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Cardinal Rules Part 6: On the birth of Jesus

The Not Primate of All-Ireland retells the story of the shepherds as they meet the awkwardly-titled Lamb of God.

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. And all went to be registered, each to his own town, for it was the way of things. Many went to have their names written in ledgers and to have their foreheads stamped with “property of the Roman Empire”, with “to be fed to the lions” in small print stamped beneath this.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. Although he went unsteadily, as he had been drinking heavily since Mary had told him “the good news”.

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. They did stay in a stable, for there was no room for them in the inn. And besides, Joseph had upset the landlord by “asking him outside.” And Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, while Joseph drank and said to the donkey, “You are my bestest friend. No, really, you are.”

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

And an excited young shepherd called Simon interrupted saying: “Is it more sheep? Are we getting more sheep?”

“No,” the angel did reply, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”

“It’s not sheep then?”, a shepherd called Timothy did say.

And the angel replied, “No, it’s not sheep. It’s better than sheep.”

“What can be better than sheep?”, Simon did ask. “Sheep are brilliant. Everybody knows that.” And all the other shepherds did agree, and there arose a great muttering among them as they discussed their favourite sheep and the angel did cry out, “It’s not sheep, okay? It’s not sheep.”

And silence fell among the shepherds. And they did feel ashamed. And the angel did say unto them; “It is Christ the Lord. The Lamb of God!”

“It is sheep then!”, Simon cried. And a great hubbub arose among the shepherds and they shouted for joy, and the angel shook his head and gave them directions.

“Baby. Swaddling clothes. That way.”

And they went with haste and found Mary, and the baby lying in a manger, and Joseph lying under the donkey. And Simon did ask, “Where is the sheep? The angel said there would be a sheep here.” And Timothy did say, “Lamb. He said lamb. There is a difference you know.”

And the other shepherds did laugh at Simon. And from that day forth did call him ‘simple’. And that is where the phrase ‘Simple Simon’ comes from, although it is not be confused with ‘Simplistic Simon’, a common phrase referring to a young fisherman in Galilee who was prone to making basic category errors on the subject of cheese pickling.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. And although they were a bit disappointed with the non-sheepy nature of their visit, all were agreed that the baby was cute and looked nothing like his father.

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About the author:

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

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