Nativity plays are a Christmas tradition. Church schools teach about the birth of Jesus; many just continue the traditional symbolism but the story is relevant today.

A baby was born in a stable with a feeding trough used as a crib, the Angelic Host announced his birth to shepherds on a hillside, three kings brought gifts, after which the baby Jesus and his family fled into Egypt to avoid being killed by politicians from Jerusalem.

Our affluent world has nice clean children playing the parts and schools generally make a presentable tableau. The reality 2,000 years ago would not have been as bad as Gaza today, but it would have more like Gaza than modern Bethlehem in Israel. The job of shepherds, 2,000 years ago, fell to outcasts from Jewish society who lived rough with their sheep. They were homeless Palestinians. Perhaps a drama teacher rejected a child for not being scruffy enough to portray a shepherd!

Non Christians may regard this as a quaint traditional Christmas legend. But just considering the life of Jesus as a story, it still contains many lessons for all of us. Once grown up, Jesus rejected attempts to get him into political leadership or to become an activist. He taught love and tolerance as the basis of life for everyone. His healing always targeted individuals needing help, and very often people from non Jewish communities. If non believers doubt the truth of the story, that does not alter the serious message contained in what they may choose to regard as fiction.

Jesus was asked "which of the hundreds of religious and other rules are most important". He had a simple answer: "you shall love God and love your neighbour as yourself; upon those two rules all the others depend". Bible readers can look up Matthew chapter 22 for the full text! Non believers may reject God; but the mountains, rivers, plains and the sea are as surely there for us as for the American Indians who saw them and recognised "the Great Spirit".

Activists follow the first of these commands by following up their worries about Global Warming, Plastic Pollution, the protection of wildlife and other concerns. Some activists may reject a creator God, but their concern is for our planet as part of creation, however it came into being!

The adult Jesus spent his life promoting the care we should give to other people. One famous occasion was feeding thousands who gathered to hear him and stayed a long time without food. There were five loaves and two fishes. The writer tells that 5,000 people were fed by a miracle, leaving twelve baskets of scraps, but that doesn't explain whether all this extra food was delivered by angels, pixies or drones! Perhaps those who had brought plentiful supplies decided to share with everyone else - that itself would be a miracle, knowing human nature!

A message for adults comes from these nativity plays - we should all help everyone around us. Heaven knows there are enough needy people - homeless, hungry, mentally confused, children with special needs, elderly alone and lonely, the list goes on! The good news is that we have lots of charities and groups supporting them, but all need more support themselves.

The Christmas message is to contribute what we can, whether volunteering or giving. Some do both, such as Food Bank users helping with distribution.