New BBC series: The Nativity

Nativity scene: Mary and Joseph on the way to Bethlehem  -  (Tatiana Maslany and Andrew Buchan)

Nativity scene: Mary and Joseph on the way to Bethlehem - (Tatiana Maslany and Andrew Buchan)

A unique retelling of the nativity story will be screened by BBC One in four parts in the days leading up to Christmas. Written and executive produced by Tony Jordan (Life on Mars, Hustle,  East Enders) and directed by Coky Giedroyc, the adaptation offers a fresh and revitalising depiction of events surrounding the birth of Jesus.

Over the course of four half-hour episodes, three contrasting strands of plot are shown from a very human perspective. The enduring love story of Mary (played by Tatiana Maslany) and Joseph (Andrew Buchan) is at the centre of the drama. Their love and innocence contrasts well with the sophisticated star search and awe inspiring cosmic imagery that is associated with the three wise men. These Magi are in pursuit of the star shown on their astrological chart that fulfils the prophesy of Balaam and ultimately leads them to Jesus. The third strand is the story of the Shepherds, in particular that of a young shepherd Thomas who has endured much hardship and regains his faith in God as he kneels before the baby Jesus.

In a recent interview Tony Jordan explains the significance of the character of Thomas: “Everybody is there for a reason but the question still remains 'well what does this mean to me? Why is this important to a normal working bloke?' and Thomas is there to represent all of us”

Representing all of us is something that the series does very well. Through the realism of Mary and Joseph’s characterization, the ordinariness of their lives up to the point of the visit from Angel Gabriel, and the very human emotions shown throughout, the series is full of empathy and the result is something very moving, very real and relevant to modern life.

Throughout the programme, there is the description of Jesus as the “bridge” between heaven and earth. Mary and Joseph’s physical journey across a barren and dry landscape in extreme temperatures to find somewhere safe to have their baby, runs in concurrence with the vast cosmic imagery of the stars and planets as they move into alignment, and has a very powerful impact throughout the drama. The earthly and heavenly imagery come to meet at the moment where Christ has been born, and the result is something truly magical.

The Nativity will be broadcast on BBC1 in four episodes of 30 minutes each, from Monday 20th December to Thursday 23rd December. Each episode will start at 7pm. (This is the slot normally occupied by The ONE Show, which has an average audience of around five million viewers.)

The Church and Media Network has produced a small website with information about the series, ideas for how churches can use it and space for comments and reviews. You will find it at:

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