And I assume they are not surprised every year when I decline, always with the same excuse: “I have to stay home and feed the animals.”

They invariably respond: “What a shame you have to spend Christmas with your animals.”

More than 2,000 years ago, another man spent what would become Christmas Day with the animals. In fact, He was born among them. He was not dressed in a cute little blue sailor suit or put on exhibit for everyone to see. Instead, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a simple manger, a trough where livestock had fed.

Mary and Joseph did not stay at a fancy motel with room service and halls decked with holly, but in a stable. Surrounded by God’s creatures.

And who did the angels choose to break the news that the Savior was born that day? Lo and behold, the angels selected simple shepherds to tell everybody what the Lord had made known to them. They had been in the field watching their flocks by night on that very first Christmas Eve.


So I don’t think it’s such a bad thing that I’ll spend Christmas with my best friends ... the animals. If it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.

I always get a joyous feeling on Christmas Day on my way to the ranch. The stores are closed and the streets empty as I pass houses where fathers are watching football or trying to read instructions in Chinese in order to put together Junior’s latest toy.

Grandpas are taking naps, and Grandmas are, no doubt, trying to save every last scrap of wrapping paper and ribbon. Moms are doing dishes, and the kids are looking for batteries. Me? I’m on my way to feed the cows, a Christmas ritual I enjoy.

Christmas is indeed a magical time of year. This Christmas I will probably give my dog a new flea collar and a few extra rubs on the belly. My horse will get a carrot and a few extra minutes of my time. I will feel a kinship with those shepherds as I check the pregnant ewes. In a few more weeks they’ll be lambing, and the thought of spinning tails and legs that are too tall will cause me to smile. It always does.

I will throw out a few extra flakes of hay for the cows and their new fall-born calves, who will seem cuter to me this day. I won’t be in such a hurry to finish feeding. My Christmas tree won’t be perfectly shaped, but it won’t be plastic either. And it will be alive tomorrow, providing protection for an assortment of livestock.

I wonder: If Jesus came again on this Christmas Day, would He have to stay with the animals again because the hotels would be full of tourists? Probably so. I can’t imagine He’d have reservations. My in-laws would most likely invite Mary and Joseph for Christmas dinner, them being downtrodden and all.

I also wonder: If the lowly shepherds were once again chosen to announce the arrival of Jesus, would the media stars who pass for reporters take them seriously? They probably wouldn’t even bother to interrupt the football game and make a special announcement of His return.

Oh, well, the kids would probably rather see Santa anyway. And our modern-day wise men would likely scoff at the thought that the Lord would communicate with lowly shepherds when He could have used the Internet.

But the shepherds, the cowboys and I, well, we can relate to the man and His message born more than 2,000 years ago. We see God’s handiwork every day of the year ... “Bright and beautiful, great and small, wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.”

Happy Birthday, Jesus. end mark