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Monica Doumit: The closest ‘Boss’ of all

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What’s the remarkable thing about Christmas and the faith it brings into the world? God becomes one of us. Photo: Picryl, Public Domain

There are more than a few similarities between a fascinating reality TV show and our journey here through life. God is much closer to us than we imagine.

Have you ever seen Undercover Boss? It’s a UK- and American-based reality television program with a fairly simple premise. The Chief Executive Officer of a large corporation, like a fast food franchise or a hotel chain, goes ‘undercover’ as a new employee at one or more of the stores or hotels and is trained by the local manager. They do all the basic jobs: flipping burgers, serving customers, taking out rubbish and more.

The ‘boss’ gets to know several of the staff and hears about their ideas for the business, their personal stories and struggles. At the end of the program, the boss reveals his or her identity and rewards the exceptional staff members with some financial gifts that speak to the personal circumstances they discovered.

The financial rewards given to the employees at the end are significant, but not life-altering. Examples are things like buying someone who has a long commute to work on public transport a new car so they can get to their job more efficiently, paying the college tuition for a person or for their children, giving them a promotion or a pay rise, or enough money for them to go on a holiday or a gift for a parent who has been very supportive.

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The participants insist it is not staged (the CEO wears an elaborate disguise and while the cameras are visible, staff are told it is for another reality show), but it can seem a little fake at times. It doesn’t matter though. It still made for addictive watching during my second round of COVID earlier this month because it was something that didn’t require much brain power or concentration to watch.

Don’t judge me for crying at reality TV, but I often found myself in tears at the end of each episode, as hardworking employees are recognised for going ‘above and beyond’ in ways that are often unseen.

With apologies to the theologians amongst us who will probably kill me for making the analogy, I can’t help but think that the show is a modern-day representation of the Christmas story.

In order to be close to them, the boss takes on the ‘likeness’ of his or her employees, including wearing the same uniform. It’s incarnational, in a sense.

The real ‘gift’ is them being personally known and recognised in a role where they can often feel like just another underling.”

The boss faces all their same toils as the employees do. There is no job that is too small or demeaning for the boss; they get their hands dirty. There is nothing that is ‘beneath’ the boss. He or she is part of the day-to-day experiences of the employees.

The boss also gets to know each employee individually. Sometimes, the staff complain to the “new employee” that senior management does not know what it’s like “on the ground” and are distant and disinterested from the experiences of ‘regular’ employees.

Finally, the boss does something special for each employee that is tailored to respond to their individual circumstances and make their lives a little easier. Even though the CEOs of these multi-million and even multi-billion dollar companies could reward them with a lottery-size bonus that would enable them to quit their job or at least take a few years off, that’s not what happens. The employees still have to keep working and studying and striving.

The real ‘gift’ is them being personally known and recognised in a role where they can often feel like just another underling. These employees will still go back to their jobs and their studies and their home lives but – after encountering ‘the boss’ personally – they will do so with a greater sense of purpose. They no longer feel like slaves, but co-workers.
Yes, the analogy is a little imperfect and the show itself more than a little cheesy, but I recommend tuning in to at least a couple of episodes after you’ve finished the classics like Elf and Miracle on 34th Street.

A happy and holy Christmas to you and your loved ones, dear friends. I hope and pray that your Christmas season is filled with the joy of knowing the ‘boss’ who loved you so much that He came to dwell on earth, just so that you could one day live with Him in heaven.

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