(David Attenborough style commentaries):
1 We’re about to witness one of the best known yet least understood annual rituals of human behaviour: the nativity play. Adorable infants have gathered at the front in their distinctive plumage: a dressing gown here, a tinsel halo there. Parents coo over their little darlings, disguising petty rivalries that simmer just below the surface. It is a spectacle unparalleled in the natural world, to see little Johnny as a sheep – and Chloe with a tea towel on her head. They are here to enact a story unique to the history of their species – the birth of baby Jesus. But when it is finished, many will forget all about it. The transformation that could result, if they allowed its hidden power to impact their lives the rest of the year, is a phenomenon we have yet to fully appreciate.
2 I’m here to witness a extraordinary human spectacle: the candlelit carol service. Deep in this vaulted cavern, young and old congregate in their hundreds. Flickering candles illumine the darkness, creating both beauty, and considerable fire risk. Parents endeavour to keep their young ones quiet, while a white-plumaged alpha male emits mysterious mutterings at the front. What makes this event so fascinating, is the sheer variety of song on display. There’s fierce competition, and occasional doomed efforts to reach the top notes. Humans are drawn here by their love of togetherness and cosy lights in the darkness – pointing to the deeper meaning of the one they call Jesus, ‘light of the world’. How far that light may infuse the rest of their ‘life on earth’, is yet to be fully seen.
3 I’m deep in the heart of one of the human animal’s favourite festive habitats: the ‘nearly a pound shop’. They browse among piles of tat, like magpies homing in on the shiniest, tackiest stuff they can get their claws on. Squabbles occasionally break out, quite without warning. The whole process of excessive present buying has evolved primarily for pleasure, status, and to maintain the delicate equilibrium of friend and family expectations – in short, so Granny Mavis doesn’t get royally cheesed off with yet another cook book. How far they can reconnect to the true source of spiritual contentment, the real gift and meaning of Christmas, remains to be seen.
4 This Christmas finds me deep in the heart of a typical human festive home, fraught with fragile family politics, and disputes over cracker jokes. The precise makeup of this particular group has been carefully negotiated, and simmering tensions remain. Juveniles, in a heightened state of excitement, constantly threaten to push someone over the edge. Meanwhile, ensconced in his armchair is the silverback, jealously guarding the remote. The complex dynamics involve excessive turkey consumption, mountains of wrapping paper, and in extreme cases, charades. The very human hunger for acceptance and belonging, links to a deep desire for spiritual connection at this time of year. The message of Christmas offers that; we can only hope they will find it.
Voice audio with music & sound effects: