Giotto's The Flight Into Egypt
This is going to sound a little heretical so gird your loins. I was wondering the other evening whether a modern Nativity scene would be much different to the Gospel and came to the conclusion that, although the West believes itself to have moved out of 'biblical times', the 'dark ages' and into a bright post-enlightenment modernity, the same conditions of the Nativity story apply, even in the UK. You don't have to go to Africa to witness extreme poverty, misery, hunger, destitution and refugees.
In the Gospel we are told that the Holy Family, our Blessed Lord having just been born, were in the gravest danger. We are told that they experience at first hand, poverty and hardship. The Christ Child is under threat from Herod who orders the massacre of the Holy Innocents. The Holy Family become refugees, seeking asylum. When they return to Bethlehem, the Blessed Virgin and St Joseph become as beggars looking for somewhere, anywhere for the Virgin must lay her head down to give birth to Christ, not in luxury, but in the poor, dark, stinking, humble surroundings of a stable. The Son of God is about to be born and the Virgin and St Joseph are homeless!
Would it be different today? It is certainly possible that it would not be...
If the Blessed Virgin were to give birth to Our Lord nowadays in the UK, she and St Joseph would still be poor. Being poor, perhaps, the couple would come under unwanted attention from social services. The rumours and situation of the Holy Family would be known to the mental health division of social services who would seek to locate Blessed Mary and St Joseph, for it is said that she is a Virgin and this is beyond human atheistic comprehension, beyond the comprehension indeed of Christians.
They would be hounded by social services and mental health division. Mental health might want to section the Blessed Virgin Mary and her spouse most chaste, her mental health having been called into question. Social services would have tried to counsel the Virgin to consider abortion, making her and St Joseph take flight to another country or town where the poor are not urged to consider aborting or abortion is rare. So Herod is still alive! Fleeing their persecutors they could have fallen into homelessness and destitution and become refugees. Perhaps in bad economic times, the carpenting trade would dry and St Joseph would be unemployed. Perhaps they would end up in a queue for bread and soup on a soup run, having little money with which to buy food for themselves. The 'wise men' or Magi would knock on the door of a council flat or council estate garage where someone has let the Virgin give birth, since they still had so long to wait to get onto a council house waiting list. Then, once she had given birth to the Son of God, social services, seeing their poverty would try and take the Child into care, so that the Child could be handed over to either a middle-class family for fostering or adoption, or a wealthier gay couple, for they would be deemed to be unsuitable parents, so they may have to flee and get on a National Express somewhere, anywhere but where they were and live incognito, hidden lives away from the eyes and ears of the State!
We think we have come so far from 'biblical times' but that is far from the truth! Grinding poverty and misery still exists in this country, so often hidden from the eyes of the rich! The poor are still persecuted and bullied, shunted from pillar to post. Like the Holy Family, poor and exiled from the society of the wealthy, the very poor are given few 'choices' and are often left dispossessed and excluded.