Let me share a special moment in my ministry when the children of Holy Family were invited by their teacher to decorate Jesus’ birthday cake. During my homily about lullabies, the children put sprinkles on the cake. Then they put the finishing touches on their birthday cards they each made for the infant. Finally, they made a list of toys and games that they promised to give to Jesus for his birthday.
When we brought the birthday cake up to the altar, I gave each child a stuffed toy that depicted the animals that were in the barn on that first Christmas. These were no ordinary animals for on that first Christmas day, the animals had been given the gift of speech.
It was on a special night, in a simple stable, that ordinary animals became special animals because of the unique and most precious gifts each of them offered to Baby Jesus. It was a donkey, which carried the baby's mother safely on his back. And a sheep who gave the baby a special woolen blanket. Only a kitty could have purred the baby to sleep and it took a brave dog to keep watch over them all. Unique in this barn was a giraffe that watched for three special visitors who would come to pay homage to the infant king.
"Yes, everyone has a unique and most special gift to give at Christmas," said the cow. "That's why animals like us are given this special gift of speech each Christmas Eve at midnight. So we might tell our children about those very first Christmas gifts given by ordinary animals."
The animals gathered at the door to the stable. Suddenly they saw a bright star in the sky. "Yes," said the cow. "It is a special star that will always remind us of that special night when the most special baby was born."
Their teacher read the birthday cards the children wrote and the gifts they would bring the infant Jesus. A two-year boy drew a baby, some pie and a potato. Another young lady drew a blanket, a pillow and a coat. Someone drew a picture of a John Deere gator and a dirt bike. Another child drew a piece of chocolate candy. A six-year girl drew an ornament with the face of Jesus. Another drawing had a picture of a four-wheeler and a teddy bear.
The children took their cards and animals and placed them into the manager in the sanctuary. The candles on the birthday cake were lit and the children along with their moms and dads and grandparents and all the parishioners sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.
Notice in the photo above, how the children puckered their little mouths to blow out the candles. Noticed more the spirit of joy in their eyes and smile. It was truly a holy moment of peace and joy.
Perhaps it has been awhile since we felt this kind of joy and peace on Christmas Day. Let the expressions on these children’s faces be a source of comfort to you now that the Lord of Peace has come into your life and wants you to feel this same peace and joy.
Take another look into these precious eyes and see the wonder and the light of God’s peace for you. A Holy and Merry Christmas. Fr. Matt