This week our church was protected by Spiderman. Which to be honest was a lot more comforting than all this baby-talk. It’s a lovely story, great for the children. But it’s all a bit… twee. The nativity I mean, not Spiderman. You want a story about unknown local boy made good. It’s Peter Parker. With great power comes great responsibility, and all that.
If Mary and Joseph had grasped that, they would have had him born somewhere safer. Raised somewhere cleaner. Tutored in using his powers for the good of all, you know. By which I mean people of influence. Not just the unseen and unknown. Then the good would trickle down. And wouldn’t end in ignominious death.
Then there’s branding. Spiderman has his web. The baddies see that, they quiver. Batman has the bat. Even Spiderman has the “S”. Jesus? A manger, or a cross? If churches had a symbol that struck fear into their enemies, now that would be better.
But. I suppose the story isn’t so twee once you look at it. Strip away the trimmings and you’re left with teenage faithfulness, courageous parenting, fearful refugees, and the murder of children by a despotic King. The unbelievable risk of God, the risk not to come in power with angel armies, not to leave his terrifying mark on the door frames and be the harbinger of fear and doom. Not to be a one-man superhero show.
Maybe living among and loving your enemies is more courageous than frightening them. Maybe taking a risk and living the daily pain of forgiveness is more courageous than revenge. Maybe including unwelcome shifty shepherds and astronomers of a different religion at the birth of the Son of God was a remarkably brave and unexpected thing to do. And a sign of things to come.
Maybe the manger and the cross are better symbols than the spiderweb. Maybe the church is protected by something even greater than power.