*First appeared in the Dec. 27 edition of the Laurel Chronicle newspaper
Would the story of the birth of Jesus be different if it happened today?
Young Mary is to marry the carpenter Joseph, but their engagement is not without its share of drama. The Holy Spirit comes upon Mary, and she becomes pregnant with the Christ child.
Whispers of Mary’s presumed indiscretions fill the streets. Her friends join in the chorus of disbelievers, explaining that even reality television stars come up with more plausible excuses for unintended pregnancies. Statisticians shrug this out-of-wedlock pregnancy as a growing trend among the poor. Women’s rights activists stage a rally to celebrate Mary’s bold choice to get pregnant outside of marriage and to remind Nazarenes that it’s her body, her choice. Mental health advocates point to Mary as a product of a failed system that overlooks a woman who has spiritual delusions. Psychologists say Mary’s denial of sexual relations is an indication of some deeper longing that began in her childhood.
Joseph is reeling. Every fiber of his being wants to leave this no-good, two-timing woman. His friends say he’s not a real man if he lets her off the hook. Joseph wants to retain his manhood, but there’s one problem: He, too, has been visited by an Angel of God to confirm Mary’s story. Joseph won’t leave Mary, he tells friends. They’re in shock and take to posting on Facebook: “Clearly Mary is guilt-tripping Joseph. What do they think this is, Knocked Up? #NotAMovie #ThisIsRealLife #ManUpJoJo.”
Enter the government. A census must be taken! We must know the couple’s age, gender, income, sexual orientation, race, marital history, place of birth, disability status, educational attainment, veteran service, value of property owned, acreage of owned land, rooms in residential home, year structure built, vehicles at primary residence, class of worker, health insurance costs, work status last year, journey to work, occupation type, and place of work. This data will enable demographic trends to be observed but, more importantly, will ensure residents are paying taxes properly – giving credence to the timeless adage, “nothing is certain but death and taxes.”
The government’s decree means lots of folks are traveling to Bethlehem. Traffic on the highway is back-to-back. The common refrain on Twitter is that the dense traffic is “worse than football season.” Mary checks her Holiday Inn app. No vacancy. Joseph tries to check in online at the Motel 8, but it’s full. As a last ditch effort, they try the Bethlehem Hilton but get laughed out the door. “There’s no room here, pal,” the doorman taunts as he eyes a very-pregnant Mary.
Mary’s water breaks. She and Joseph have little time to find shelter. They pull over at an abandoned Sonic whose only residents seem to be stray cats and a three-legged dog. The animals gather round as Mary gives birth to Baby Jesus.
Angels appear to workers gathering runaway buggies at a nearby Kroger. “Fear not,” the angels tell the terrified teenagers, “for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Clad in blue collared shirts and khakis, the Kroger employees make their way to the Sonic to gaze upon the newborn savior of the world. When they arrive, they are convinced this child is the Messiah. Immediately they begin blogging, tweeting, and posting photos on Instagram to share the good news.
An employee of the Department of Human Services observes the conditions in which the child is born and takes immediate action to remove the child from a dangerous environment. This government intrusion is rendered moot after a trust fund is set up for Baby Jesus by three anonymous benefactors. Even so, the government promises to keep an eye on this baby boy who looks as if he may pose a threat to the status quo in the future.