Every year around this time, I wait for the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce to give me their annual Golden Manger Award, for the person who has done the most to promote Bethlehem tourism.
Once again, I have been disappointed.
You would not believe who they have given it to: the Junior All-State Klezmer Band, Constantine the Great, Attila the Hun, and even Joe the Plumber. So why not me, Herod the Great? Wasn’t I the one who ordered all my subjects to go back to the place of their birth in order to be counted in the census? Absent that particular order, there would have been no tender family scene in the barn in Bethlehem, and no multi-million dollar tourist industry. Weren’t my priests the ones who gave those three goofballs from Persia directions to Jerusalem? (But did they come back, as requested, and tell me what they found? No, they did not. Ungrateful.) Aren’t I the one who ordered all the baby boys under the age of two in the region to be slaughtered, because if there is one thing I have learned from the Romans it is that any ruler with any sense makes sure that all potential rivals for power do not live long. And had I not ordered the so-called Massacre of the Innocents, then the holy family would not have fled into Egypt and Western Art would not have had the pleasure of some of the finest works by Carpaccio, Bondone, Borromeo, Fra Angelico, Rembrandt, William Blake, David, and delaTour. Even the all-time favorite, Breugel, painted the census, albeit with a lot more snow than we had that year.
I will not deny that there are some unseemly bits in my biography that I would rather not focus on, such as killing my wife, children, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. But I suffered too! Just after that lunar eclipse – and we didn’t realize it was a lunar eclipse and so it scared the hell out of most of us – I died a very painful death of gangrene in unmentionable places. So it strikes me that given the great boon I have given to 2000 years of Christian iconography and souvenir sales, just this once they might give me the credit I deserve.
You can do your part, by writing to the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, Venerable Stable Recreation Center, Bethlehem, Israel (formerly Judea) and make your feelings known. A vote for me, Herod the Great, is a vote to recognize a real contribution to our collective well-being and economy.