I’m a goat. I’ve been a goat for as long as I can remember – which is a good while now. My little beard is gnarled and gray. My horns are gnarled too. I can remember though, when they were just coming in.
I lived in a stable with my family in a little town – this little town – called Bethlehem. We lived in a small stable and even though there were plenty of other animals everybody knew their place so it worked out ok.
As a little goat I still managed to get in big trouble, especially when my horns started coming in. I don’t know if you’ve ever had horns come in, but if you have, you know that they ITCH! You have to rub them on something. Sometimes it felt reaaaally good just to whack them over and over again against posts, gates, rocks … anything hard. And like I said, it was a small place. So I got in trouble a lot. I remember one night in particular.
Things were not normal that night. I don’t know how we animals can tell, but we can. And on this night things were not normal. For one, our owner had been very distracted lately. Actually for a few nights already dinner had been late – very unusual. And when it did come, why, sometimes he gave sheep food to the horses or horse food to the cows or cow food to us goats – again, not normal.
Well, on this night no food had come at all, we hadn’t seen our owner since morning and now it was well past dark. We were all hungry and upset. Well, I was anyhow.
I remember the door opening. Finally, it was our master. Expecting dinner, all of our heads came up and turned in his direction as if they were tied with tight strings to the door latch. But not just our master came in the darkness that night. Two other people came in behind him. Were they supposed to bring our dinner? If so, this was really not normal.
Well, they didn’t give us dinner. None of them did. And I, at least, was cross. We were going to die and nobody cared. I began loudly hitting a nearby post partly because I was suffering, partly because I wanted the others to know it, and partly because I wanted to cause others (especially those people) to suffer too. They looked tired. Very tired. I hoped my banging would make them perfectly miserable. I hoped they would leave. Everybody here had their place – except them. They did NOT belong here.
For some reason my mother seemed sympathetic toward the people, especially toward the lady who was very swollen in the middle like she’d had plenty to eat. My mother sternly told me to stop banging and to go to sleep. So I was mad at her too.
Just as I was stomping across the stall to obey her, the man spread his cloak out for the woman right over my sleeping spot! I already told you we were cramped and that was before they got there. Ach. Now I was going to have to sleep near(er) to the cows. I wasn’t at all fond of the cows. Boy, was I ma a a a a ad. I curled up against the wall in a huff and stared angrily at my empty feeding trough until I fell asleep.
I woke later to find even more people in our cramped darkness. Unbelievable. Didn’t people have their own places?! These were even shepherds so they certainly did. But then I noticed something perfectly wonderful: THERE WAS HAY IN MY TROUGH! Had the shepherds brought it? Half-awake I stumbled toward the hay as fast as I could when I was abruptly stopped by all of the men at once – none of whom were my master! And my mom even let them! They all seemed to be protecting the manger from ME! They all seemed to be keeping ME from MY dinner! This was past abnormal. This was outrageous. This was infuriating. This was the last straw.
In anger I twisted free and butted the manger as hard as I could. My little horns sounded exactly like hammers pounding on the rough-hewn wood.
But then there was another sound. It was a sound I’d never heard before in my life but knew right away what it was: a baby person crying. And it was coming from inside MY feeding trough.
I don’t know how we animals can tell, but we can. Somehow I knew that here, in the darkness, our Master had come in. All the others’ heads were turned toward the manger as if tied to it with tight strings. And he spent his first night sleeping in my breakfast. I got up close to see the little baby then . . . and to take just a tiny nibble of his bedding. My mother grunted at me. I laid back down. I can’t explain it, but suddenly I was happy, even proud, to go hungry and even to sleep against the wall by the cows.
I stared peacefully at our miraculously full feeding trough until I fell asleep.