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The introduction of the child trust fund has come at an opportune time for the family of one woodworker.

These days it is only if there is a census or a particularly bright star in the sky that you will find Joseph – son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, etc – down in Bethlehem. As a moderately successful itinerant carpenter in Galilee, he finds it hard to get back to the town of his birth.

Usually when he gets back to Bethlehem, he enjoys checking into one of the nicer inns on Ben Sahur and cruising the markets for a nice pair of sandals or a new tunic. “I prefer plain colours rather than the gaudy technicoloured coats those dreamers tend to wear,” he says.

But for this census, all the inns are booked up and Joseph has had to sleep away in a manger, no room for a bed. And the strain of the festive season is starting to show for poor Joseph, having recently married he already has a child on the way: “It has been a very difficult year. Since the signing of the Masons and Independent Furnishers InterRoman Directive (Mifid), we have had to adopt new Roman woodcarving regulation here in Galilee and Judea. Not only that but after Herod’s death in 4BC an angel of the Lord appeared to me in a dream saying my wife would be the mother of the Messiah. That has put a bit of a stress on the relationship.”

However, since the appearance of the angel of the Lord, Mary and Joseph have come to look at the birth of their first child with keen expectancy: “It is a bit annoying that all we could find this year was a bed in a manger but we are happy to make the best of the situation. What is important is to prepare now for the future. You never know what it will bring.”

He says he has been very concerned with finding the money to raise a child in such a tough epoch in history: “The distinct lack of centrally controlled interest rates and past performance data makes investment choices particularly difficult at the beginning of the first millennium AD. And no one yet knows quite what will happen to abacus systems come Y0K – a lot of people are talking about a millennium bug.”

As the breadwinner of a new family, Joseph says he is keen to make the most of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus’ recent tax breaks by getting his hands on the new Sandler-styleChild Trust Fund for his newborn: “The interest rates offered by the First Bank of Nazareth are attractive and the 1.5 per cent charge cap seems appealing. Unless the Roman Empire suddenly declines anytime soon, this should be a solid investment.”

Joseph usually puts most of his investments through his local IFA – Jehoshaphat Joram and Uzziah – where he recently secured a self-certified mortgage.

“It is hard to prove a regular income when I may earn anywhere from 15 to 30 shekels a year. Jehoshaphat helped me out immensely, instructing me to pay my taxes in Roman denarii rather than shekels or Greek drachmas and thus incurring extra charges.”

Joseph empathises with IFAs who have recently had to endure changes in regulation and an increase in professional indemnity insurance: “A lot of the woodwork in the temples has become fragile and brittle, causing my PI premiums to sky rocket so I can empathise with the plight of local financial advisers.”

Joseph says besides the new two-drachma temple tax and increased tithes and offerings to God, PI has been one of the single most crippling factors for doing business in Galilee and Judea: “Between the Romans and the Pharisees, the Holy Land has become an expensive place to be an Independent Furnishings Adviser (IFA).”

He admits once Mary’s child is born, the new family might flee to Egypt for a couple of years to negotiate a few offshore building commissions and also to escape slaughter at the hands of King Herod.

In preparation he has set up a meeting with three wise men from the East – fund managers with a particular style of stockpicking that Joseph is as yet unconvinced of its reliability. “They choose their stocks on the basis of constellations. I’m not sure how much weight I am willing to put into a star in the sky. Most of my best advice seems to come from angels of the Lord appearing to me in a dreams.”

Nonetheless Joseph says he is willing to listen to what the men from the east have to say: “I’ve heard good things about their gold and myrrh funds but I’m not sure about their frankincense offering. I don’t even know what frankincense is.”

As a group of Shepherds come down the road towards the manger, Joseph settles back into a seat he has cleverly constructed out of straw and awaits the birth of Mary’s child. The sheep are bleating, the donkeys are braying, the cattle are lowing but Joseph seems peaceful and contemplative, if just a little nervous, ready and waiting for the next big phase of his life.

Although it has been a hard road from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as well as having to come to grips with the world-changing implications of what is about to happen, Joseph ponders the name of the new child with a wry smile: “Mary says she already has a name picked out but I’m quite taken with the name Brian. What do you think?”Born: Bethlehem, approx 30BC. The son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, etc. etc.

Lives: Nazareth, GalileeEducation: Bethlehem Technical College (woodwork major)Career: 18 BC to date: Itinerant carpenter specialising in temple refurbishment and ornamental engravingCareer ambition: Be instrumental in the passing of the Israeli Manger Directive (IMD)Life ambition: Father the MessiahLikes: Working with wood, immaculate conceptionsDislikes: Lack of hotel rooms in Bethlehem, incense and myrrh, asparagusPeers say: “He’s a stand-up geezer although the wool is pulled over his eyes quite easily.”

Drives: Secondhand donkey from Naggai’s Ass Emporium, Capernaum


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