Diarmuid Breatnach (with initial contribution from another Breatnach)
(Extracts from interviews reprinted variously by kind permission of The Palestinian Prophet, Judean Eye, Jerusalem Sentinel and The Samaritan Times)
The Shepherd’s story:
“Hey, man, we’d just settled the sheep down and were settling down ourselves, chilling out with a bong before sleep, you know? Then there was this light in the sky, and a bloody heavenly choir of angels, I swear to God!
“No, man, we weren’t tripping; the bloody sheep all woke and wouldn’t go back to sleep. So in the end, we couldn’t get any sleep either, what with strange light in the sky, angels singing, and sheep baa-ing. So we went down into town, and that’s where we found the Travellers, with their newborn baby.
“We didn’t have anything to give them except a draw or two and we didn’t know whether they were into that, so we brought along a lamb for the grown-ups’ dinner.
“They said the baby was a King, and him in a stable! Well we didn’t like to contradict them or anything, so we played along with it. And while we were there, didn’t this caravan come by with these three old geezers, who said they were looking for the baby King! Yeah, that was kind of strange, all right.”
“It was before my first wuz born. That Gaybriel, he came to tell me I was going to be pregnant – didn’t he Joseph?”
“Yes, dear, so you told me”.
“Yeah, he minces in out of nowhere, appears in my Mum’s living room, and tells me I’m going to have a baby! And I hadn’t even been with a man, had I Joseph?”
“No dear. So you …. No dear.”
“So when I was near my time – I was huge by then, you know – we had to go off to Jerusalem. It was a long journey and I was knackered and so was poor Joseph. I said to him, I said ‘Joseph, you’ve got to sit your arse down somewhere warm, and so have I.’ So Joseph went and asked in a few bed and breakfast places, but they was all full. Wasn’t they, Joseph?
I said, Joseph, they was all full, wasn’t they?
“Yes, Mary, they was all full”.
“So after a while, someone let us stay in his stable! Well, it was warmer than outside, and it was great to sit down, but the straw was scratchy, you know what I mean? Well we wasn’t there more than half an hour when me waters broke. I started to cry, and I said to Joseph: ‘Our first child is going to be born in a stable; what kind of a start is that in life for a child?’ I was really upset you know. So that was where he was born. And they called him names is school years later, like ‘Donkey’, and ‘Stable Boy” – didn’t they, Joseph?”
“Yes, Mary, they did”.
The Wise Men’s from the East story:
Balthazar: “We had met up, the three of us, at the previous year’s Annual Conference of the AWM … Oh, you don’t know? That’s our association, the Association for Wise Men! You’ve heard of us, of course? No? How peculiar! Where did you say you were from?
“Anyway, we had met up, and we’d had such a great time together, that we arranged to meet up again. And when we did, we were discussing this interesting prophesy, about a sign in the heavens, and the birth of a King, etc., and then what should we see but this strange star in the night sky. So we decided that could be it and we should at least go and see. So we packed up our camels and horses, hired some help, and set off.
“It was weeks later when we came to this little town, Bethlehem the locals called it, and eventually tracked the couple and newborn baby down, and there they were. Well they looked quite grubby, you know, and in a stable, too!”
Melchior: “It wasn’t the most hygienic place to have a baby, and hardly appropriate for the birth of a King. But that was where the star brought us to, and there was already a crowd of shepherds in there paying him homage. So we discussed it in private, and decided that this must be the King whose birth would be predicted by a sign in the heavens, and we gave him our presents.”
“What presents? Oh, frankiscence and myhrr, that kind of stuff.”
Gaspar: “And gold, of course – so they could pay for some proper lodgings.”
Balthazar: “Herod? King Herod Antipas? Yes of course we’ve heard of him. Met him? No, never.”
Melchior: “No, not on the way to Bethlehem nor anywhere else.”
Gaspar: “Sorry, but are you crazy? We didn’t meet him or any other kings – we try to stay well away from them … and from Roman Consuls too!”
“Well, I was getting on and I’d missed out on all the eligible women except for Mary and she was out of my class, if you know what I mean. I didn’t have a chance with her.
“But then she got pregnant and whoever it was didn’t stay around. So I jumped at the chance, of course I did. I even made up a story about being visited by an angel and all that, so as to match hers. Well, I didn’t want them saying she was a slut, you know? Or later, that Jesus was a bastard. Yes, Jesus, that’s my boy. Bad enough them calling him ‘Donkey Boy’ or ‘Barn Boy’ or ‘Hayborn’ … People can be very cruel – even children.
“Well we had to go to my home town Bethlehem to register for the census since Caesar Augustus decreed it. It was bloody cold and the town was full, except for the luxury suites and I’m just a carpenter. I mean, it’s a good trade but doesn’t pay for luxuries.
“Anyway, we got the stable for what they call a “cut rate” (‘cut-throat rate’ would be more like it) and then her waters broke and she had the baby right there. Well from that moment on, there wasn’t a moment’s peace, what with an angelic choir somewhere, smelly shepherds crowding in, wise men, curious passers-by …. We were glad to get our registration over with and be back on the road, I can tell you.
“The baby? Jesus, my foster-son. He’s a good boy but a bit dreamy. I can’t seem to get him interested in my trade. I do worry about him – I don’t know what will become of him when he grows up, honest. His mother says he has her crucified.”
“Oh please! Not that old ridiculous slander and libel again! Slaughtering the babies, indeed. Wasn’t it Jehovah himself who did that to Pharaoh’s people? No, no I never – why would I?
“Because of a prediction he’d be King of the Jews? Oh, puleeeeze! Nearly every fucking village in Judea has someone in it they’re predicting will be a King. If I went around slaughtering the children in every village we’d soon have no population in Judea – and, more to the point, no taxes. Not for me OR for Rome.
“Wise men? I never meet any, not in my court anyway. Wily, cunning, even clever, yes …. but wise? No. Well, maybe that’s a definition of wise men: men who make sure not to meet me. Heh, heh, heh!”
The Donkey’s story:
“It got to be a very crowded in that stable.”
The Cow’s story:
“Mmmmmm! Yes, it did – but warmer too, except when the door kept being opened as more people arrived. Mmmmmm!”
The lamb’s story:
“I didn’t like leaving my maaaaammy. And I thought I heard one of the shepherds mention kish kebaaaaab.”
The dog’s story:
“I really objected to being turfed out of the manger”.