Bethlehem 2.0

Bethlehem 2.0

Dec 03, 2023Heike Felber

The icy wind blowing across the treeless plain causes the shepherds standing in front of the stable in Bethlehem to move from one foot to the other, rubbing their hands. The Christmas star shines silver above them. A heavenly ensemble of angels floats underneath. Harps strum, trombones toot, bells tinkle, the first bars of From Heaven High, I Come Here are hummed. Jehoel, as the angel of song, the choir director of the Seraphim, hits the roof of the stable with his baton. “Silentium,” he calls, “Please be quiet, Joseph is coming.”

The stable door, hanging crookedly on its hinge, squeaks open. “Ta taaa,” the angels begin their crescendo. The shepherds clap their hands and throw their hats in the air.

But what's wrong with Joseph? He desperately flails his arms and shouts: “Stooooop – stop – stop.” The orchestra falls silent, the shepherds look puzzled and collect their hats.

Awkward silence.

“Hm, hmm,” Josef clears his throat and swallows empty. “Dear everyone present…” he says.

“Laaaiter,” the shepherds shout, putting their hands behind their ears, “we don’t understand you.”

“I have bad ideas,” Josef makes a new attempt. «This long journey on the back of the donkey was probably too much for Maria. I suspect that nothing will happen with the birth of the baby Jesus.” He shrugs apologetically and disappears.

“Oh no,” the angels complain regretfully, pack up their instruments and fly away.

There is perplexity all around in front of the stable.

“He can’t do that,” grumble the shepherds. “Here comes a fluttering man who persuades us to leave our sheep alone and come here – and now this.”

“We are unsettled too,” says an elderly couple. «What will become of our little Johann, the one we got in our old days? “After all, it was planned that he would go before HIM,” the woman points her head towards the stable, “to prepare the way.”

Another takes the floor and introduces himself: “I am Micah, prophet and I predicted around 700 years ago: You, Bethlehem Ephrath, you who are small among the cities of Judah. From you shall come the Lord of Israel. I just spoke to my fellow prophets. We think we have predicted at least 200 or 300 events and are more than dismayed, fearing that in the future we will be mistaken for proles rather than prophets.”

“These are luxury problems,” says an annoyed young mother with a baby in her arms. "Thanks to this - alleged - mishap, my little Simeon and 300 other small children did not become victims of King Herod's henchmen."

“Dear subject, from your point of view I can understand your thoughts to a certain extent,” he turns to the woman, standing under a canopy and with a sparkling crown on his head. “But,” he points out, “you must not forget that in order to maintain proven social and political structures, sacrifices must be made here and there and collateral damage must be accepted.”

“And what will happen to us now?” shouts a group of men on horseback and in knight’s armor. “Crusaders and unemployed,” they say, horrified. "It's a shame. Or are there alternatives we can fight for?"

“At least they wouldn’t have come there if there hadn’t been a Christian West to subjugate,” one sees positively. He points to a group of exotic-looking people with turbans on their heads and scimitars in their belts. It is Johann Andreas von Liebenberg, mayor of Vienna during its second siege by the Turks.

The leader of the Ottomans, Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha, steps forward. “Ha ha,” he laughs, “then you could have seen how you got your delicious Turkish drink, which you still love to sip today in your coffee houses with plenty of whipped cream to accompany your apple strudel with vanilla sauce.”

“As a pastor, I would like to point out the theological complications that this new situation brings with it,” says one in a black vestment from a pulpit. «I really hope that this is just a temporary episode. Otherwise,” he shakes his head in disbelief, “God’s entire plan of salvation would be thrown into disarray and the entire salvation of humanity would have to be rethought. Because without Christmas there is no Easter, without Easter there is no redemption. We must also not forget the consequences for eschatology, the doctrine of the last things.”

“We absolutely have to find a solution to this,” demands Herod from under the canopy. “How are we going to keep our subjects, who are doing shitty, happy if we can’t give them any hope of a glorious afterlife through the clergy?”

“I ask them to be realistic,” another person chimes in in the discussion. “The afterlife is a sideshow that can be dealt with in half an hour in a church, a temple or wherever. The ultimate Christmas experience lies in giving gifts to our loved ones. With gifts purchased in our beautiful department stores. On this point I am with you, Your Majesty. Christmas must be saved at all costs. Otherwise I see black for our economy. Remember that many of us generate half of our annual sales from the Christmas business.”

The speaker is shrilly interrupted by shrill whistles. Waving flags, union representatives in bright red and yellow gilets enter the scene. “Your defeatism is a disgrace,” blares from a megaphone. “First the financial crisis, then Corona, and now there will supposedly be no more Christmas. They stop at nothing to harass us working people for the sake of profit. But one thing should be said. Even without Christmas, and possibly also without God: We don’t forego a single paid Christian church holiday or holiday.”

At the edge of the action, another person puts his hand in the air. “I ask that in the entire discussion not to forget the small and micro, one-man and one-woman businesses. For example, I offer courses on writing Christmas stories. I don't think I need to elaborate on what it would mean for me if this ended in a fiasco." He brings his two hands, forming a funnel, to his mouth and calls out: "Mr. Joseph, I urge you, don't let us down."

The stable door squeaks open again and Josef appears. The course provider turns pale and stutters: “Mr. Josef, please, I have never doubted your goodwill.”

Joseph waves away. «Don't be afraid, sir. They all. I have good things to tell you. A girl was born to us! Black – from the feet to behind the ears.”

Written by: Hans Peter Flückiger


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