“The Friendly Beasts”
United Methodist Hymnal – #227
Then all the beasts, by some good spell, in the stable dark
were glad to tell of the gifts they gave Emmanuel.
Everyone has favorite images of Christmas. Many like the glorious heralding of the angels, over the pastures where shepherds kept watch. Maybe others like the grand procession of the three Magi, resplendent in their finery, riding their camels to Bethlehem and the manger. Then there’s always the star, shining overhead, pointing the way to the Christ Child. But my favorite is the stable, and not just the stable, but the animals in it. The gentleness of the sheep and cows stands is such sharp contrast to the rough surroundings. Additionally, the legend of the animals talking on Christmas Eve is hard to ignore. One has to wonder if the animals communicated that night, beyond the stable, in a 101 Dalmatians kind of communication line, announcing the birth of baby Jesus. The presence of animals has been a source of inspiration for years. The Medieval Matins service for Christmas Eve sang of the animals’ presence in the stable (O magnum Mysterium). The animals in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind and the Willows, sing of the same, as they carol door to door. And here, each animal tells of his or her contribution to the comfort of the Christ Child. Lowly animals? I think not. What could possibly be of more value that the ability to comfort the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace. In this season of Advent/Christmas, we should take another look at the dog or cat lying so peacefully in our chair. Come Christmas Eve, you never know what they might be saying.
“Who were the first to cry NOWELL?
Animals all, as it befell, in the stable where they did dwell!
Joy shall be theirs in the morning!”
THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
God of all creation, The beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea are yours. Yet you have charged us to be stewards of all living things. As the beasts looked on, your Son was brought into the world. We pray that the same world might become one where the lion lay down with the lamb, and the cow and bear might feed together, and a little child shall lead them. Amen.
~Rev. L. Michael Kelley