Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pig in a Poke

Like a pig in a poke, sometimes you are given something and there’s more than first meets the eye. Before Christmas I was given a colourful drawing made by a child in our parish. I was a fine piece of artwork of the manger. Everything you’d expect to find was there: Mary and Joseph, shepherds and sheep, Magi and oxen. But the one thing that I didn’t expect, and there it was right in the front, brightly pink, was a huge pig. Now, in a stable, in the city of David, Bethlehem, we are about as likely to see a pig as to see a little drummer boy.

It kind of makes you wonder what we are teaching kids today, but before we are too hard on ourselves lets not forget that we think lots of things about the nativity that aren’t very likely. For example, Christmas cards that feature an image of the nativity with a pristine Mary, on clean hay, with clean animals and light snowfall on a clear night with the moon and stars shining. Let’s not get too upset that the scene shows snow falling without a cloud in the sky before we at least acknowledge that snow in Bethlehem is about as likely as there being a pig in the manger.

So, that drawing I received falls within a fine tradition of Christian imagery that features anomalies unlikely to have been present on that Silent Night. A new born baby, in a stable, surrounded by oxen and lowing cows hardly makes for a silent night. Salient for sure, but unlikely silent (sorry). Some of the most beautiful of our carols were clearly written in more northern climates like; In the Bleak Midwinter,

‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime and See Amid the Winter’s Snow. All clearly using familiarly images to covey the salient features of that most extraordinary event celebrated at Christmas. My treasured drawing of the manger, featuring a wonderfully drawn pig perfectly captures the spirit of retelling the Christmas story so that it has life and is carried on from generation to generation.

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