Governments have always been as they are today, in need of money to finance wars and roads. To collect money from those whom they govern, governments levy taxes. In ancient times, so we’re told, these taxes were based on censuses. If all the people were counted, then the government would know how many households to tax.
For the sake of argument, let’s say a tax census occurred somewhere in the area of the world we call “the Middle East.” Ordered by an Italian absentee landlord who needed more troops to fight a war in England, this landlord (we’ll call him Caesar) says, “I’ll count and tax people on the other side of the world to pay for my war in northern Europe.”
Two people who lived in the “Middle East” got the message that people counting was required. One of these two was a young, pregnant, woman. She was engaged to the other person. Officially, he was the one going to be counted. They weren’t married, but since they were about to be married and she was about to have a baby, she was coming along for the ride.
Under the Italian’s rules, to be counted, you had to go to your hometown (they lived in a place called “somewhere”) and register with the census office in that city. So the couple headed to the man’s hometown. They had to travel from where they were lived to a different location. His hometown had a different name. It was south of over there but between verses four and five. It was called “the place.”
When they arrived at “the place” the girl was ready to give birth to her baby. The man had trouble finding lodgings for him and his fiancé. His relatives were unable to host them. The few “haberdasheries” in “the place” were full. In time, she gave birth in a “thing” because there was no room for them at any of the “haberdasheries.” The girl wrapped the baby in a bunch of “stuff” and laid him in a “thing.” Despite the inadequacies of the “stuff” and the unsanitary nature of the “thing”; all seemed right with the world.
A cow appeared. At first, the man thought the cow was lost. Why would a random cow appear in a “thing” just as his child was born? Shoo cow, shoo. When he eventually realized the cow bore a child carrying an 18th-century snare drum, he understood this to be a sign from God. Only God would give an infant such a noisy, useless gift. The cow was soon followed by donkeys, goats, and shepherds.
In a bar on the edge of town, the sheep people encountered a group of folk singing extraterrestrials. Despite their reluctance to sing “Go Tell it On the Mountain” in A minor, the shepherds understood their instructions from the angel band to go into “the place” and look for a baby wrapped in “stuff” and lying in a “thing.” Never ones to reject a challenge, especially on a Saturday night, they went: grown men to wake a newborn baby and his exhausted mother. No way this could end poorly.
There he was, just as they were promised, a baby from “somewhere,” now in a “place,” wrapped in “stuff,” lying in a “thing.” They couldn’t wait to tell the world what they’d seen.
What were they going to tell?
Yeah, that thing about the baby in the place. It makes perfect sense to me.
Richard Lowell Bryant