Let’s face it, if you’re reading this when it pops up on the screen, you should be vandalising the sprouts, ironing the wrapping paper, or lying under the tree with a bauble or three, or whatever it is you do on this festival of Mammon. Someone is going to catch you on the computer and pull the plug. So you’d better be quick.
Perhaps a nativity playlet will pass the time between snacks.
Scene: Bethlehem. BC4. Three shepherds are gossiping over three pints of wassail.
SHEPHERD 1: Are you going to the count tomorrow?
SHEPHERD 2: After a hard night watching the flock? I haven’t got the time.
SHEPHERD 3: You know what the Romans’ll say: that you’ve taken leave of your census. You heard what that Herod said?
INNKEEPER: Oy! Stop that. Rule of the house: No Rumour At The Inn.
(Knocking.) Who is it? No Rumour At The Inn.
WOMAN AT DOOR: I’m Mary, and this is my husband, Joseph.
INNKEEPER: No Rumour At The Inn. What have we here, a couple of Bedlamites? What do you want – a berth for the night?
MARY: If this is the one-star lodging we’ve been looking for. We’ve come all the way from Nazareth for the countdown.
SHEPHERDS: Nazareth! That’s the one we were told to watch out for.
MARY: Who might you be, sirs?
INNKEEPER: Three wise men, if they know what’s good for them. No Rumour At The Inn!
MARY: Perhaps a manger? A stable? We don’t want anything fancy. No en suite or anything.
INNKEEPER: Just as well. I’ve been booked out since Easter. I’ll get some bedding. (He goes off in search.)
SHEPHERDS: Are you the Mother of God?
INNKEEPER (returning): That’s the last straw.
SHEPHERDS: She’s the Mother of God.
INNKEEPER: For Caesar’s sake, there may be Pharisees about. No
SHEPHERDS: … Rumour In The Inn. We’re off to help them make the stable up. Move the sheep.
INNKEEPER: Your husband’s very quiet. What sort of business is he in?
INNKEEPER: Ah, a carpenter. Always the silent types. It’s the buzz-saws, makes them deaf. Still, if the manger gives way, he’s well-placed to fix it. It is a bit wonky.
SHEPHERDS (in a rush): He’s sulking because he thinks the baby isn’t his.
INNKEEPER: I said –
SHEPHERDS (hurrying away): We know, we know.
INNKEEPER: Sorry, love. Shepherds. Bunch of crooks. I hope the nativity goes well.
INNKEEPER: Local lingo. Herod’s keen on latinate diction. What are you going to call it?
INNKEEPER: Oh, that’s unusual. South American, isn’t it? (Three wise men arrive, chattering.) Hello, hello, hello, what have we here?
WISE MAN: Chaldeans. We bring gifts. For the baby.
MARY: Oh you shouldn’t have.
INNKEEPER: Keep it down. No Rumour…
WISE MAN: Gold. Frankincense. And here, have a dab of this (he smears unguent on the innkeeper, who begins laughing).
INNKEEPER: Ha ha ha. As the Sunderland manager said, The myrrh the merrier. Get it? Night all! (They leave, as the innkeeper’s wife wanders in. Pause, then, sotto voce:) It’s on, sweetheart. Once in royal David’s city. It’s in Isaiah. Read up on it.
INNKEEPER’S WIFE: So we…
INNKEEPER: Ring Herod in the morning. This time next week we’ll be running a motel down Galilee way.