Up close and personal with the natwivity

There’s a little theatre up the road from here which an estate agent might call ‘intimate’, but the rest of us would just call small. Performances are given in the round, which means that the audience often feel performers are practically in their laps. Whilst I should find this enhances my enjoyment of the play – giving it an immediacy impossible in a larger venue, if I’m honest it just feels uncomfortable. Perhaps I just want to preserve those few metres of separation which reassure me that this is theatre and not real life.

I believe we have seen a similar kind of discomfort as the natwivity story has unfurled before us.  Whilst we relish the humour of the shepherds and the panto-esque evil of King Herod, the raw emotions of Mary & Joseph are another matter. We tell other people that they are real people with real emotions – but are we ready for them to be quite that real and that emotional? Natwivity is upsetting our two dimensional Christmas cast – and its not an altogether comfortable experience.

Back in 1980, American homiletician Eugene Lowry felt that preaching was in crisis.  Many sermons were monotonous, dull and utterly predictable – like staring across a featureless landscape where you could see everything at a glance.  Not surprisingly, this was failing to engage the attention of many.  it was these insights which led to Lowry’s book The Homiletical Plot, with its ingenious ‘Lowry loop’ (pictured below). Lowry contended that, like a good movie, a sermon should have a plot.  Within the sermon’s plot he identified  five stages :

  • Upset the equilibrium – the moment at which we realise things in the Bible passage were not as we had always thought (“oops”)
  • Analyse the discrepancy – the moment where we recognise that if things were not as we had always thought, all sorts of consequences might ensue (“ugh”)
  • Clue to resolution – the moment where the preacher starts to resolve the difficulties and challenges revealed (“aha”)
  • Experience the Gospel – the moment where we begin to see that if the Bible is like this, then things could be like that (“whee”)
  • Anticipate the consequences – the moment where we go on to live differently beyond the sermon because we have seen things differently during it. (“yeah”)

If we were to anlayse Natwivity on the same model, how is it performing? It  seems to me that Natwivity is doing pretty well on “oops” and “aha”,already  but what about the other stages?  Maybe only time will tell.  Use the poll below to say which buttons you feel it is pressing: