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Flashback: When NPR Retold Christmas Story With Hybrids and 'Wise People

Flashback: When NPR Retold Christmas Story With Hybrids and 'Wise People

"The story of the first Christmas two centuries ago..."

In 2007,* NPR aired a Christmas special that included its favorite Christmas stories told by some of its favorite authors and contributors. The special included Scott Simon telling a new version of the birth of Jesus, complete with FEMA and Katrina references, as well as hybrid cars and the politically correct "wise people" instead of "wise men."

So why talk about something three years old? Well, NPR is once again featuring the special under its "Holidays 2010" and "NPR's Holiday Favorites" categories.

Here's the new four minute Christmas story. Notice how the narrator opens with saying that the original Christmas story occurred two centuries ago, which would have put Jesus's birth around the early 1700s 1800s. I hope she meant "millennia" instead of centuries:

The full program can be heard here.

But that's not all, Simon tweaked his new Katrina Christmas story two years later in 2009, this time it featured Mary and Joseph losing their unemployment benefits:

Joseph and Mary hitchhiked to an abandoned factory near Cleveland. Their unemployment compensation had run out. Joseph was a carpenter, but the only work going on in his neighborhood was boarding up storefronts. He and Mary had no place to live; and Mary was pregnant.

She told Joseph that he would be the child's father, but he wasn't the child's father. The spark that began the life of their child, she said, came from—well, it was too embarrassing and ridiculous for Joseph to repeat.

Friends told him he was being taken for a fool. But Joseph loved Mary; he knew that the last few months had been hard. He decided that whatever fantastic stories Mary told him, he would love the child as his own.

That night, Mary had a baby boy. He seemed healthy, wrinkly, and had a nice, loud cry. Mary swaddled their baby in old copies of bankrupt newspapers and laid him down in the back of an abandoned car.

A stray gray dog, grimy from the road and whimpering with loneliness, kept watch over the baby and warmed him with her panting. Joseph also put his iPhone close, so their baby could be lulled to sleep with a lullaby app.

That night, a star appeared in the east. Three Wise Persons—Warren Buffett, Alexander McCall Smith, and Monica Ali—came to behold Joseph and Mary's child.

They wanted to bring the child gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But they hadn't been available since Lehman Brothers collapsed. So the Wise People brought gift cards to Chipotle. The infant saw them and smiled.

Mary saw the look of delight in her child's face and said to herself, "He's happy with us." But she saw Joseph sitting by himself at the far end of the garage. She knew he was worried about how he was going to make a life for their child. When Joseph came back to the car, his eyes glimmered.

"I think I finally understand," he said. "Why we've been given the gift of this child. It doesn't matter who the father is, does it? Every child cries for our love and deserves our care. Every child who is hungry in Sudan, or cold in Cleveland. Every little girl who is abandoned by a roadside in China. Every little boy in Congo who's dragged into someone's army. Every little boy and girl anywhere who is threatened by an epidemic, an explosion, or indifference—I must love them as a father loves his child."

Mary and Joseph sat with their arms around each other, and their baby boy. The dog—whom they decided to adopt on the spot—hopped up on the seat beside them and put her head gently onto Joseph's lap. The star that had found them seemed to stay above them for a moment while their child breathed softly, safely, peacefully in their arms, looking out at a world that seemed suddenly new.

Author's note: Some may argue that this is simply satire. That may be true. But just think what kind of outrage would occur if an NPR contributor satirized Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Ramadan, or "retold" the story of Muhammed and changed key details. I'm sure the Muslim community would be up in arms.

*The audio notes that the original report is from 2005, which is when Simon's story first aired. However it re-aired as part of the Christmas compilation in 2007, too.

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