Being a progressive and radical sort of a chiel, I’m always open to new ideas and unorthodox thinking about ancient shibboleths. Time waits for no wan; no wan at all, and it behoves us all, I think, to reappraise long-cherished beliefs in the light of modern experience.
Let’s face it: you can hardly see anything by Shakespeare these days that hasn’t been given a 21st-century makeover. Before the end of this decade, I’ll be disappointed if some enterprising director hasn’t taken Macbeth and set the action in a gargantuan space station called Dunsinane, where the witches are all shape-shifting aliens and Macbeth himself is a tragic Tim Peake sort who breaks into a rendition of Space Oddity after another painful encounter with the missus.
As a Christian, I’m well aware that to attempt any recalibration of the life of Jesus is to invite holy opprobrium from the church’s Taliban wing. Yet, there is very little new under the sun and I’ve always felt that the life and times of Christ contain messages that are even more sharply apposite to present-day events than they were in Galilee 2000 years ago. Billy Connolly recognised this too, with his brilliant Crucifixion, which set the last days of Jesus in the East End of Glasgow.
This was a work of genius that shed new light on the suffering and death of our saviour and made it more real for many in his audiences who may not have been able to tell a monstrance from a Monster Munch. Thus, the crown of thorns became a jaggy bunnet and Judas was a wee fud who got on everyone’s tits. “See you Judas, you get on ma tits,” said the Big Man (Jesus) to his disloyal chum. This would have conveyed much more of Jesus’s sense of disillusionment prior to his death than anything in the gospels. And yet I believe it remained true to the spirit of God’s word. Is that not the main thing?
At this time of the year, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth from Christian traditionalists who deplore the fact that the true meaning of the season has been engulfed by a tide of consumerism, self-gratification and excess.
Each year, they wait for the unveiling of the first minister’s Christmas card hoping that it might contain something holy. Each year, they are disappointed. In actual fact, this year’s card was quite daringly traditional in that it featured a man and a woman dancing together. I would have expected something a little less binary in the card’s depicted gender arrangement. Get this sorted for next year, Nicola. And so, at the start of a week when primary schools everywhere prepare to put on their nativity plays and to tell the story of Jesus’s birth, I think they should be encouraged to experiment with a new model. We live in a post-Christian society and I feel that it’s important than no one is left out. My play would begin with Joseph, a Polish immigrant living in Lanarkshire, discovering that his virgin wife is pregnant. He endures a long, hard night of the soul in which he ponders modern child maintenance issues and universal credit before opting to do the noble thing. It soon becomes clear that Jesus and Mary are supporters of Scottish independence. Joseph is visited in a dream by an ethereal William Wallace figure who tells him that Mary’s child is to be the anointed saviour of the nation who will deliver independence. A probe will appear in the sky shaped like a giant cigar, which will guide them to a place called the Gallowgate, where the child must be born.
Three mysterious magi have also seen the giant cigar in the sky. There are two women and one man, and they are from poor countries whose people have pitched up in Scotland to escape repressive regimes. They come bearing gifts of Buckfast tonic wine, Nike trainers and Burberry jackets, for they have been told that this child will be special and that His ministry will be among the downtrodden and the dispossessed.
First though, they encounter a king called Trump who is striving to turn Scotland into a giant golf course and a nuclear missile base. When Trump discovers the purpose of their mission he secretly arranges with his puppet, Theresa May, for the CIA and MI5 to kidnap all the babies being born that week and put them all on rendition flights. For the cruel king knows full well that a saviour born to lead Scotland out of captivity would put an end to his nuclear and golf adventurism.
Unaware of the looming danger, Mary and Joseph use all their savings to hire a taxi because of overcrowding on ScotRail, but when they arrive in Glasgow they are told there has been a boundary charge and that they must make the rest of the journey on foot.
Worse, there are no rooms at any of the inns, for they are full up with office Christmas parties and amateur drinkers who want to dance with them. No one offers even a spare room because of the government’s bedroom tax and the family are directed to Parkhead food bank to look for some swaddling clothes.
In the sky above, they suddenly see a bright light coming from the space probe. It has stopped directly over a place known as Bellgrove. It is here that the birth must take place – and thus to the world a saviour is born. Only the jaikies guarding their Special Brew by night are there to witness the event. Soon the magi arrive and tell the new parents about Trump’s threat. In another dream, Joseph is told to take the mother and child and flee to England until the coast is clear.
A new threat materialises, though. The government announces that there is to be a hard Brexit and gangs of Ukip and Britain First thugs are roaming the countryside looking for migrants. The family then creep back over the border to Scotland where Joseph, a humble carpenter, finds work making bedside cabinets at Ikea. Mary ponders all these things in her heart and her child bides his time quietly.