We all know the Christmas story.
It’s told over and over again every year.
Even those who don’t have an ounce of religion, know all about Bethlehem, the stable, the shepherds and the wise men.
But what if a few things had been different back then?
What if, say, there had been Gardaí around and, maybe, a bit of political correctness and a smattering of modern bureaucracy?
MIDDLE EAST Two Thousand years ago
Joseph and Mary set out for Bethlehem. Mary, heavily pregnant is riding on a donkey…
Suddenly, they see a blue flashing light in the distance.
As they get closer, they see a few men in dark blue uniforms. One of them is swinging an oil lamp from side to side. It has blue glass – and he’s shouting NEE NAW NEE NAW NEE NAW because actual sirens haven’t been invented yet.
They’re pulled over to the side of the road.
“Where do you think you’re goin’ at this hour of the night on that thing?” asks the “Garda” in his strong country accent.
“Well, we were hoping to get to Bethlehem for the census,” Joseph says.
“And where are you travelling from if you don’t mind me askin?” asks the garda.
“Nazareth,” says Joseph.
“Ye what? On a feckin’ donkey.”
The Garda sniffs around Joseph’s face.
“And you’re sure you didn’t stop for a jar on the way?”
“No,” says Joseph. “Sure we’re trying to get a room…”
“Well, God help ye…”
“That’s the plan,” says Joseph.
“And you came all that way. With your daughter on a donkey?”
“She’s my wife.”
“Beg your pardon. And for God’s sake, she’s pregnant!!!”
“That’s exactly right” says Joseph.
The Garda tips back his cap.
“Lookit. We have a couple of squad camels over there. Sure ye can get onto one of them and we’ll have you looked after. And sure won’t Asclepius do his bit?”
“Asclepius?” asks Joseph.
“He’s the Roman God of healing and…”
“That’s not a great idea,” Joseph says. “We have our own guy. So I think we’ll just stay on the donkey if you don’t mind…”
“God knows how you’re going to get there.”
“He does indeed,” says Joseph.
They make it to Bethlehem and Joseph knocks on the door of the Inn.
The lights are turned on. He hears shuffling from inside. A voice mutters something like “do you know what time it is?” and eventually the door opens.
“Do you have any rooms available?” asks Joseph.
“Holy God,” says the innkeeper.
“No. He hasn’t been born yet,” says Joseph. “Any moment now though.”
“We’re booked up,” says the innkeeper, slamming the door.
And so it goes on at every door on which they knock.
“Mary. Looks like we’ll have to use that stable we saw on the edge of town.”
“Oh God no Joseph. It stank. And there was a cow and sheep in it.”
“You know, someday people who have spare rooms will rent them at busy times and make a few denarii.”
Sadly, that’s not going to happen for a couple of thousand years.
So they end up in the stable.
They’re only there ten minutes when there’s a knock on the, well, shutter.
“Probably the shepherds or the wise men,” Joseph whispers to Mary. He knew his prophecies.
“Yes. Can I help?” he asks.
“Holy Mother of God,” says the man.
“Just call me Mary,” says Mary.
The visitor continues: “We’re from the HIQA which is actually pronounced Hikwa for some reason or other. We were informed that a heavily pregnant woman was seeing entering this establishment and that…”
“Yes. But, you see…”
“Well, I’m afraid this area isn’t satisfactory for the purposes of giving birth. a) the hygiene is unacceptable b) ye can’t have animals in a maternity ward, I mean, there’s everything except pigs and it’s covered in, well, not to put too fine a point on it, shite c) the training is…
“Yes, I get the picture. But it has been determined that my wife must give birth tonight, she must do it here, it must be a stable.”
“Well, I’ll put ye on the waiting list. Ten months waiting for maternity services. Have to confess…
“We haven’t got to that bit yet…” Joseph says.
“It’ll be a miracle if it all works out for ye.”
“That’s the plan,” said Joseph.
Joseph and Mary settle down, but suddenly, there is a noise outside.
“It’s probably the shepherds this time,” Joseph says quietly.
And it is.
Only it’s members of the Bethlehem Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association complaining about the prices the Romans were paying for their animals.
Eventually, two of them are allowed in and they decide to stay.
More noise follows. Joseph goes out again.
“Hi. Someone told me you lot were here. Any chance of a selfie?” a young woman asks.
“A selfie?” Joseph is confused. ‘What’s a selfie?”
“Well, we pose, and he paints a quick picture of us together…” the girl said pointing to an artist who had set up his easel, paints and brushes nearby.
“Can we have one too?”
“Oh God. Very well,” Joseph sighs.
He was barely back in the stable when there is yet more noise.
“What is it now?” he asks.
“We’re the wise men,” a chap wearing a crown says.
“Who are all the others? There must be twenty people” Joseph asks.
“Well, we mentioned that the three of us, the three wise men, were coming here and it didn’t go down that well. So they’re the wise women…”
“And the others…?” Joseph said.
“Some other wise people who are gay, lesbian, transgender, gender fluid, androgyne, bigender queer and,,,”
“God almighty,” said Joseph.
“YES?” a voice boomed from the clouds.’
“Oh Sorry. Not you. Beg your pardon. Turn of phrase…”
As many as could fit crammed into the stable.
They waited and waited and then, having been given a little privacy, they heard the cries. The child was born.
One of the vast crowd now in the stable looks at the little baby and says: “Well Holy God.”
“Spot on,” says Joseph. “You know your stuff.”
Suddenly, there was loud singing from above.
“GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO” the voices boomed. “PEACE ON EARTH TO ALL
MEN OF GOODWILL.”
”Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” exclaims one of the shepherds when he heard the cacophony.
“That’s us,” says Joseph.
And the singing went on about peace and love and what not.
‘That’s a good idea,” one of the wise, people – possible the gender fluid king/queen says.
And everyone in the stable agrees.
They all tell each other that, in future, they won’t fight, won’t hate, will look after the poor and the sick and especially children.
“Let’s make a promise to remember tonight forever and to remember all the things we said,” one of them suggests.
And all agree.
And they do they remember.
Except for the bit about fighting.
And the bit about hating,
And the bit about looking after the poor and sick.
So the world ended up as a bit of a kip, really, where billions of people forgot about Jesus and the likes of Trump and Putin and Kim Jong Un got to run/ruin things.
And let’s try a bit harder next year.