was humbly born in a stable, rude
and the friendly beasts around him stood
Jesus, our brother, kind and good.
I remember performing this simple little song with the youngest of the children at church. Each age of kids was assigned to represent one verse, one of the friendly beasts. Starting with the youngest, as the donkey, all shaggy and brown. Then the cow, all white and red. Etc. When a particular animal's verse came up, the idea was that the appropriate children would hold up cardboard cut-outs of that animal, with a hole for their singing faces. I am not sure how accurate we were at this task, but I am sure the adults in the congregation thought it was plenty darling and also probably hilarious.
In this video, Sufjan Stevens' gentle rendition accompanies a little boy's illustrations of each animal's gifts, interspersed with video footage of him carefully setting up his plastic Playmobil nativity scene. So charming. Especially the drawings. The donkey, who has only a stump where his head should be, carrying a giddy Mary safely to Bethlehem town. The giant two-legged cow gladly gives the baby Jesus her hay, to pillow his head. Baby Jesus lying there, so spidery, practically levitating out of his manger. Somehow perfect.
As the story goes, Jesus grew up to say, about little children, "forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." I like to believe that he was talking about exactly this sort of thing. Which is why the song will always hold a special place in my heart.