. I don’t know whether you noticed, but David Beckham depicting Joseph was wearing two crosses around his neck-certainly putting Joseph in a bit of a time warp.

“While it may have been somewhat premature to put up a Nativity scene in Advent, society nowadays tolerates Christmas food and gifts on the shelves of supermarkets in October so what’s a little Nativity scene among friends?

“Why are some Church authorities denouncing all this as wrong? They seem to believe that depicting saints and Our Lord using famous characters from our own times, some of whom have had apparent morality lapses, somehow tarnishes the love and affection we have for those saints, and the worship that we owe and deliver to Our Saviour.

“I’d like to suggest to you that, far from diminishing our love and respect for those saints, Our Lady, and Jesus, it should actually give us hope. Goodness within all of us shines forth in our worship and in our lives, however much we may fall short of God’s expectations for us. This scene reminds us of that, and gives me hope that in my own small way, I too might be worthy to creep into this Nativity scene to adore the Christ child-not as a Wise Man and certainly not as Joseph, but maybe one of the shepherds. Not only did the museum’s public relations person earn a bonus that day-but people have been reminded of God’s call to holiness, repentance, and the hope of glory. That’s the kind of message that God and the Church have a hard time bringing to our sinful world today on their own, so it is very lucky that the wax museum has done it for them.”

I went on to talk about John the Baptist, but I’ll spare you that. The vicar said that the sermon was the best he’d heard in a long time. But, so that it didn’t go to my head, WL told me that he thought it was too long (at about 8 minutes? Some preachers are only finishing their introductory remarks at 8 minutes.) But of course WL is a free-thinker so just comes on these occasions to support me. I’m grateful for that.

3 Responses to “The Beckhams in Bethlehem”

  1. besskeloid says:

    You don’t need a supposedly blasphemous context to incite the walloping of a wax Beckham.

  2. chrishansenhome says:

    I suppose he might have been a gay admirer of Becks taking out his trustration that Beckham is married…I don’t believe I was implying that the person was a crazed religious fundamentalist or anything, just that he punched the effigy about 20 times. Oh well, doesn’t matter in the grander scheme of things.

  3. chrishansenhome says:

    frustration, of course