Copyright 2011 Kelsey Hough. All rights reserved.
Paper snowflakes and candy canes hung from the ceiling, the windows were now the stage for two-dimensional holiday scenes, and a small, wooden nativity sat in a corner. It was just about as festive and tacky as a four-year-old Sunday school classroom can be in the middle of December … and the kids loved it.
The majority of my small class played with the wooden nativity scene as they acted out the Christmas story with some minor artistic licensing unless, of course, there was a Lego© family and a T-Rex present at Jesus’ birth.
“Teacher, do cows eat this stuff?” asked Nate, a cute little boy who was playing with a black and white dairy cow, holding up a few pieces of hay in his chubby hand. I answered in the affirmative, so the plastic cow continued munching away on the hay in the feeding trough where the little wooden baby Jesus was sleeping.
As Nate looked down at the toy bovine towering over the manger, panic suddenly shot through his whole body like a bold of electricity. He dropped the dairy cow as if he was holding a smoking gun. “Uh, Teacher?” he asked in a shaky voice. “Was .. uh … baby Jesus eaten by a … uh … cow?”
From Crayons to Chaos:
Like a mature and competent Sunday school teacher, I replied in a confident voice that baby Jesus wasn’t eaten by a cow. In fact, he hadn’t been eaten by anything. Nate shot another look of horror and fear at the plastic cow as he wailed, “I think baby Jesus was eaten by a cow!”
As Nate’s cry reached the ears of the other four-year-olds who’d been happily playing with Mary, Joseph, and T-Rex, their lips began to quiver as they stared with fear and disgust at the black and white baby-eating cow who’d committed the unthinkable act of eating poor, helpless baby Jesus right out of his bed. They looked as if they’d just been told their dear old grandmother was an axe murder.
Knowing more tears and hysteria were on the way, I tried explaining to my little group of alarmists how we know Jesus wasn’t eaten by a cow when he was a baby because he grew up, he didn’t stay “baby Jesus.” But after that didn’t work, we had an educational discussion about the difference between carnivores and herbivores and how because cows don’t eat meat, they also don’t eat human babies.
Vegetarian cows chewing their cud rather than gnawing on sleeping, innocent babies consoled most of the tikes. And, in a couple of minutes, you’d have never known my entire four-year-old Sunday school class had been on the brink of hysteria only a few minutes before.
While the rest of the class discussed their Christmas lists, Nate, who still wasn’t ready to let the subject go, asked earnestly, “But, Teacher, what if the cow didn’t see baby Jesus?” Due to the fact babies weren’t a regular part of a cow’s diet, Nate was convinced that some absentminded cow the size of a house may have accidentally eaten Jesus, just swallowed him right up. Because, after all, he was sleeping in the cows’ food dish.
A Bovine-Free Christmas:
It’s been years since the cow incident, I’m no longer involved with a church, and I’m sure I wouldn’t even recognize my former students if I ran into them, but I still wonder if Nate has an unexplainable fear of dairy cows. At the very least, I highly doubt he’ll ever be a dairy farmer. Or maybe he celebrates the holiday season with a nice side of steak to help remind him of his place on the food chain relative to cows.
What a bleak Christmas story it would’ve been if Jesus hadn’t survived barn life: God left all the five-star comforts of Heaven to live on our dysfunctional, germ-infested little space rock, but, sadly, forgot to take into account the giant, baby-eating cows. And, therefore, spent the remainder of his time on Earth stuck in some dairy cow’s teeth. Not exactly your typical holiday special.
Emanuel, God with us, came to be the light into the world, to bring hope. And, no, he wasn’t eaten by a cow, not even accidentally.