If It Happened Today

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And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed…. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

“Seriously, MORE taxes? Wasn’t one of Augustus’ promises that he wouldn’t raise taxes?”

“Yeah, but who’s going to call him on it? You?”

“No, I guess not. You comfortable on that donkey?”

“Not really. Is there another option?”

“Not really.”

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

“You’re telling me you don’t have ANY rooms?”

“None, I’m sorry.”

“What if King Herod showed up wanting a room? Would you have a room for him?”

“Well, of course, we’d come up with something for King Herod.”

“Well, he’s not coming. Let us have his room.”

“I’m sorry, sir. Like I said before, you’re more than welcome to stay out in the stable.”

“I remember. You know that’s really not much of a consolation, right?”

“Well, yes. I was kind of being sarcastic when I said it.”

“Well, guess what. We’re going to stay in your stable. I’m going to take my hugely pregnant wife and we’re going to sleep in that stable, where she’ll probably deliver the baby, right there with the hay and the animals and the what-have-you.”

“OK.”

“Did I mention who this baby is?”

“Yes, sir. You were quite vivid about it.”

“King of the Jews, innkeeper. KING OF THE JEWS!!”

“Yes, sir.”

“He is NOT going to be happy with you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Don’t think I won’t tell him!”

“Of course, sir.”

“Sigh. OK, we’ll be in the stable. Can we get a wake-up call for 8?”

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger…. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

“Is it safe to go into town? You know the locals don’t like us.”

“I know, but this is important! We need to go see the baby!”

“They’re always like, ‘Oh, you shepherds, you come into Jerusalem, you take our jobs, you don’t even speak Hebrew!'”

“I know, I know.”

“Like any of the locals want to lie in fields keeping sheep on a cold winter’s night that is so deep!”

“They wouldn’t last a week.”

“Not for this money, anyway.”

“So about the baby.”

“Yeah, all right, let’s go. I don’t have a gift to bring, though.”

“It’s OK. I think he likes us anyway. He doesn’t care what language we speak, either.”

“Because he loves everyone?”

“That, and because he’s a baby and can’t understand us anyway.”

“Hey, maybe I could play my drum for him!”

“Yeah, that’s a great idea. Go bang your drum in the middle of the night where the people just had a baby. They’ll LOVE that.”

“I’m just trying to help.”

“I know. You’re a good man, Pedro.”

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

“OK, hold on there, fellas. What’s the nature of your visit to Jerusalem?”

“Well, we’re, um, wise men, and we’re here to see the King of the Jews.”

“The King of the Jews? What does that mean? Herod is the king, but he’s not a Jew.”

“Yeah, I don’t think it’s him. We’re looking for somebody else.”

“Who?”

“We don’t know.”

“And how do you plan to find him?”

“Well, there’s a star, and we’re sort of following it.”

“Uh-huh. And do you have passports?”

“Um, no.”

“How long do you plan to stay?”

“We’re not really sure.”

“How many of you are there? Three?”

“Why does everyone think there’s going to be three of us? No, there are seven.”

“And you seven want to come into this country for an undetermined length of time, with one-way tickets, just to hang out and look for some ‘king’ of yours.”

“That’s right.”

“We’re going to need to search your bags.”

“That’s fine. We have nothing to hide.”

“OK, now this, what’s this?”

“That’s myrrh.”

“What’s myrrh?”

“I … don’t know, exactly.”

“Well, you’ve got more than three ounces of it, so it’s going in the trash.”

“See, I told you to bring gold.”

“I thought he might like some myrrh!”

“You just like the way it’s spelled.”

“I do like the way it’s spelled. It’s one of the few instances where ‘y’ functions as the only vowel. Not common at all.”

“Hey, hey, wise guys, listen: What’s this?”

“Frankincense.”

“Oh, man, here we go.”

“Frankenstein?”

“No, frankincense.”

“What’s frankenstein?”

“Is frankincense like myrrh?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Why are you guys bringing all this weird stuff?”

“For the king.”

“You think the king likes weird stuff?”

“It’s a gesture. We want to worship the king and bring him gifts showing that we honor and respect him.”

“And you don’t think he’d prefer a new horse, or a fine robe, or something?

“We were shopping at the last minute, and all the stores were closed.”

“All the stores were closed?”

“Of course. For the Christmas weekend.”

“Are we going to end on that joke?”

“It’s probably best.”


The last joke is an homage the great comedy album "Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America Vol. 1" (1961), which has a similar exchange of dialogue at the end of a couple sketches. (Ben Franklin tells Thomas Jefferson he'd better hurry to get signatures for the Declaration of Independence before everyone goes out of town for the Fourth of July weekend, for example.) Freberg eventually recorded Volume 2, but it wasn't nearly as good.

I think I was watching the film "The Nativity Story" when the idea occurred to me to explore what it would be like if these things happened today: shepherds would be poor migrant workers, the Wise Men would be stopped at the border, and so forth. No disrespect is intended toward the biblical story, of course. Just havin' a little fun.

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