6th December 2011

A bit late, I know, but I’ve recently read Philip Pullman’s book The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.


I have to say that I was a little bit, just a teensy disappointed. I am a huge fan of Pullman and greedily devoured and enjoyed his Dark Materials trilogy. Don’t get me wrong – this is still a great read from a great storyteller. I think I was a little disappointed with another rant against the church. Don’t get me wrong – there is plenty to bring the church to task over. The trouble is, I wonder if other important issues and themes that this book raises might be overshadowed and overlooked.

That is, learning again the language and process of story, remembering the way that those in power can dominate the interpretation of story, remembering that scripture is mythos not a literal stringing together of fact. Legends, myths, stories can also evolve so that the truth is candied, sugar-sweet and we feel comfortable and unchallenged by truth.Then we can fail to discover the way the story is encouraging us to make real connections with real life.

Today is the day to remember St Nicholas, a fourth century bishop that we know very little about. He is said to have saved three young women from prostitution by throwing three bags of gold, for dowries, through their window one night. He became patron of saint of sailors, merchants, pawnbrokers, children. And he also became the legend of Santa Claus, the warm, comfortable glow of Christmas.

This is the season of familiar words, familiar stories, of listening again to the carol service readings, in the warm glow of candle light. Can we also let these stories remind us of the reality of need, injustice, oppression and hurt, and let them draw us in to live and love in the real world, really being part of the birth of the kingdom? We need good storytellers – they are a gift.