Archive for December 16th, 2021

Reflection on Cattle/Oxen


Written by Thomas Smith, a contemporary author.

As a young boy, one of my favorite traditions was to help my grandmother set out her porcelain Nativity set on top of her mammoth tv credenza. I especially liked to play with the animals. There was a small lamb, a little cow (ox), and an observant donkey (ass). I’ve never paid much attention to why those particular animals are ubiquitous in every nativity scene. Re-reading the Gospel stories, no animals are mentioned (but the presence of a feeding trough (the manger) makes it a near certainty animals were nearby). The presence of a lamb is a no-brainer, I suppose. Bethlehem was known for its shepherds. The Holy Family is very likely taking shelter in one of the shepherd’s caves that dot the hillsides of Bethlehem even today. It is also a foreshadowing of Jesus’s sacrificial offering as the Lamb of God. But why the ox and ass? While re-reading the Prophet Isaiah (which many early Christians called the Fifth Gospel), my attention was drawn to Isaiah 1:3. One of the images Isaiah uses to show the people’s utter ignorance of God is this, “The ox knows its owner and the ass its master’s crib, but Israel does not know me, my people do not understand.” Early Christian commentators linked this verse to the Nativity. In all the busyness of this time, one of the most beautiful gifts we can offer Jesus is a time of dedicated adoration in your private devotions. The great irony of Isaiah is non-rational animals (the ox and the ass) know their Creator (a term of personal intimacy) and understand who He is, namely their God and Creator but his own people do not. Ask the Lord for the grace to know Him better through these seasons and recognize and discern him more clearly in the ordinary circumstances, conversations, and events you will experience.


MUSIC VIDEO: The Friendly Beasts

Performed by Garth Brooks

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