So much has been written about the Christmas story, as told in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, that it seems surprising that someone should find new insights about them, not from abstruse research but from reading the stories in context. But that is what seems to have happened for Tony Jordan, who is “one of Britain’s top TV writers” – according to an interview in idea, the magazine of the UK Evangelical Alliance (November/December 2010, p.30), about a BBC show The Nativity to be broadcast this coming Christmas. Jordan replies to the interviewer about how he approached the gospel nativity narratives:
… I talked to as many religious people as I could, but there were still things that didn’t make sense to me. For example, if Joseph had to go back to Bethlehem, the place of his birth, for a census, he must have had family there. Just one cousin. But he went to the pub. …
So I was sitting there at 2am, a Bible that’s all stained up, a hundred post-it notes, and suddenly it came to me in this wonderful, night-time stillness. I knew that I would just tell this beautiful story properly, because by doing that I can answer those nagging doubts. So they’re not taken in by their family because Joseph has with him this woman who’s pregnant and it’s not his. They disown him. And everything else fits. …
Now maybe Jordan’s insight is not really original. But this idea that Joseph’s relatives disown him is not one I remember seeing anywhere else. Yet it really does make sense of an oddity in Luke’s narrative.
There is more to this article, which is perhaps more important. Jordan continues:
The real truth of the story is not in small historical accuracies … As I wrote this script I cried on every page. Before I wrote this I had a lot of niggling doubts, but now I have no doubts.
I hope and pray this will also be the experience of many who watch this show – four parts to be shown between 18th and 31st December on BBC One.