One of the very oldest Christmas songs is still regularly sung today and is considered a traditional Christmas carol. It is “The Friendly Beasts”. The song is about the animals (a donkey, cow, sheep, camel, and dove) present at Christ’s birth during the nativity scene and the gifts they bring to baby Jesus.
The original lyrics of the song were written by an unknown author in 12th century France and the song is set to the melody of the Latin song “Orientis Partibus.”
The modern English words were written by Robert Davis in 1920. Over the years, the song has been recorded by several famous singers including Burl Ives, Harry Belafonte, Johnny Cash, and Garth Brooks.
Scripture never says anything about the animals that were in the stable where Mary and Joseph went and in which the Babe was born. But this ancient Christmas song depicts what the animals may have given as they ministered to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Here are the lyrics for this beloved carol:
Jesus our brother, strong and good
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around him stood
Jesus our brother, strong and good.
“I, ” said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
“I carried his mother up hill and down;
I carried his mother to Bethlehem town.”
“I, ” said the donkey, shaggy and brown.
“I, ” said the cow, all white and red
“I gave him my manger for his bed;
I gave him my hay to pillow his head.”
“I, ” said the cow, all white and red.
“I, ” said the sheep with curly horn,
“I gave him my wool for his blanket warm;
He wore my coat on Christmas morn.”
“I, ” said the sheep with curly horn.
“I, ” said the dove from the rafters high,
“I cooed him to sleep so that he would not cry;
We cooed him to sleep, my mate and I.”
“I, ” said the dove from the rafters high.
Thus every beast by some good spell
In the stable dark was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Emmanuel,
The gift he gave Emmanuel.
Here is this ancient Christmas song as performed by From the Morning on YouTube, www.fromthemorning.net
Father, we know that this song is not from Scripture, but we ache when we think that Your Son was relegated by mankind to birth in a stable, and we like to think that the animals made the Lord Jesus welcome as they acknowledged Him as their Creator, too. I pray, Father, that I would do what I could to help others as the animals did in this delightful song.