Wigan author asks: What do you really know about Jesus?
A Wigan author has put pen to paper to ask how well readers actually know the timeless Christmas story of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.
Martyn Starkey, from Spring View, has come up with God Called Me, a thought-provoking work applying different perspectives to the tale familiar from countless nativity shows and church services.
Martyn started thinking about this while working as a primary school deputy headteacher and realising pupils had a lot of ideas about the event derived from tradition which are not actually in the Bible.
That has now led to a full-length book presenting accounts of what happened 2,000 years ago from eight different perspectives, including shepherds, wise men, angels and even Roman guards living and working in Bethlehem.
Martyn, 52, said: “When I worked in church schools every time we did the Christmas story children didn’t seem to know a great deal about it.
“They knew the basics, like we all do, but when you tell them things like the shepherds and the wise men weren’t there at the same time they would ask what you meant and didn’t understand.
“They got their ideas about it from the pictures on Christmas cards.
“I also used to do writing exercises every Christmas to develop empathy, getting them to think about how Mary or Joseph would have felt going through all this.
“It’s a different take on things. There are a lot of familiar characters there but there’s also a Roman guard who is on duty outside the gate of Bethlehem.
“He sees Mary and Joseph coming in and get turned away from the inn so he goes over to intervene. I’ve used a bit of artistic licence but it’s about seeing things from a distance.
“There’s also King Herod’s adviser and an angel in heaven waiting for the signal to go down and appear as part of the host.”
God Called Me started out as a short meditation sketch to be performed at the church Martyn attended at the time and the positive response to that led him to begin expanding it into a full-length book.
The work is aimed at children from around age 10 and features beautiful illustrations by Sophie Harwood.
So far Martyn’s first effort as an author has had a positive response, with members of the clergy giving it the thumbs-up and invites to discuss the work on Christian radio stations.
He said: “It took me longer than I thought it would to write it and I had to make sure the historical aspects were right so I did a lot of research,
“I found out, for example, that Herod assumed the kingship. He had an older brother who should have succeeded to the throne before him.
“I’ve also tried to go through the values of family life, spending time together and not rushing after the next big thing.
“One vicar has emailed me with a review and said they learned things from it.”
Martyn is now hoping to develop God Called Me into a multimedia package featuring original songs for churches and schools.
He is also beginning work on a follow-up which, perhaps unsurprisingly, brings a similar approach to bear on the Easter story, with some of the characters who see Jesus’ entire life making a reappearance.
God Called Me by Martyn Starkey is out now and available from Amazon.