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Sign of the times


Last Christmas an unholy row broke out in New Zealand over a church billboard aimed at 'challenging stereotypes' about the birth of Jesus. A dejected-looking Joseph lay in bed next to Mary under the caption, 'Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow'. 

The church's vicar, Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, said the aim of the billboard had been to lampoon the literal interpretation of the Christmas conception story. 'What we're trying to do is to get people to think more about what Christmas is all about. Is it about a spiritual male God sending down sperm so a child would be born, or is it about the power of love in our midst as seen in Jesus?'.

Other Christian voices in Auckland disagreed, with a spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Auckland describing it as 'inappropriate and disrespectful.' In the end the debate came to a halt when the billboard was defaced with brown paint just a few hours after its unveiling.