Illustration: David Rowe
Wise men, do your thing. Follow the star and bear gifts.
Because this is sometimes a political column of sorts, allow me to riff off the wise-men symbolism as it applies to the latest unedifying development in the national debate, before I return to the thorny business of Christmas giving and receiving.
For wisdom in politics now seems to be about as elusive as principle - or a Coalition policy, or Bill Shorten's ability to find a fitting metaphorical means by which to highlight this.
Last week Bill said: ''… the opposition don't seem to get it at any point and I hope that at some point in 2013 they'll reveal their workplace relations policy, because it's a better-kept secret than [insert veeeeeery long pause here and a futile search of heavens with eyes for comparison while grinning sheepishly] … no it's probably the best kept secret I can think of.'' Hello, Bill! Among the options here were: Bob Carr's humility; Joe Hockey's kitchen skills; the NSW Right's conscience; Kevin Rudd's capacity for forgiveness; or the career prospects of James Ashby and Peter Slipper.
The only wise head to prevail in the Slipper-Ashby mess was that of Judge Steven Rares of the Federal Court, who dismissed Ashby's sexual harassment claims as part of a plot to undo Slipper.
The government was predictably quick to claim high moral ground (somewhere near Jericho, 260 metres below sea level, which is very handy because it fits neatly with today's biblical theme)*. But they've been terribly slow to understand that out in voter land it all just seemed like a bundle of sleaze, and ministers and shadow ministers pre-empting legal outcomes.
Among the most interesting things to emerge from Ashby-Slipper, though, was an ABC report that some bloke who apparently manages Ashby's media strategy** charges $500 an hour. Gotcha. I've heard of neurosurgeons and plumbers gouging that for an Australia Day call-out but I hope it came with a warranty, James.
No happy Christmas, then, for Ashby or Slipper, whose end as speaker seemed fatally predetermined from the moment he was dragged to the chair in November last year.
Meanwhile, I'm planning on being on an aeroplane this Christmas Day. Which might mean my younger children receive fewer gifts that by New Year's Day end up all over the floor as small, jagged pieces of hardened plastic that make me yelp like a manager of opposition business in the house when I step on them on the way to the bathroom at 2am.
Hopefully, too, it will mean my mother-in-law can't give me the same monogrammed polo shirt for the fourth consecutive year. I have tried, delicately, to make it known I'm not a monogrammed polo shirt kind of guy and that green-and-purple horizontal stripes do not much flatter the middle-aged male torso.
There's one rule in my household, designed to minimise the amount of Christmas spending, that I routinely break. My beloved and I have a pact that we won't buy for each other. But come Christmas Eve I usually find myself reflexively making a last-minute dash to the mall for earrings or perfume, a book or something.
Once my mother would scrutinise the un-openings and remark in general earshot hours later, in what I'm led to believe was her way: ''Oh, so you mean she didn't buy you a present at all?'' These days her mum asks pointedly: ''Why didn't you get him just a little something?'' (Me: wry smile.) Potential answers to this question include: a) because he buys me a present only so you don't think he's a crap husband; b) because he doesn't deserve anything; and c) because he's already got three of those lovely monogrammed green-and-purple horizontally striped shirts that make him look like a dachshund jammed into a tea cosy.
The interesting thing about boarding a plane on Christmas Day this year to avoid Christmas Day is that, despite myself, I'm going to get two Christmas days.
One in Canberra and one in New York.
I'll take New York.
* Jericho is also the only place in the world where you can have lunch at Jericho Fried Chicken (JFC), a dining experience paralleled only, perhaps, by the first shawarma shop on the right, across from the church, when you enter Nazareth (a great place to buy a nativity set) from the Jenin end.
** The term ''strategy'' used as loosely as … (help, Bill).