Summary: The animals are more than role players in the miracle of Christmas.
A Journey Through the Stable II
Christmas really begins in the Old Testament. The promise of a coming Messiah
filled the pages of the Hebrew Bible. The Old Testament was the Bible of Jesus, and
he understood that he was the fulfillment of its prophesies. Jesus fulfilled these
prophesies by coming to earth, in human form, born as a baby in a stable.
On October 30, 1938, a science fiction story called The War of the Worlds was
heard. People heard about a supposed invasion of Martians. Some 2000 years ago
an invasion actually did take place but this invasion is not a work of fiction, it did
not take place from outer space, but according to the Bible, from heaven itself and,
unlike the fictional invaders in The War of the Worlds, he did not come announced
to millions of listeners, but silently, almost unnoticed, except to a few relatively
minor people of that day and a few animals.
How about the role of animals at Jesus’ birth?
Animals play a role in the greatest story ever told. Being animals, they could not
sing of it or talk of it. Nevertheless their role was very important. What would a
nativity scene be without stable animals?
One of the animals we always see in the stable is the donkey. Donkeys are humble
animals. People often make fun of them because of their long ears and criticize them
for being stubborn. A donkey had many uses back then: pack animal, riding animal,
even food. But the donkey was a beast of burden. It’s main job was to carry things
for people. Not a very glamorous job, but one that needs doing.
Jesus came to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows, like a beast of burden. He
carried them all the way to the cross. Not a very glamorous job, but one that needed
If we look around we would probably see a cow in the stable, as well. Whenever we
see a cow, naturally we think of milk. Milk is one of our most basic foods and it’s
one of the first foods that babies take.
You know, it’s hard to imagine Jesus, our Lord, who was there from the very
beginning of everything, coming down from his place in heaven to start life here on
earth at the beginning as a baby. But that’s exactly what he did. The cow reminds us
that Jesus started all over again, with baby food, like milk.
If you look around the stable at all the animals, I would guess you might find the
goat to be the most comical. Bouncing around, they seem to be having the fun. But
as with most animals in Jesus’ time, they had a variety of uses. They gave milk (like
cows), people ate them, their hair was used as tent material, their hides as bottles.
They also served as sacrifices during Passover.
I think one of their best uses, though, stems from their demeanor. They always seem
to get into mischief, which can be frustrating, but it usually makes people laugh.
Kind of like our own children, don’t you think? Do you think Mary and Joseph
shared a laugh or two in the stable watching the goat?
When you think about it, isn’t it nice that God gave us some things to make us
laugh. The goat is God’s invitation to laugh and rejoice.
Look up on the crossbeam. Some people think that the rooster is God’s alarm clock.
Roosters crow at dawn, kind of like telling the world to wake up, a new day is here!
Look at the season of Advent as God’s rooster, in a way. Advent tells us to wake up
- because God has something new for us, a gift of his perfect grace. The rooster
says, “Wake up and live like a child of God!”
How many of you have ever been in a stable or a barn? Or live anywhere within 5
miles of a farm? Then you all know about flies. Do you think there were flies in the
stable where Jesus was born? There probably were. I mean, animals were there,
(that’s what a stable is for) and where there are animals , you’ll find flies.
The Bible tells us in 2 Kings 1:2-3 that the inhabitants of Ekron worshipped the god
of flies, Baalzebub, to avert the evil done by flies . Flies may not be pleasant but
they serve a useful purpose in providing food for birds and other creatures. Flies
remind us that not everything in life is pleasant, but even unpleasant things have a
In the Bible, the dove serves as different symbols. The psalmist uses the dove to
designate Israel, another symbol is one of innocence. The most common symbol of