The ‘Manchester Passion’, which BBC3 showed Easter 2005, was perhaps the best single piece of religious broadcasting I have seen, so news that the channel was to follow it up with a ‘Liverpool Nativity’ tonight excited us. The programme was more professionally constructed than the Manchester one had been, with better cinematography (including aerial shots of the city and the like), but less satisfying. I was going to write that the Manchester music was better, but that is not quite right (the last time Manchester saw someone as adept at writing tunes as Lennon and McCartney was when Elgar attended the premiere of his first symphony at the Free Trade Hall…); rather, the Manchester music had more suggestive lyrics, which were capable of provoking insights into the story (‘Love will tear us apart again…’; ‘All who find themselves ridiculous, sit down next to me…’; Jesus and Pilate throwing back and forth ‘Wonderwall’: ‘Just maybe, you’re going to be the one who saves me … I don’t think anybody feels the way I do about you now…’). ‘All you need is love’ and ‘Imagine’ seemed trite, and their sentiments merely adolescent, in comparison.
The one moment that caught me was the nativity tableau itself, with the babe laid in a shopping trolley. I’ve preached often enough at Christmas on the ‘gritty reality’ of the stable, but that image still caught me.
This is thoughtful and imaginative religious broadcasting, to be welcomed and praised.