Tuesday, December 19, 2006

In praise of mangers

I often hear about what a mean place our Lord was born in. People emphasize his humble beginnings by talking about the stink and cold of a manger in the middle of winter.

It wasn't the Taj Mahal, to be sure, but I can tell you from personal experience that a barn is a lovely place to be at any time of year. And having had two children in a hospital, I can say with all honesty that I wouldn't have minded birthing in a barn at all.

Barns are warm. The animals keep them that way. In fact, if there are a few sheep around, you can lie among them and they don't seem to mind a bit. And contrary to most reports, I have found that barns smell wonderful. They are earthy and sweet with hay and sweat and animal shit, which, unless you are dealing with pigs, doesn't tend to smell bad at all. (I am pretty sure the 1st century Jews were not keeping pigs.) As a child I grew up on a farm and spent quite a lot of time hanging out in the barns with the sheep and goats and cows and grew to love the sounds and smells of the animals. The cozy feel of the hay when I would lie down in it. The warmth of a sheep's breath in my face as she investigated this strange interloper. It is a peaceful place. A quiet place.

The perfect place.

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