SAVING CHRISTMAS

‘Right,’ said GOD, squeezing his ample frame into his two-for-the-price-of-one Ikea revolving office chair.

He’d put on weight since this pandemic began. It wasn’t that his lifestyle had altered; it was just that making man in his own image had somehow become a two-way street down which he had unwittingly trod. ‘This has gone far enough.’

He surveyed the room.

This time he’d had the forethought to book a conference suite, rather than pack his rapidly expanding team into his own office. That had caused Death – who claimed to suffer from claustrophobia – to take a Mental Health day, following last month’s meeting. Strange that, GOD had often thought, for an apostle whose sole mission was to pack souls into tight fitting wooden overcoats.

His Apostles were seated at the table along with the most senior of his prophets; the lower ranked, the pre-Pentecostalists, the saints and his most senior and more attractive angels stood at the back of the room, fidgeting nervously and preparing to take notes.

‘Pestilence,’ GOD began, ‘I thought I had told you to wrap this thing up.’

Pestilence, seated on GOD’s left, drummed a pencil on his glass, and stared uncomfortably at the graphic on the screen at the end of the table. It displayed three statistics: a marginal rise in global deaths due to his pandemic; slightly below that, the average seasonal global deaths, and a third graph representing the number of countries who had gone into full lockdown. The peak of this graph was now considerably higher than it had been in March.

‘And stop tapping that glass. You really have no idea how irritating it is.’

‘Sorry,’ replied Pestilence, his unease amplified by the certain knowledge that most of his colleagues took delight in his sudden meteoric fall from glory. Even Death couldn’t be bothered to conceal his lopsided smirk.

‘But I did what you asked me to do GOD. I downgraded the virus so that it’s now only fatal to around something like … I don’t know … maybe one in one hundred thousand?’ He took a deep breath and fumbled with his pack of Malboro. ‘It’s not my fault that governments around the globe are just totally over-reacting to this.’

‘No … no I agree, it’s not entirely your fault’, countered GOD. ‘With that I concur.’ GOD’s eyes roved the room, before settling on the next recipient of his vitriol. ‘Politics, I hold you responsible for this mess, at least in part.’

Me GOD?’ Politics shifted uncomfortably in his seat. ‘What have I done to incur your disfavour?’

‘Oh come come, Politics, don’t play the innocent. I wasn’t born fifty million years ago, you know. Let’s start by taking a look at what you’ve achieved in Poland, shall we?’

‘Poland?’ Politics remarked uneasily. ‘Why Poland?’

‘Yes …. Poland. Just look at what you’ve allowed that idiot Andrzej Duda to implement. First, the legislation against abortion, and then the protests. So what does he do? He imposes the strictest lockdown in any country yet – martial law.’

‘Yes … yes I understand. But the churches are still open GOD. And, anyway, you don’t agree with abortion, do you?’

‘That may well be, Politics … that may well be. But there’s a time for such legislation, and this it certainly is not it. And another thing, Politics, did I give my permission for you to release that orange-faced ginger-toupeed idiot?’

‘Well … not exactly GOD. But you know it’s against our protocols to keep souls in Heaven against their will. And … in any case, Clinton protested vehemently that replacing Monica Lewinski with him was contravening his divine rights.’

‘Just make sure he doesn’t get re-elected.’

‘Of course, GOD, he won’t. I’ve already taken care of that.’

The room fell silent, many sensing what was coming next.

‘You do realise where this leading?’

No one spoke.

‘There’s talk that Christmas will be cancelled.’ God nodded his head gravely, letting this sink in. ‘My. Son’s. Birthday.’

Political Correctness summoned the courage to speak.

‘This cannot be, GOD. Surely, it is not possible.’

‘You tell that bumbling goat-headed blond idiot in No10 that. Death, you should have taken his soul when you had the opportunity. To do so now would leave me open to suspicion of divine manipulation, and risk a further drop in my popularity.’

‘Unless …’ Politics piped up, ‘we could blame it on Putin.’

‘Enough!’ GOD banged his fist on the table. He had made little effort of late to disguise his anger at how the year of His Son 2020 was turning out. ‘Not once in …’ mental arithmetic wasn’t one of GOD’s strongpoints . ‘Not once in over two thousand years has my son’s birthday been cancelled. Not once! Not even during the Black Death, or two World Wars. Not even the Congo Christmas Massacres, The Asian Christmas Tsunami, The New Zealand Christmas Train Crash, The Kentucky Christmas Race War, The Australian Christmas Cyclone … need I go on?’

No one spoke.

‘Not one of these events saw the cancellation of Christmas … not one. You know what they did? They simply contextualised each event with the word “Christmas” and got on with it.’

‘Well surely,’ Political Correctness began, somewhat hesitantly, ‘surely we could somehow suggest that humans refer to Jesus’ birthday … for this year only, as the “Chinese Christmas Flu”?’

GOD banged the table again with such force that Pestilence’s pack of Marlboro fell to the floor.

‘Pray tell me how your pandemic, Pestilence, which began with the bat-eaters over a year ago can be re-assigned to my son’s birthday? Hmmm?’

Pestilence had no answer to this.

‘I think I might have an idea,’ said The Holy Spirit.

‘We’re all ears,’ said Politics, whose ears did remind one of badly designed jugs.

‘Why don’t we move Christmas?’

‘Move Christmas?’ GOD boomed. ‘Over my dead body!’

‘No … hear me out,’ The Holy Spirit persisted. ‘We move Christmas to the week before Easter. That way we have almost three weeks of celebration of GOD in three Divine Persons, two festivals, one clear message: we are open for business and we ARE flexible. Unlike some other religions.’

‘Hmmm … I can see some merit in this plan,’ GOD replied. ‘And, I suppose it would give us more time to locate three wise men.’

‘It would be just like Woodstock,’ said The Holy Spirit.

‘What, when Hendrix turned up late? I never forgave him for that. Playing the closing set on a Monday morning, for goodness’ sake.’

‘The Muslims won’t like it,’ said Political Correctness.

‘Screw—‘

‘Don’t even go there, Death! You may not like it, but we’re all in this together.’

There was an uneasy silence in the conference room.

GOD spoke.

‘Right, Politics, please inform the Pope, and all Heads of State – well of the most significant countries anyway, so don’t bother with China – of our decision. Christmas will, for this year only, be combined with Easter. It will be known as … hmmm, let me see … Chreastermas!’

GOD reclined in his Ikea revolving office chair and lit a huge Cuban.

‘And will someone please inform that … that silly old fart with his flying reindeer – who continually detracts from the real meaning of the celebration of my son’s birthday – that he will not be required this year?’

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