If you could step through a portal back to 1st-century Bethlehem on Christmas Eve...
"Imagine there's a portal going back to first-century Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. What gift will you bring the Baby Jesus?"
Suspend your disbelief for a moment if you don't believe Jesus ever existed.
It's the question I posed for my friend's weekly Virtual Cocktail Hour, held every Friday at 7pm since the beginning of pandemic lockdown.
After we moved beyond historical criticism ("There's NO evidence to prove Jesus ever existed!" Archer reminded us in that stern manner of your third grade teacher who was quite quite quite tired of reminding you that silly story about George Washington and the cherry tree never happened) we began talking about what we might bring and what the ramifications might be.
We had a week to think about it.
The night we answered the question Archer, our hostess, felt compelled to remind us in case we'd forgotten what she'd said the previous week, "...the gospels are not a good record of Jesus's life AND how they portray someone who wasn't all sweetness and light." This ignited some discussion on whether the Gospels portrayed him accurately at all, since not a single scrap of any Gospel was an original, none of the writers knew Jesus and everything was written after Jesus's death. The history of Bible translation is one of countless errors, relentlessly piled one on top of the other over the centuries by monk after overtired monk, everyone working from copies of copies of copies. Maybe the originals are lying around in a cave somewhere, a la the Dead Sea Scrolls, waiting to be discovered by some shepherd boy looking for his lost goat.
Skeptical Archer's gift to Baby Jesus was lots of writing materials so Jesus could explain his goals in his own words. She'd give him lots and lots of paper and a whole whack of ballpoint pens. No trusting to a bunch of later religious fanatics to get Jesus's words right. Let him tell us in his own words, and preferably lots of them. Especially those lost years between twelve and thirty!
While Archer is the inveterate skeptic, I'm the pain in the ass critic who finds the flaw in every plan. How long would ballpoint pen text last in the desert, I asked, even if it was preserved in jars in a cave?
Also, who can translate it all from the original Aramaic?
Janie wanted to give Jesus a camera so we'd know what he looked like, prompting her partner Cameron to joke that he could borrow it and take it around Bethlehem getting girls to do nude selfies and telling them, "Don't worry, only Jesus will ever see it!"
If the camera was an iPhone, would some brainiac, like maybe Plotinus or Hypatia of Alexandria, find it later and accidentally engineer something malevolent like someone did with the Terminator's damaged arm to one day turn into the malevolent Skynet?
I wondered as well how long an iPhone would last in the desert. Would the iOS's NANO RAM chips preserve the photos of Jesus or would they degrade over the millennia? Especially if the lost goat peed on it.
Let's just hope Jesus remembers to delete all the photos of those hot Gallilean chicks before he throws it away or they're sure to wind up on the slut-shaming Internet 2,000 years later. Heck, no one ever even thought their embarrassing photos from the 1980s would one day come back to haunt them worldwide. But there they are.
I myself considered Jesus's safety. His unspeakable end wasn't necessary, as far as I was concerned, and if I could save him from one of the worst tortures ever, I would. To be perfectly frank, I think Jesus was a good man and a wise teacher in many ways, but he needed to watch his mouth. Let me tell you, when they 'cancelled' people back in first-century Palestine for shit that pissed them off, they didn't mess around. I said I would bring some teachings from the Buddha on 'right speech' and mindful words, which would have been historically doable for Jesus as Buddha lived a few centuries prior. But if others are going to bear an iPhone and Bic pens, now that I think about it, Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends & Influence People would be a much better choice for dealing with those Pharisees.
Sometimes, Jesus, it's not what you say, it's how you say it. And hopefully he'll be able to speak more diplomatically, if I can find someone who can translate the book before Christmas.
But if I was trying to help Jesus save his own tuchis, Archer's husband Dan schemed to give Jesus something to do besides wandering around as an impoverished teacher shooting off his mouth. If nothing else, Jesus would love him forever as the guy who gave him probably his best gift ever.
Dan planned to give him a full set of carpentry tools.
(Even as a child I wondered why the Three Kings didn't bring the Saviour practical gifts, like toys!)
Cameron clearly had porn on his mind that evening as he wanted to give Jesus a Playboy and a camel, since every growing boy needs inspiration and wheels!
I'm quite certain that magazine would have gotten Jesus into a lot of trouble when his mother found it, and she would have. Mothers have a sixth sense about these things. If there's a porno mag anywhere within eight furlongs of the kid she will hunt it down, roll it up and whack him upside the head with it. It's hard enough to hide stuff from your mom in 2022, where exactly would Jesus put it? He couldn't stuff it under the mattress, he probably slept on the ground. There was no basement to stash it somewhere, and his father would have found it when he was down there building cabinets or something. Jesus might have gotten a helluva whuppin' for that. He might have been so upset he jumped on his camel and went riding off to visit Mary Magdalene, who was known to 'comfort' unhappy boys from time to time.
Other suggestions were a nice casserole to support Mary (but make it vegetarian as meat and cheese must not be mixed in accordance with Jewish law) and maybe a nice box of Pampers. Although Mary will really miss them when they're gone and she's washing out cloth diapers again in the River Jordan.
So what would you bring the Baby Jesus? And why? Tell me in the comments section!
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