Have you heard on the radio, or seen on YouTube, dogs and cats singing Christmas songs? They are kind of cute … the first time. After that, not so much.
I know some people are convinced their animals can talk to them. Maybe I’m just not a good dog whisperer, but I don’t get what they are saying most of the time. And I don’t spend a lot of time speculating.
There is a little Christmas song that does some speculating on what some animals might have said if they were present at the birth of Jesus. “The Friendly Beasts” (also known as “The Gifts of the Animals” among other titles) has been recorded by such notables as Harry Belafonte, Johnny Cash and Garth Brooks.
The song is thought to originate in 12th century France. It was originally written in Latin as a part of The Donkey’s Festival which celebrated the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt during Herod’s persecution (see Matthew 2:13-15). The modern words were written in the 1920s and attached to this ancient tune.
In this fourth installment in our Life Matters “ADVENTageous” series during December, let’s speculate on what animals might have been present when Jesus was born (the Bible doesn’t mention any), and let’s pretend that we can understand their account of this most significant of all births. Approach it with childlike wonder.
Jesus our brother, kind and good was humbly born in a stable rude.
And the friendly beasts around Him stood, Jesus our brother, kind and good.
“I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown, “I carried His mother up hill and down;
“I carried her safely to Bethlehem town. I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown.
“I,” said the cow all white and red, “I gave Him my manger for His bed;
“I gave him my hay to pillow his head. I,” said the cow all white and red.
“I,” said the sheep with curly horn, “I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm;
“He wore my coat on Christmas morn. I,” said the sheep with curly horn.
“I,” said the dove from the rafters high, “I cooed Him to sleep so He would not cry;
“We cooed him to sleep, my mate and I. I,” said the dove from the rafters high.
Thus every beast by some good spell, in the stable dark was glad to tell of the gift he gave Immanuel, the gift he gave Immanuel.
This song speculates that the animals gave to Jesus what they could. What will you give this Christmas to the One who came for you because your life matters to Him? Will you offer Him yourself? Will you make room in your family gathering for Him to be the center of attention?
By the way, if you hear my dogs barking during the night, I’m sure they are wishing you a Merry Christmas.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Dr. Gerry Lewis, author, blogger, church consultant and leadership coach, serves as executive director of the Harvest Baptist Association headquartered in Decatur.