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steve tomkins
crows nest
By Stephen Tomkins
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Gold, frankincense and a GPS tracking device
December 2008

Jesus has returned to Palm Beach County, Florida.

The celebrated Christmas baby has graced the lawn of Wellington village community centre, in the form of a $1,800 Italian ceramic doll, each December for the last few years. And each year he has gone missing.

This time, however, he has come again. His owners have taken the precaution of fitting the earthenware Saviour with a GPS unit used for tracking the application of mosquito spray. They followed the satellite and it led them to the very place where the baby lay, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid face down on the floor of an apartment.

An 18-year-old girl is helping police with their enquiries, and BrickHouse Security is helping local churches with their security.

Yes, 'tis very much the season, and all of us in the Crow's Nest wish you and yours, and indeed everyone else (unless you feel that devalues yours, in which case stuff 'em) a wondrous jolly one, with a round up of all that's Christmassy in the world of trivial religious news.

Spare a thought for those pinched by money troubles at this time of year. Organisers of nativity pageants in Wisconsin, we hear, are being forced to cut down on their use of live camels. The cost – $2,100 for a pack of three on Christmas Eve – is a little steep for some in these straitened times, and suppliers are finding that customers are sticking to donkeys and sheep ($250 for half a dozen). So if you're a Midwesterner whose Christmas isn't complete without a camel, you might be able to get a bargain.

Someone who's not feeling the pinch, it seems, is Batman. The Dark Knight has turned up in Sheffield, UK, helping out at charity shops, hospitals, hospices and soup kitchens and giving away ¢10,000. With an accent midway between Gotham city and Rotherham, he has kept his real identity hidden, saying, "I'm a playboy millionaire, that's all you're getting."

"At first we thought he was a joker," said a worker at Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice charity shop, who clearly hadn't seen the latest film. Staff say takings have gone through the roof.

"If I inspire others to give their time and money to good causes this Christmas," said Batman, "it's been worth it." Which is all very well, but where are the camels?

Meanwhile the churches' contribution to the Christmas spirit has been more on the traditional lines of arguing and getting in a tizzy. Rev. Stephen Coulter has sparked off this year's storm in a sherry glass by banning "O Little Town of Bethlehem" in his church. He recently visited the devastated West Bank and says that "How still we see thee lie" does not represent the present political reality there.

As indeed it doesn't, but why stop there? "Snow had fallen, snow on snow" hardly reflects reality either, and neither does "On a cold winter's night that was so deep," so that's off with "In the Deep Midwinter" and "The First Nowell". Meanwhile, "We Three Kings" is disqualified for "Born a king on Bethlehem's plain / Gold I bring to crown him again..." when Israel is a republic. "I Saw Three Ships" is also out, as Bethlehem is 40 miles from the coast.

Presumably, anything about peace of earth is out, while "Ding Dong Merrily on High" completely fails to reflect any kind of reality, political or otherwise, as it's complete gibberish.

The Australian astronomer Dave Reneke has discovered that Jesus was born on 17 June 2BC, as Venus and Jupiter crossed then and would have been unusually bright. An invaluable theory for explaining where a bright new star might have come from, but perhaps not so useful at explaining how it crossed the sky and stopped over the roof of a stable.

And there's just time to mention that Thomas Edward Lackie of Sarasota, Florida, was arrested at the beginning of December for throwing a Christmas tree at his father. Which is by way of a reminder that there are many Christmas spirits – choose yours with care, and may it bring you jollity and merriness.

also see
hubris 2
Mark Howe's regular rant about Internet culture
strangely warmed
Andrew Rumsey's regular column about the religious life
loose canons
Stephen Tomkins' regular round-up of the saints of yore who were one wafer short of a full communion
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