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Out of the question

23 January 2015


Your answers

What animals should be included in the nativity scene [Answers, 16 January]?

It depends on your intention. Is it to be geographically and historically correct? (See Dave Walker's helpful cartoon "The Nativity Play", Comment, 12 December 2014, for the "pedantic/scholarly" version).

The traditional "stable" should be "dressed" according to St Luke's nativity story (so no "Magi" as in St Matthew's version).

If you are displaying a Christmas crib, why not make it something different, and reinterpret Luke's account, making it relevant to the 21st century?

On the basis of the beautiful poetry of Isaiah 11.6-9, why not include wolves as well as lambs, leopards as well as goats, and cows, lions, and bears, as well as oxen . . . and even snakes. After all, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth was the prologue to the in-breaking of "The Peaceful Kingdom" of God, at the culmination of which we, who are "east of Eden", will return to a world where all Creation will live together without the need to kill for food (Genesis 1.30).

I see no reason why the children should not be invited to place their toy farm and zoo animals in the church or school crib.

All this might give food for thought, a new look at a familiar scene, and perhaps suggest ideas for a talk.

Margaret A. Turner (member of the  Anglican Society for the Welfare of  Animals, and the Christian  Vegetarian Association UK)

Chesham, Buckinghamshire


Your questions

It is usually interpreted that "no room at the inn" in Bethlehem was a result of typical bureaucratic bungling of census arrangements. I wonder whether there is an alternative explanation. The term translated "inn" is kataluma, the same word as is used for the "large upper chamber" of the Last Supper. "Inn" would be pandokheion (a place that receives all). Ouk en topos gives "there was no room". But could the meaning be simply "the guest room was no place for giving birth"?  K. D. 

Why are so many almshouses dedicated to St John the Baptist? J. S.

In Choral Evensong on Radio 3 on 31 December, the officiant said the General Thanksgiving from the Prayer Book. This was probably the first time I had heard that prayer for more than 40 years, after joining in with it regularly at evensong, to summarise the intercessions, or as a procession re-entered the quire, between 1957 and 1972. Is it still used regularly anywhere?  R. W. C. 

Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG. 


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