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Angels tell shepherds of Jesus in Bethlehem

The (good)will of the people

And the angel said unto them: “Do not be afraid! I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

And a shepherd said unto the angel: “Hold it right there, chum”.

And the angel did hold it, right there.

And the shepherd said “In the current political climate you can’t seriously expect that any proposal will cause great joy for all the people?”

And the angel said, “Well…”

And the shepherd did continue, as his question had in fact been rhetorical. “We’ve been debating the options and even among this small and barely representative cross-section of the Jewish agricultural working class there is a wide and apparently unbridgeable range of opinions as to the way forward to a solution in the search for an acceptable Messiah.”

And the angel said, “Go on”.

And the shepherd did point out his three colleagues.

“Jacob here is a Zealot, all for us going it alone. Tell the Romans exactly where to put their Empire. The Samaritans and the Greeks, they can go home too. He wants not just immigration reduced, but Israel wholly re-Jews-d”.

“Stephen, on the other hand, he’s a Rome-ainer. He thinks there are several things that the Romans have, in fact, done for us.”

“Jeremiah, he's a social activist. No surrendering unto Caesar. He wants to stop Augustus-erity and the scandal of babies having to sleep in feeding troughs wrapped in second-hand clothing.”

“Me, I’m more the good shepherd. I’d like to go back to the golden age of King David. What’s the point of being the chosen people when you can’t get a decent price for a sacrificial lamb?”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, arguing among themselves about the merits of Purgatory as a time-limited backstop for salvation.

And the angel said again, loudly: “Today in the town of David is born for you a Saviour: he is the Messiah, the Lord!”

And the shepherd said: “You’re surely not going to say ‘He’s the only possible Messiah!’? To please all of this lot you’d need a peaceful revolutionary agitator who sets families against one another, believes in the chosen people but make friends with Romans and Samaritans, pays taxes but doesn’t respect the courts, stands up for adulterers and scroungers, resists all political compromise and relentlessly attacks everyone in power for greed, pride and self-seeking hypocrisy. Anyone who tried all that would be crucified.”

And the angel said: “You will find the baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.”

Written for the carol service at St John’s, West Ealing in 2018, in the ever-lengthening shadow of Brexit, and read there by Philip Wells. Very loosely adapted from Luke chapter 2, 10-14.

Typical performance time 2 minutes.

Godfrey Rust, godfrey@wordsout.co.uk. See here for details of permissions for use.