Nativity reborn

23rd December 2005 at 00:00
This year could see the last Christmas story before its long-awaited reform and restructuring.

From the outset the nativity scene has been a hopelessly overstaffed and inefficiently managed affair. We see in it the last remnant of an educational dark age when simple, starry-eyed folk thought lowly stables mattered more than league tables and no one had the wit to put baby Jesus on the gifted and talented register.

Fortunately, those days of excess and naivety are now numbered. The kind of outmoded practices found around that crib are soon going to change under the new workforce remodelling. If ever there were an institution with too many people holding pointless positions of responsibility it is assuredly that Bethlehem stable. Very few gathered around the manger are contributing anything at all to the teaching and learning of the child there.

Consider Joseph. What exactly is his role? He's not exactly the father and there was no obvious gain in him leaving the craft centre in order to manage Mary on the way to Bethlehem. It's quite clear that Mary does not need any such figure looking after her. It's a clear case of management duplication and keeping Joseph back on the shop floor in Nazareth is the first of many obvious savings to be made by the new, reforming governing body up on high.

And do we need quite so many shepherds on the scene? Do we, indeed, need any at all? There is no obvious educative role for them in the stable and the presence of a handful of convenient lambs for them to manage simply smacks of jobs for the boys. So, although I may not be the first to suggest that the shepherds are "over-staffed", I suspect workforce remodelling will mean that I am almost certain to be the last. Mighty dread is going to seize their troubled minds, and this time with good reason.

Similarly, it may mean redundancy from now on for the tall, quiet kid at primary school but we have to question whether the star is not surplus to requirements by the time people have secured entry to the stable. The role should be seen in future as just a temporary leadership post. By the time they (whoever's still left) are assembled the star should perhaps take on a more pro-active, welcoming, front-of-house role in the stable rather than simply looming uselessly in the background. That way the star might just about manage to cling on to his current management remuneration.

It's much the same for the Angel Gabriel. He too has really done his job by the time the baby has arrived and any angel worth his place on the ultimate senior management team should surely move on to other duties rather than lingering around in the hay.

As for the three wise men - what on earth do they think they are doing, still carrying all those gifts themselves? Under the new workforce arrangements kings should not have to spend time and energy on such chores.

Carrying gold, frankincense and myrrh is clearly "an admin task".

From now on all kings should be able to focus entirely on king-related tasks - in short, paying homage where appropriate and otherwise having more planning and preparation time for a career of undiluted, benevolent dictatorship. That is what they were trained for and so that alone is what they should have to do.

Plainly the little donkey, carrying Mary, was ahead of its time.

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