And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
(Luke 2:8-9)

Okay. So you’re God and your kid’s about to be born. You’ve been promoting this thing for, like, a few thousand years, mostly through the prophets. At first it seemed like a cool idea, using the prophets, those semi-wackos with wild beards and bad hair screaming their frothing rants about disobedience and wrath and destruction, freaking everybody out with tirades of looming and inescapable doom. And then they slip in these little cryptic blurbs—right between the you will eat your own children and drink your own urine schtick and the bit about the ferocious and merciless hordes from the north slicing and dicing everybody in sight—about some mysterious dude who’s going to show up and save them from all the disobedience and wrath and destruction and cannibalism and urine sampling and slicing and dicing and looming and inescapable doom.

The idea was to build a sense of horror, suspense, and anticipation. The prophetic rants were carefully crafted and their performances meticulously timed, starting way back in the long-lost Garden with the whole he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel thing. Then, about 600 years out, you’d pick up the pace and unleash prophet after prophet after prophet, sometimes even two or three at a time, to ramp the whole messiah thing to a nearly unbearable crescendo. But that campaign died on the vine, mostly because nobody could figure out what the hell you were talking about and, besides, you sort of overdid the hordes from the north and east thing and everybody was so preoccupied with all the death and destruction that they didn’t have a whole lot of time for prophetic subtlety. So when you finally figured out that all your previews and promotional events were pretty much a total waste of time you shut the publicity machine down just like that and it was a bling blackout for the next 400 years.

So the pressure’s on now. The kid is scheduled to arrive (yeah, you pored over the flow chart to see if you could maybe postpone it until your promotions people could come up with something a little more flair, something like the iPhone or Starbucks card thing that you see coming down the pike but which the boys in the Production Department have no clue about since they’re not omniscient like you and besides you promised them they could handle it on their own this time) and you’re stuck with the advent calendar you’re stuck with—and you don’t want Mary to slide into menopause before you do the divine deed and start her womb clock ticking—so you cherry-pick Gabriel, the best PR guy you’ve got, and send him down to the virgin to try to explain things to her after which the Ghost does his Ghost thing and you’re off and running before you realize that you forgot to clue Joseph in on the deal and he’s understandably torqued about somebody knocking up his fiancé and is that close to calling off the wedding and thereby screwing up everything so you fast-fire another angel (always a few on standby) down there to explain to Joseph what’s going on, just barely averting a fiasco, but finally all the biological pieces are in place and you’ve got yourself T-minus 270 days and counting.

So the boys from Celestial Light and Magic rig a special star to hang in the firmament with enough candle-power to burn a hole in the world’s spiritual fog but it turns out that the only ones on the planet who notice are a handful of uncircumcised astrologers for crying out loud who pack their bags and camel-huff it toward ground zero, the place you thought you’d made clear a long time ago but have to write that one off as a loss too. Then, after Joseph and Mary make their way to Bethlehem only to find all the motels filled (Reservations! Somebody forgot to make reservations! Heads are gonna roll after this is over.) and end up in some piece of shed out back as Mary dilates to nine centimeters.

You nearly shout to the production guys but to your surprise they’re already on set and, just as Mary makes her special delivery, they flare the lights on a spiffy choir who suddenly shatter the silent night with a full-throttle rendition of a tune you realize you heard them practicing earlier but didn’t register at the time mostly because there’s always so much dang singing and chanting and holy holy holying going on 24/7 that you can sometimes hardly hear yourself think. You think this is a cool development until you realize to your horror that the only ones in the audience are a few shepherds who are so freaking freaked out that they’ve all but soiled their already very soiled sheep suits and can only stand there with their mouths hanging open until the choir finishes its grand finale and winks out, leaving an empty sky and a handful of slack-jawed shepherds stumbling towards o little town of Podunksville to see what they can see.

So after a short-lived and sparsely attended welcoming party at the shed, the astrologers and shepherds head back to their own lives and leave Mary, Joseph, and the kid alone with the cows. And now that the thing’s over and silence returns to the silent night you think back on all the careful preparations, the discouraging setbacks, the close calls, the celestial manipulations, the detailed script work, and the careful selection of both human and angelic actors. You ponder the lowly trio shivering in the winter night and you wonder at it all. You wonder at the audacious thing you have done, a thing so marvelous, so astonishing, and so ignored. You contemplate the hard life coming to the little boy: the rejection, the mocking, the cross—and you swear to yourself (who else are you going to swear by?) that this kid—your kid—is going to come out of this damned thing alive, and you’re going to make him the Boss of Everything at whose bloody feet are going to grovel every creature in the entire universe. Forever.

And with that in mind, you lean back in your terrifyingly incandescent chair to watch your boy do his thing.



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