On Christmas -- please remember the significant place of animals in the story of Jesus's birth. He was born in a manger alongside the animals....no greater, no less. Whether you accept the story of Jesus as religious doctrine or you appreciate it as relevatory myth, the lesson is clear: the animals, too, are sacred.
Considered either fairy tale or filtered word-of-mouth history, the story presents a Divine lesson whether we claim Christianity as our personal faith or not. The lessons of Jesus evident in the actions and statements attributed to him have retained strength over the millenia. They contain an inescapable truth that some still don't promote: those whom society regards as throwaways are indeed primary in the eyes of God. I see no greater evidence of this than the words attritubed to him when he delivered what's come to be known as The Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
It doesn't matter to me whether a human being, an ordinary teacher, a radical rabbi, a messiah, a streetcorner prophet, or a Gallilean wood worker shared these cautionary insights. The words, reminders of what we should nurture as we progress in life, provide an instruction manual for how to live for the benefit of all
creatures, not just the two legged opportunists who have exercised a vile superiority over other species. The beauty of the manger scene and indeed of Christmas eve readings and services is undoubtedly the peace and harmony that reigned in that manger when the child was born. The specific location places the Divine on equal footing with all earthly creatures, most importantly the animals, whom we know to be innocent. Therein lies the equivalency. Jesus did not "lower" himself to be born. The animals, pure in spirit, pure in heart, accepted him into their domain. Even though the entire manger story has of late been regarded by many theologians as literary invention, I respect its educational and moral merit. Because I have to.