I have already put pictures of the Sunderland Nativity on Facebook, but wanted an archived record here. This year we have created a life-sized walk-in Nativity scene, set in contemporary Sunderland. The hope was that by removing the scene from its familiar setting – which is really the clothes assigned to the characters in Renaissance Italy – those who enter in might experience the moment afresh.
The most striking thing has been people’s first reaction, which has been to be frightened by the angel, translated into a doorman for security. While we have been trained to imagine angels as small children with halos and wings, this shock is exactly the reaction recorded in Scripture when people encounter angels.
The shepherds had a noble tradition – in the city of David, who started out as a shepherd boy – but had, over time, been pushed to the margins, not least because goats ate/damaged property. They have been re-cast as a football supporter and a hoodie. Everyone wants the local football team to do well, but we find crowds of supporters intimidating. Everyone was young once, but we look down on the youth of today. Perfect shepherds.
The Nativity was made possible by the gift of two mannequins, the loan of three more from the Bridges shopping centre, and clothes from a variety of sources including private loan and local charity shops. The Nativity will be in place until early January 2015.