It was a quiet evening on Christmas Eve in the farmyard barn and all the animals together with the birds of the air were restless. As they began to settle down for the night, the wise old Barn Owl began a quiet conversation with the others.
“Hoo, hoo” she asked aloud, “who is God’s favourite?” “Me, me” answered the Peacock as he spread his truly beautiful tail feathers for all to see. “Why of course it is I” he proudly boasted. “I am the most beautiful creature on God’s good earth” he called out as he strutted up and down the barn.
“Beautiful indeed” called back the mother hen, “and haven’t you ever looked down at your feet?” With that, the peacock deflated his beautiful tail feathers and bowed his head in shame. For you see, he already knew about his feet. He had heard the story that when God discovered that the first peacock was committing the sin of pride, He turned his feet inwards as a punishment.
“Hoo, hoo then?” again asked the barn owl. A tiny voice answered: “It could be I” the tiny Goldcrested Wren tried to raise his voice in order to be heard. “After all, I am the King of All Birds. I tricked the great Eagle by hiding among his feathers and when he had reached as high as he could fly, I flew twelve feet higher. I was crowned King and have the mark of a King on my forehead”. “True, true” came a chorus from some of the animals and all of the birds.
The barn owl interrupted. “Is it not also true” she asked, “that it was you who betrayed Jesus in the garden by whistling and whistling until the soldiers came and found Him where you were calling from? We all know what happened then. They took Him away and we all know the result of your twittering”.
The next to speak was the Robin Redbreast. “It was I who tried to wipe the blood from His hands and feet when He was nailed to the Cross. For that, he gave me my red breast. I think it might be me”.
The sheep began to baa in unison. “We visited him after He was born in the stable and gave our wool for His swaddling clothes and as bedding in the manger. He loved us dearly and even called Himself the Good Shepherd as our reward. We stand a good chance”.
One of the old cows began to moo. “You were not the only ones there: when His Mother Mary was tired, we gave our milk to feed Him”.
The conversation began to get noisier as each and every animal and bird tried to make their point until the din became too loud. “Shush” called out the Barn Owl, “or you will have the farmer wondering what is going on. I notice that you” indicating the Donkey “have little to say, what is your story?” the owl asked.
“I may not be beautiful like the rest of you, nor give fine wool or milk” the donkey spoke quietly and gently. “I was not there when He was on the Cross, but yes, I think that Jesus would still call me his best friend”. A riotous chorus erupted. “Why” said the horse “you look nothing like a proper horse. You are too small. You are smelly and as for moving fast – I have seen a snail move faster”.
“Another thing” the goat called out “whenever Jesus was seen with you, people used to call out ‘Here comes the one with the long hair and his little smelly ass'”. All began to laugh at the little donkey until the barn owl scolded them. “Let him have his say” she demanded.
The donkey smiled and slowly continued. “You see, I was the one who carried Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem when she was almost ready to give birth. I never complained once. It was I who gave the warmth and heat in the stable before the shepherds and sheep arrived. It was I who carried them into the desert when the soldiers were searching for Him and killing all the little babies. I saved him you know”. As he paused, there was not a sound from the other animals and birds.
“Well then” sneered the fox who had sneaked in through a wooden gap in the side of the barn. “What reward did He give you?” “I never asked for one” the donkey proudly replied. “I did everything I was supposed to do without complaint. Of course I would like to have been more clever, more beautiful, much faster and less smelly, but that was not to be. He did however give me something to be extra proud of. You see this cross upon my back” he said as he stood sideways. “He put that there to remind everyone and in particular myself that I was the friend of Jesus and no one can ever take that away from me”.
“Hoo, hoo…..who else?” asked the Barn Owl……..but there was absolute silence as all the animals and birds stood quietly with their heads bowed….