The religious educator and author Rainer Oberthur had to change during the Corona crisis and rely on digital formats. Just in time for Christmas, he has also digitized his Christmas narrative.
Interviewer: You usually give advanced training for religion teachers, but this year a lot had to be cancelled as far as personal encounters are concerned. Why was the year so special for you??
Rainer Oberthur (author and lecturer for religious education at the Catechetical Institute of the Diocese of Aachen): Because my main professional field, or the identity of my professional field, is actually determined by the conferences, which fell away overnight in March. Then I had to think: What else do you offer? I am not a digital expert, but I changed my orientation very quickly and offered readings in the spring, which I simply did off the cuff, sat down in front of my cell phone and sent the data to my son in Spain.
He has produced videos from it. They were offered on YouTube and then download packages came, which were on my homepage as a training alternative for Easter, for Pentecost, for the big questions. And so I've done eight readings so far, and I've put 60 materials on the homepage, which you can access for free.
Interviewer: In between in the summer it went again to some extent. But now there is the next lockdown and they have taken precautions, so to speak. You have continued with this online story all the time in parallel. We now find the Christmas narrative as a reading with additional download on your homepage. In which form do you tell the Christmas story there?
Oberthur: This is a biblical picture book of a special kind. because I tell the Matthew infancy story and the Luke infancy story separately for the time being. So father and child are talking and out of the child's desire to hear the narrative, the father tells the Matthew version and then after an interlude the Luke version, so that we can distinguish the theology of one and the theology of the other.
As adults, we always have a way of listening to this and stirring it all together into a story. But only Matthew tells about the astrologers and the shepherds or Luke. Every evangelist has his own theology. And that comes much better to bear, if first of all is told separately.
Interviewer: If you keep that apart, it is really something for theologians or teachers of religion? Because I think a child almost doesn't care whether you throw both versions of the story together, or?
Oberthur: I do not believe that. I also know this from religion teachers who are very enthusiastic when they work with this Christmas story, that the children already notice: Aha, someone is always telling about the prophets and about the promises that will be fulfilled. With Matthew it is so because he addresses the Jewish-Christians. The other one always tells about Jesus as the bringer of peace, as an alternative to Augustus. Of course, in the end we bring it together again in the story. But I think it comes across as something different. Above all, it comes across that it is not about historical processes and the question of what happened when, where and how, but about who Jesus really is for the evangelists, for the people at that time and for us. I think it comes across better that way. Maybe very intuitive, but that's nice.
Interviewer: Then we have basically arrived at Christmas, because the religion teachers, they now have a few days to do something, like the other teachers too. But after that it's Christmas vacation. At Christmas itself you can also listen to this Christmas story. For example, when people decide not to go to church at Christmas.
Oberthur: Exactly. This is now, as it was also Easter, that this reading is actually suitable to be brought to the families and to pass it on. We are planning to do this ourselves with our grown-up children, who are already almost 30. When we watch the video on Christmas Eve, the dad reading and the son editing it, that will certainly be very special. And I can imagine that very well – also for the families who say: We also want to set a strong biblical impulse there. They can simply look at it together, talk about it and exchange ideas.
Interviewer: That is exactly for many now such a hurdle to consider, I would actually like to celebrate church service, but the rising infection figures actually speak against it. Should go? Should I stay at home? Why would you say staying home is also fine and can become a worthy substitute for this year?
Oberthur: I think we do without so much. So we won't even visit our parents-in-law at all in Munsterland, because that's just too dangerous for us and they don't like it either.
Then we can say with good reason: Out of love for the people with whom we have a lot to do, we don't go there and we don't go to the service. But we have a form that is perhaps much more intensive in terms of content, because we can also exchange ideas in a small and personal circle.
Interviewer: And this includes the Christmas story that you yourself have made. What else belongs to it for you then?
Oberthur: What actually belongs every year in every family also. That you meet at all, that you spend the time together and that you actually live what this message exchanges. This is what one actually does in everyday life, hopefully, as much as possible throughout the year. But I think it will be possible, I heard it so beautifully the other day, to synchronize it. And I hope that this will also happen intensively this year in this close core family circle.
The interview was conducted by Dagmar Peters.