One day God was talking to the angel Gabriel. They were reviewing the way the world was going. There were the usual number of wars going on, the Roman Empire was still expanding, no one had yet discovered the Chinese - except the Chinese themselves - and as usual the same four teams were at the top of the Premier League.
Gabriel was just about to go when God turned to him and said, "Gabriel, I wonder what it's like to be a human being!"
"But God," said Gabriel. "You know everything. Don't you know that already?"
"Well, yes," said God, "in a way I do. I know all about them from the outside. I know better than they do how they work. I even know why they have an appendix, and they'll never work that out. I know what it's like to be rich better than any poor person and what it's like to be poor better than any rich one - and I discovered the Chinese ages ago.
"But I don't know what it's like to be a human being from the inside. How it really feels, what their hopes and fears are."
"I think I understand," replied Gabriel, "though it's not something I ever thought about before. But why would you want to know that. Aren't things O.K. just as they are?"
"Well, you see Gabriel, the problem is that I can't really love them. I can design the world for them, make sure there are plenty of resources for them to use and good things to enjoy - though they are terribly wasteful - but they don't really know me and I don't know them. We can't really build a relationship - and how can I really love them unless we can do that."
"Well, God, it's an interesting idea, but there are limits, aren't there. I mean, you're God, they're humans, you're in heaven, they live on earth," and Gabriel turned to go.
"Wait a minute," cried God, "you've just given me an idea! Supposing I were to become a human being."
"Ugh!" said Gabriel.
"No, listen! If I became a human being and lived a human life, I could get to know what it's like being human from the inside.
"I could grow up as a child, and have to go to school. I could learn a trade and work for a living - carpentering I think, something down to earth - anyway, I like creating things.
"I would need to experience the good side of life, so suppose I had very loving, understanding parents. But I would need to see the bad side too. I would need to experience poverty and danger, be hated and misunderstood, treated unjustly, even killed. Then I would really know from the inside what it is like to be a human being.
"And, what's more, they would have the chance to know how much I love them and what I'm really like. They wouldn't need to go on thinking of me as that remote person up in the sky. They would see me as I really am."
"Yes, but God," put in Gabriel, "that's all very well, but we need you here looking after the universe. How will we all cope if you go off to earth?"
"That's all right, said God. "I'll get my Son to do it. He knows just how I feel, I'm sure he will want to do it."
"What, become poor and go through all that discomfort and then get himself killed?"
"Yes, I know he will. He loves me, remember. And he loves a challenge. He'll do it for me - and for them."
"Yes, but God," said Gabriel. "If you're going to do this crazy thing, just think how you will have to start. I mean, it's risky, it's demeaning, the God of the whole universe can't become ........."
"Why not?" said God. "I told you it would be dangerous, didn't I? I want to be one of them. How else should I start? And I tell you what, Gabriel, you can set it up, for us. "
"You want me to go down there and arrange with some young woman that you're going to arrive on earth as ..."
"That's right," said God, "a baby."