“Here and Now” seems to have adopted a disconcerting quota of mainland and international news items in its 60-minute nightly run. I’m talking about non-Newfoundland items that would have been deemed as desperation programming moves back in the day — a journalistic crime — violating a philosophy of being unabashedly and almost exclusively local.
Still, there was at least one provincial piece aired by the Mother Corp television types during Christmas that I couldn’t get out of my head.
And that was the shocking theft of the Baby Jesus from his stable setting at Corpus Christi Church in St. John’s.
Despicable, it surely was. Downright despicable.
I wasn’t sure whether this startling event had received coverage in other media outlets until my trusted source and relentless researcher, Harbour Deep Throat, sent me a copy of this story that appeared in a publication called The Newfoundland Nativity News:
POLICE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR MISSING MESSIAH
By Bob Beatific
Nativity News Staff Reporter
ST. JOHN’S, N.L.—Wrapped in what officials described as “swaddling clothes,” an infant identified as Jesus Christ was brazenly stolen from his makeshift crib in a lean-to just outside a local church in the west end of the city last night.
A spokeswoman for Church and State matters, Const. Victoria Vision, confirmed for The Nativity News that the Baby Jesus — as he has become known over the centuries — was stolen in a so-called grab and run theft when his parents were distracted while watching reruns of the inspirational program “Touched By An Angel” on their generator-powered, four-inch television set.
The mother, inexplicably called the “Virgin Mary,” despite having obviously given birth to the missing infant (a not-to-be-questioned miracle, according to religious dogma), was obviously and understandably distraught when she met with a reporter with The Nativity News, her distress exacerbated by the fact that she was having difficulty trying to keep her balance on an icy sidewalk in front of the church.
It was thought initially that Mary, who almost went belly-up at one point, actually swore on the St. John’s city council — and Mayor Danny Breen, in particular, but it turned out to be a misguided prayer of some sort (at least that was her spiritual spin).
Once she had her footing, Mother Mary was inconsolable as she talked about the stolen child.
“His Father, his Father in Heaven, that is, had big plans for the Baby Jesus,” Mary cried. “He was sent to Earth to atone for all of our sins — Muskrat Falls, for example. And in 33 years from now, he is to be crucified in what will amount to a tortuous, bloody death that will eventually be made into a gratuitously violent movie by Mel Gibson.”
Mary’s husband, Joseph, a rather nondescript carpenter to whom history has never been particularly generous — portraying him, as it has, as somewhat of a minor character in his marriage — seemed embarrassed by his wife’s revelations that the son was destined for a horrific death at an early age, and that such a terrible end of life was to be applauded.
“I know I play second fiddle in Jesus’ life to the Heavenly Father,” Joseph said, “but I still love the kid.”
Joseph had hoped the Baby Jesus might join him in the carpentry business, and that they might make a small fortune building homes in Galway, a few miles away from the lean-to.
“I just got a grand present of a skill saw from Mary that she got on sale when Rona shut its doors,” Joseph lamented. “I hope he’ll be returned so’s I can show him how to use that tool without cutting off his thumbs before he leaves to save the world.”
There were reports that three wise men had been seen earlier that evening near the stable, but Const. Vision said they were not suspects, and were asleep in their beds at the nearby Waterford Hospital when the crime took place.
Social media, needless to say, was in overdrive as word spread of the theft of the Baby Jesus.
“Well, if he doesn’t return, that’s at least one less messiah we have to deal with in Newfoundland,” one commentator sarcastically noted. “The last messiah, St. Daniel of Town, delivered a $12-billion pile of coal under every Christmas tree in the province.
“And we’re still paying a fortune for what the original Newfoundland messiah, St. Joseph of Gambo, gave us as a gift way back in ’69.”
Others, though, felt the theft of the Baby Jesus was devastating, and worried aloud what the bad publicity would do to the Tourism Department’s sales pitch that Newfoundlanders are the friendliest people in the world; that there’s not an a***hole to be found anywhere.
“This is nothing to be downplayed," wrote one. “And certainly not to be blasphemed by soulless columnists.”
Crime Stoppers has offered a reward for the return of Baby Jesus: an old recording of Gene Autry singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
Recent columns by this author
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org