Animal Padre's
Christians Against All Animal Abuse
"Christ’s redemption is for the whole of creation!"

Winter 2012

Stepping Out Of The Picture: or ‘the true meaning of Christmas’

A family were sharing Christmas while the conventional head of the house was reluctantly on active service abroad. Yes, it was not the same: seeking to enjoy Chistmas when Dad was absent! A photo of him was on the piano nearby. “Oh Mum haven’t we a wonderful Dad?” said one of his daughters as she looked at it. “He’s so generous. He’s given us so much!”  Mum agreed, and then another of her youngsters added: “If only he could step out of that picture and come in to our midst Mum!” Their mother fought back the tears and said: “Yes, it would be the greatest Christmas of all.”
Well dear reader, that’s a fitting analogy to what happened on that first and greatest Christmas which was at Bethlehem. God had given this human race more presents than they or we could ever count. Folk also had been told so much about the complementary facets of God’s character too. This had been via succeeding prophets. Yes, and not least, via their greatest king: David. He had compared God’s depth of love with a contemporary shepherds care for sheep. Yes, the 23rd psalm that, in metrical version, is today sung more than any other!
Such far off, first century, seekers after God must frequently have said - as so many say today: “Ah but if only He would step in to our world and reveal to us His visible presence then we’d be sure: ‘seeing is believing’!”  Well, my friend that is precisely what God did for our spiritually lost world on that first Christmas! He stepped out of the picture and - so as to be true to past references given as to the most predominant characteristics of Himself - appeared to those nearest in character to His own nature: humble and despised animal carers: shepherds protecting their flocks by night!
Admittedly, wise men a season later arrived - having followed a star – but for Christmas the vision and message of angels was for animal carers; and – consistent with such a God’s character – He determined that the birth of His Son be in a stable rather than a palace. Yes, and for a resting place an animal’s trough – a manger – in place of any ornate cradle.
Although not mentioned in the gospels, it is quite possible that any lambs newly born or else injured and needing attention, could have been on the backs or shoulders of those first visitors of the baby Jesus. Yes, and it is equally likely that a place in which there was a manger would also house at least one animal; and in probable fulfilment of a prophecy concerning an ox and an ass - and surely one of the latter would have carried Mary? Animals must have been among the first to witness ‘God made flesh!’
One thing is sure: God’s only begotten Son never forgot His lowly birth, nor His first visitors, and many years later, when asked as to His nature and mission, He identified them in terms of a good shepherds love, care - and even willingness to die - for vulnerable members of an ‘assumed lesser’ species than their own. Indeed, whereas hirelings cared little if anything for ‘assumed’ weaker and more vulnerable forms of life, good shepherds of that first century AD would - whenever necessary - risk life and limb to rescue such creatures entrusted to their care. (Yes, I need hardly say that it is more than a rebuff to the kind of impersonal, intensive husbandry that civilisation has regressed to over two millennia on!  (One I’ve sought to personally rectify)
Around 1986, in one’s capacity as chaplain, a Colonel from Culloden - whom I visited in a private ward of Aberdeen’s infirmary – heartily greeted me with the words: “I’ve seen you before: You are the Animals Padre!” Yes, he’d recognised me from a televised animal blessing service and eagerly wanted to congratulate me! Well, such a title has stuck and one feels quite honoured and humbled by it. (Indeed, I’d only received one better: pupils of ‘Huddersfield Girls Grammar school’ who’d dubbed me: ‘Super Rev!’).  However, the fact is that Our Precious Lord - who is rightly King of Kings and Lord of Lords - surrendered His life for possibly the lowest and least worthy of all creatures: fallen humanity; and He expects us to, similarly, risk and endanger our lives for vulnerable forms of life we may care to view as inferior and of far less value than our own.
Our task and calling is to be guardians and carers of the creation in a similar way to that in which (forgive me feminists!) a man is, according to St Paul, over his wife! Yes and parents are over their children. Ah yes, but not the dominion of a despot but rather that of the most powerful becoming the most sacrificial. Yes, a true reflection of Christ the good Shepherd laying down His life for the least of us, for ‘might is never right’ for the Christian. Our task is to follow His example and such love embraces the whole of His creation, as did those stretched out arms upon the cross.
We are told to proclaim this message of salvation ‘to every creature’. Yes, and of necessity for so many of them: ‘by deeds’ that speak louder than words! Indeed, may such love and care for them be reflected during this festive season in what we eat as well as say. For example: God forbid that I for one should ever offer grace on His birthday over the carcass of any creature that has unduly suffered long incarceration and deprivation merely to satisfy the ‘taste buds’ of a single meal!
Both Doreen and I are far from consistent. However – as in previous ones - we’ve both agreed again on a vegetarian nut roast. We’ll let you know how we enjoyed it later. Ah, provided of course that such nuts have not choked us!  But then they are surely far, far less dangerous than are similar hazards caused by eating fish? Something that carnivorous chefs play down! 
Well, regardless of early conditioning - for which one is not responsible! - let us aspire towards cruelty free living; and especially when it’s to honour our Good Shepherd’s own birthday. May His Holy Spirit guide, touch and comfort each of your hearts; and especially those who’ve ‘visibly’ lost loved ones during this year.

‘Put thou thy trust in God. In duty’s path move on. Walk in His strength with faith and hope. So shall thy work be done.

Give to the winds thy fears. Hope & be undismayed.. God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears. He shall lift up thy head’

Go on to Service For Remembrance Sunday: report By Doreen
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