In the stillness of a cold winter night being with the animals in the barn is one of my favorite places to be. I can just imagine…
It was evening- we were waiting for Farmer Luke and Farmer Mom to come out to the barn and tuck us into our nice warm pens where fresh hay and grain awaited us each night. My friends Lamb-chops and Flanders the sheep waited with their thick woolly coats covered in bits of hay from reaching up into the manger for the last of the hay in the outdoor feeder. Mr. Sheepie waited while keeping a close eye on the comings and goings of Annabelle and Clementine as they rounded up their chicken friends so they could all run into the barn together when dinner was served in the chicken coop. Sir Winston and Lady Bella waited while bobbing their heads to some internal beat of their own - ducks are a bit strange that way.
It was very quiet except for the soft clucking of the chickens when Annabelle spoke up and asked me to tell a story while we all waited. Donkeys have the tradition of being the barnyard storytellers so I thought back to the stories I had heard from my mother when I was just a colt. My favorite story was one I had asked for many times - my mother had pretended to be tired of telling it to me but I could tell from the sound of her voice as she told it that it was her favorite too.
The sheep settled down in a pile a straw and the chickens and a few of the ducks gathered round finding places to roost on the beams above our heads. My best friend Gertie sat right beside me clucking her encouragement as I took a deep hee-haw breath and began to tell the tale.
It was in a place very much like this barn and a very long time ago. That barn was home to another family of animals - just like us. My great-great-great-great grandmother (maybe a few more greats - my mom wasn't quite sure) was there one night when something so wonderful and so spectacular happened that she could never forget it.
It was a cold night and the other barnyard animals were talking excitedly about their day. The chickens always had lots to talk about - the big worm they had found in the apple orchard or finding the grain on the side of the road that had fallen off of the farmers cart on his way to market. But it wasn't any of those things they were talking about that day. It wasn't a usual day for the goats either of being let out to graze in the fields with the goat herders near by or being frightened by a bear in the distance that the goat herders had to chase away.
This was an extra-special-very-un-ordinary-day because some guests had arrived in the barn. The animals were very curious about them. One of the guests stood quietly near them munching some hay with a far-away look in her eyes. The others were in the sheep and donkey stall. The animals were trying to decide who they could send to speak with her and finally decided to send my great grandma to have a donkey-to-donkey talk while they quietly crowded around to see what she would say. The cows bell jingled softly around her neck as she strained to hear what was being said. The chickens quietly clucked to themselves - wondering what was happening. The ducks just bobbed their heads making no sound at all which as very unusual for them. Grandma joined the guest at the feeder and introduced herself. I'm Grandma Maybe - what brings you to our barn this cold night? The guest finished chewing her hay before answering - for it's impolite for donkeys to speak with their mouths full. With the quietest hee-haw she whispered - I came with those people over there. The man kept saying - we need to get to Bethlehem.
Grandma Maybe looked into the stall where she usually slept with her friends. The light from a moonbeam streamed right into the pen so she could see quite well. In the hay manger - right on top of their nightly ration of hay was a BABY! It's parents were looking at him with big smiles on their faces.
What was a baby doing in there!!
A few minutes later the barn got even busier! All the shepherds came in! They seemed excited and curious. They looked at the baby with big smiles on their faces too.
Weren't they supposed to be looking after the sheep??
One of the shepherds was a young boy who was always very friendly to all the animals. He came over to scratch Grandma Maybe between the ears. He seemed to be thinking really hard about something and then he said:
Grandma Maybe: we saw angels tonight. They sang to us out in the fields! One of them told us: “Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” ...and look - THERE HE IS - just like they told us!
The barn was very still - you could only hear the sound of the gentle wind outside as Maybe finished the story. Lamb-chops the sheep was the first to speak "That was a special night! I wish I was there to see it myself." The other animals nodded in agreement.
Then they all heard the sound of Farmer Luke and Farmer Mom coming towards the barn - they wouldn't have to wait any longer for their evening meal. The animals remained unusually quiet as they made their way into their suppers and then their beds - no loud quacking or clucking or hee-hawing or baaaaaing - everyone just went peacefully into their pens and thought and thought about the story Maybe had told them.
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”