Several years ago, visitors to a church nativity scene found a stray puppy curled up in the manger. Was it just a coincidence that this "shepherd" was guarding the baby Jesus? The pup was later adopted but the photograph is still shared around the world, reminding us of the kinship between people and pets.
The lights, the music, the decorations - they're everywhere right now, constantly reminding us that Christmas is almost here. Last-minute shoppers are finishing their lists, and children are waiting with eager anticipation.
As we celebrate Christmas, we think of family and friends - all the people we know and care about. We also remember people less fortunate than we are, and so have shared some of what we have with them as well at this special, giving time of the year. Do animals have any place in this picture?
Animals certainly had a place in the first Christmas. The shepherds were tending their sheep in the fields, when the angels appeared, telling them they would find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. A manger is actually a feeding trough for animals - so the first ones to share at Christmas were the animals at the manger, sharing the warmth and comfort of their stable with the Christ child and His parents. When they could find no place to stay, Mary and Joseph found refuge and acceptance among the animals.
Today we often find some of that same acceptance from our pets. They're there for the celebrations and the sorrows, for the times when we're feeling great or when we need comforting. It's no wonder we call them our best friends.
So this Christmas, as you celebrate the beauty and joy of this holiday season, as you give and receive gifts so carefully chosen and wrapped, as you share the warmth and love of Christmas with your loved ones - at least once, look on the face of your furry friend and remember - remember the animals at the manger, who shared the very first Christmas with the Christ child, the new born King.
May you have a wonderful holiday filled with the warmth and love of family and friends, including the four-footed ones - when you’re speaking of Christmas.