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Our annual church Christmas pageant gave me the impression the humble barn where Jesus was born was a quiet setting. The Nativity scene was the crowning moment of each extravaganza. Dressed in bed sheets and their fathers’ bathrobes, the children sang Silent Night.

Then I moved to the country, got a barn, and had my own birth in the stable.

Drought forced a farmer to sell a soft-eyed, pregnant mare.
 “She’s like Mary,” my teens implored. “She needs a place to have her baby.”

So this innkeeper found room in our stable. A baby monitor let us hear what happened in the barn at night. Birds in the rafters supplied a cacophony of twittering and mice scampered through hay. Once asleep, the horses passed gas so loud we thought the mare was giving birth, and dashed to the barn at 3:30 a.m.

Following weeks of false alarms, the baby was born on a night I was too sleep-deprived to tiptoe to the barn. What an exquisite wonder that morning to discover a newborn in the stable.

That’s why this year’s Christmas pageant is my favorite. “Let’s have live animals,” the music director crowed.

Opening night staging was elaborate. “Joy to the world,” the audience joined the choir as words appeared on the overhead. “Let men their sons employ.”

Choreographed to mask the noisy rearrangement of animals on stage, the pianist’s solo was a wasted effort. The keyboard was unplugged. From behind the curtains, the audience heard the trainer smooching at the donkey who was reluctant to come on stage and more reluctant to leave. The wise men bowed before the wailing Christ child. Mary and Joseph tried to look holy while goats nibbled their robes.

Suddenly, a runaway sheep dashed about the little town of Bethlehem. Engrossed by the drama, the drummer forgot to drum. The conductor looked up and paled as the speeding sheep fairly leapt into his arms.

By the second performance the “g” was added to sons, the keyboard found the plug, and fencing was added for the sheep. The rest of the pageants were without hitch, but my favorite was opening night. It seemed a better reenactment of what probably happened years ago in that starlit stable.

PeggySue Wells has two horses (because horses are like potato chips and your can’t have just one). She is the bestselling author of 28 books including Homeless for the Holidays, and Chasing Sunrise. Connect with PeggySue and find her books at www.PeggySueWells.com.

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