Imagine you’re a bystander, just happening to be there, watching the nativity story unfold. Not a convenient passer-by but … an animal. The Christmas story is full of animals, from donkeys and oxen to sheep and camels, so – why not?
Sarah the spider, resident of Mary’s home in Nazareth (note: Mary doesn’t sweep away Sarah’s web because it catches the flies) observes Gabriel and the Annunciation. Daniel the donkey carries Mary and Joseph to the stable in Bethlehem where he also finds rest. Obadiah the ox, who lives in this stable, grudgingly makes room for the interloper and then is present at Jesus’ birth. Lilah the lamb comes with the shepherds, having seen the angel with the amazing news, and Khalid the camel, along with his mates Kanika and Keb, are the transport for the wise men as they follow the star.
The story could just contain these appealing cameos and come to rest as a children’s animal storybook. But Aileen Urquhart gives us more: she uses the sensitivity and understated humour that we have come to expect from her, and into each chapter weaves a simple and relevant point for the child to take from it.
Each animal understands the part they play. But we see the wider, complete story and recognise the significant part that is played by each, illustrating as it does the value that God places on all living things. As Sarah the spider says, “I knew that the world was a beautiful place where angels give messages of hope and that God is with us all. So I was full of joy.”
Beautifully illustrated by the talented Emma Repetti, this delightful book will be a valuable and well-loved addition to the bookshelf in any home, school or church.
“This whole story is about the most wonderful baby in the whole wide world, and all babies, whoever they are and wherever they are born, share his beauty and glory, for ever and ever.”
The Animals’ Christmas by Aileen Urquhart, illustrated by Emma Repetti, £9.95 hardback, available from Redemptorist Publications, www.rpbooks.co.uk