The Pope has started tweeting. I’m not sure this is a good idea. Maybe, though, we could all help by sending him suggestions for future tweets.
For balance (this being Scotland), let me suggest a possible tweet from that most unattractive of theologies, Calvinism. It might go something like this:
Want 2 b a Christian? Well, hard luck!
This is the first and last time I’ve ever written ‘gr8’ or ‘2 b’! I’m stopping now. Is there anything more embarrassing than Dads Texting? Well, maybe Granddads Texting? Or Religious Leaders Tweeting?
The Pope’s a busy man these days. He’s just published a book about the early life of Jesus. In it, he de-bunks the idea that the angels sung to the shepherds as they a-lay with their flocks in the fields. No, no, the Pope clarifies, the angels spoke to the shepherds.
The Pope also rejects the traditional tale that a donkey and ox were present at Jesus’ birth. Oh no, explains the Pope, the bible makes no reference to animals.
Actually, isn’t this a can of worms the Pope is opening? I mean, if Jesus was born a stable, isn’t it very likely that there were donkeys and oxen around. Perhaps a hen or two? Probably some mice and rats too. Definitely some spiders and assorted creepy-crawlies. Maybe even some worms in an ancient container?
Then again, some theologians suggest that Jesus wasn’t really born in a stable…… Whoa, hang on a moment! Where’s all this going?
Now you might think that a Pope would have more urgent things to do than tweet or speculate about the default mode of angelic communication but who am I to comment on His Holiness’s diary. Nevertheless, you’d think his advisers would have warned him off trying to tidy up the Christmas story into a more rational pattern.
After all, what’s logical about Christmas? If you’re a Christian and you start picking away at the traditional story – singing angels, adoring donkeys, crowded stable etc - you’ll very quickly end up unravelling the whole thing.
In fact, you’ll end up a Jehovah’s Witness. The Witnesses, after all, are the only Christian sect with a logical approach to Christmas. They totally ignore it. What after all, they correctly argue, has the 25 December got to do with Christianity? As we all know, it’s really a pagan festival which the all-conquering Christians expropriated for their own use.
Moreover, we know for sure there was no imperial census around the date claimed for Jesus’ birth. There might possibly have been a local one – but people wouldn’t have been required to report to their ancestral homes. And you’d think the Romans or the Jews would have recorded the slaughter of a load of innocent weans. Not a footnote.
Most Christian experts now accept that the early Church miscalculated the year of Jesus’ birth. When it comes to Anno Domini, we should really be in 2016 or possibly even 2019.
Some Christian accounts suggest that Jesus was probably born in August or September. That would explain the shepherds lying around in the fields. But it makes the stable less of a hardship. After all, who hasn’t on a Mediterranean holiday opted to sleep out on the veranda in preference to a stuffy bedroom? But was Jesus really born in a stable…?
I must admit there are things that irritate me about the logic of the Christmas story. My big bugbear is this. What’s Santa Claus got to do with Christmas?
He definitely wasn’t one of the Three Wise Men. I’ve just re-checked. Nor was there a chimney in the stable for him to come down. Ah, but was Jesus really born in a stable…? Stop it!
On the Continent, there used to be a more logical approach to Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas’s Day is the 6 December. In many European countries, that’s when Santa Claus arrives to bring presents – usually dressed as a bishop, with mitre and all. Presents on Christmas or Christmas Eve were brought by other means – usually a (non-singing) angel.
However, that logic has been swept away by the power of Coca Cola capitalism. Now, everywhere in the Christian world, the red-coated, white-bearded fatso is the dominant personality in the Christmas story, not Jesus. It’s a pity the Pope didn’t apply his logic to Santa’s role. Maybe he’ll write a tweet about it over the holidays.
Anyway, Merry Christmas, everyone!
Unless you’re of another faith. Or are one of the 28% of Scots who declared themselves as having no religion in the 2001 census.
To all of you – and to Jehovah Witnesses of course - ‘Have a nice day.’