Even an old cynic like me is positively affected by the Christmas myth. In fact it often inspires me to write a myth of my own. In the past I have written a couple in a series that I have called How a Famous Christmas Song Came to Be. This week I intend to follow in that same tradition.
Let me tell you the story about a little Spanish boy, Pablo.
In the time of the mythical Christ, which is the historical setting for my story, Spain as we currently know it did not exist and the Iberian Peninsula was occupied by the Romans who had previously dispelled the Carthaginians. One such Roman was the legionnaire, Avitus. Avitus was a good man and did his best to work constructively with the locals. In the course of his work he was posted to a small Spanish village. In time he befriended a boy Pablo, who had been orphaned at an early age. Having no family of his own, he adopted the boy.
There developed a congenial relationship between Pablo and Avitus. Avitus cared for the boy well and Pablo would tend Avitus’s horse and helped maintain his equipment. Pablo, because of his helpfulness and unfailing good manners became popular also with Avitus’s companions. Pablo, adopting the linguistic tendencies of his region was inclined to call his adopted father El Avitus or sometimes even El Padre.
Eventually Avitus was recalled to Rome. He petitioned his commander to be allowed to take Pablo with him. Because Pablo was genuinely liked by Avitus’s companion, permission was duly granted.
But soon after returning to Rome, Avitus was commanded to go to Judaea. Pompey had conquered Jerusalem and the Romans were determined to defend their new acquisitions in Palestine. Thus Caesar ordered Avitus to Judaea and of course, Pablo went with him.
Avitus was surprised at how ubiquitous the Roman culture had become in Judaea in such a short time. Why even the Inn at Bethlehem had a nice risotto or two, a couple of pasta dishes and a very tasty antipasto platter. And Roman candles were all the rage.
After a time, Avitus became interested in the Judaism of the local population. The more he learned about Judaism, the better he liked it. It seemed to him to be a very utilitarian religion. In order to pray to the Roman gods, Avitus had to familiarise himself with a dozen or more deities. Whereas, Judaism, very practically, only had one. In Roman theology he was always confused about who to pray for. In matters of love should he petition Cupid or perhaps Venus? When going in to battle should he put his faith in Mars to help him win or Pluto to guard against his death? There was no such problem with Judaism. He merely had to supplicate himself before Yahweh (or Jehovah or whatever he chose to call this monotheistic god) and all his problems could be solved.
(This was a precursor of what we called in the twentieth century “whole of government solutions” and about as effective for getting good outcomes!)
What’s more the Romans were beginning to make noises about Caesar actually being a god. But this held no sway over Avitus who had actually seen Caesar picking his nose, which seemed to him a very ungodlike quality.
Thus little by little Avitus and Pablo were won over by Judaism, Pablo even more so than Avitus. In the afternoons when Avitas was playing Bocce with his friends and partaking of a little vino, Pablo would retire to the local synagogue to pray and learn from the local Rabbi. Consequently he became aware they were living in a particularly significant epoch. The Jewish prophets had foretold that someone was soon to come who was going to save the world. (For my non-religious readers think Donald Trump or Pauline Hanson.) Not that the Jewish prophets seemed to have achieved much except to fill the Old Testament up with long and confusing narratives!
Little Pablo could hardly contain himself. He dearly wanted to be part of this unique event when Jehovah decided to send his emissary to earth, some even said it was his son, some indeed said it would be God himself, incarnate, to get us all back on track.
“El Rabbi, how might I get to know this one who has been promised us, the one who might right the wrongs of the world?”
“Little Pablo you must stop calling me ‘El Rabbi’, ‘Rabbi’ is sufficient. If you wish to know the Saviour you must pray fervently to Jehovah. It would not hurt either, if you were to do my washing.”
Pablo was by now a very devout Jew. He prayed incessantly. He not only did the Rabbi’s washing but swept out the synagogue as well. Eventually he reached his frequent flyer points hurdle for devoutness and the angels were thus compelled to reward him.
One cold winter’s night angels appeared before him.
“Pablo,” they declared, “you have been so devout that we are going to take you to see the Saviour, when he is born. We will visit you again soon because the birth is imminent. Already the three wise men from the East are approaching with their gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense. The Saviour shall be known by the name ‘Jesus’”
Pablo was overjoyed. He raced to the synagogue.
“El Rabbi,” he shouted, “the angels have promised me that they will take me to see the Saviour who is soon to be born.”
(It would obviously be a natural birth. In defiance of the occupying troops, a Caesarean section would hardly be appropriate.0
“Look, Pablo, you have no doubt been blessed because of your devotion, but please don’t call me El Rabbi.”
“But sir, the angels have told me that the wise men are coming with gifts to bestow on the little Saviour. They have myrrh, frankincense and gold. Might it not be appropriate that we should provide a gift as well?”
The Rabbi mused over this for a while, before replying, “Yes, of course we should give something as well. If you could persuade Avitus to give me a flagon of that delightful red that he and his fellows imbibe whilst they play Bocce, I might be able to manufacture a suitable benediction for the Saviour. Perhaps we could do something traditionally Jewish by bringing a little chicken soup.”
Every night Pablo went to sleep believing that it would be the night of the birth of the Saviour.
But before long he had a further angelic visitation. He awoke to find his room bathed in light. There before him stood three angels.
“It is time, little one. The Christ child is born and we will transport you to his crib to witness the majesty of this event.”
The goings on had awakened Avitus who was asleep in an adjoining room. He burst in to check on the welfare of his little charge.
“Pablo, Pablo,” called Avitus, “Are you alright!”
“El Padre, the angels have come to take me to see the Saviour who has now been born Jehovah has truly blessed me.”
Avitus turned and was astounded to see Pablo’s ethereal visitors. He was so surprised he almost wet his subligaculum. ( I know my usual readers are erudite enough to understand this word! But if this term is unfamiliar to you, just Google it.)
“He has come, El Padre, to save us and his name is El Jesus. And soon the angels will take me to be with him.”
The head angel gently chided the boy.
“If you are to see the Saviour, Pablo, you will need to learn how to address him properly.”
Pablo was somewhat nonplussed by this remark.
“But your reverence, is it not true that his name is El Jesus?”
But then in heavenly harmony the angels sang.
“No El, No El,” the angels did say.
And we have sung these famous words for two millennia since!