"Speaking for the shepherds in the Bethlehem area, we want something done about this Jesus person,' Isaac, son of Methish, demanded of the Sanhedrin, governing body of the Jews, as shepherds crowded onto the open courtyard. Fortunately, it was an outdoor meeting.
"We certainly share your point of view," Levitus, high priest of the year, responded emphatically. He didn't appreciate the scolding Jesus had been giving Pharisees in public. "But what is your complaint?"
"He's telling people that He is the way, the only way," Isaac said. "That means the old way of sacrificing on the alter will no longer be necessary and that'll be the end of our sheep industry."
"This means jobs and you know how hard it is to find good paying jobs these days," added Tish, son of Megosh. "And we don't have unemployment compensation or food stamps. They're way down the road and I don't think we can survive that long."
"We bring a lot of people into town," Isaac argued. "Thousands of sinners come from all over the world to sacrifice sheep at Passover and a lot of sinners need a lot of sheep. Passover is even better than Black Friday."
"Yeh!" agreed Zoar, son of Sychor. "They eat in townsleep in townbuy mementos.....it's great for small business and the small business people will all go down with the shepherds if this Jesus has his way."
"Moses really set us shepherds up good," Tish explained. "The Ten Commandments have been a boon for the sin business. We don't believe in sin but there's nothing wrong with us home town shepherds making a few talents facilitating repentance."
"Talk about job creation," added Ishmi, son of Jabbock. "We hire a lot of drivers to get all those sheep into the market. Last year, I had 20 servants on my payroll."
"Yes, and it was reported to us that you were hiring illegal immigrants Moabites, Hittites, Samaritans - as permanent undershepherds and without green cards," one stern-faced Pharisee glowered. (It was the only face he had.)
"Well, we couldn't find qualified drovers to fill the jobs," replied Isaac. "Besides, these folks work cheap. Immigrants are good for business."
"Rules are rules," Levitus responded. "And you know we have regulations against using these aliens."
"That's another thing," Ishni asserted testily. "We're tired of rules and regulations. Have you looked at Leviticus lately? It looks like government overreach to me. We need to cut back on those outdated regulations. They're killing our bottom line."
"If you just leave us to self-regulation, business will boom," predicted Magog, son of Kish.
"Give a shepherd a cubit and he'll steal your sheep," Levitus responded skeptically.
"Don't forget that the sheep industry is half of our gross national product," lectured Ishmi. "If that gets wiped out, half of the country will be on the dole and Caesar doesn't provide safety nets."
"Well, you shepherds brought it on yourselves," Levitus scolded. "You came running into Bethlehem, telling everybody that the angels told you everybody was going to get forgiveness with a new king."
"But there Jesus was in a manger just as the angels said," explained Ishmi defensively. "What could we say?"
"It seems that you are not so happy with your story anymore," Levitus concluded.
"Well, we thought peace on earth, good will to all men sounded good at the time but that was before we knew jobs were at stake. We had to change our story.business is business," Magog lamented.
"Well, don't worry about this Jesus business," reassured Levitus. "It won't last."
He clapped his hands to conclude the meeting.
Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor and former political science professor at UND.