The Stork Outside the Stable
Just in time for the holidays! A Christmas tale told in a flash…
One cold, wintry night, outside a stable in Bethlehem, a lone figure stood in the shadows—it was a skinny-legged stork, stiff and tired after his long flight south. He wrapped his enormous grey wings around his chest as a gust of icy wind blew right through him. His feathers trembled and his stick-like legs got the shivers. He had been on his way to Egypt, though it was his own fault that he had departed so late in the season. It was his regular migration to the warm marshland he loved, but a storm had blown him off course. For a while, he feared that he was totally lost, until the dark clouds finally parted and from the air, he saw a light and heard what he thought was a baby crying.
He peeked inside the stable door.
A young woman, forehead glistening, sat on a bale of hay, her damp hair falling in waves down her back. Her narrow shoulders drooped as if she had been hard at work and she looked as exhausted as the lonely stork felt. Next to her stood a man, somewhat older, with whiskers on his chin; he was whispering something nice to the woman—She must be his wife—because then she smiled and nodded to him.
The stork shifted on his long stilt legs and drew closer, but couldn’t bring himself to venture inside. His own mate had left him years ago, by choice or accident, he didn’t know which. His children were grown up and had flown off in their separate directions. In that moment, he realized that he was quite alone in the world. Not much of a family to call his own.
Suddenly, a sound erupted in the center of the stable. It was the same wailing cry that had interrupted his flight. Two tiny hands waved the air from a wooden feeder where the man and woman knelt. It was a newborn baby! The stork leaned in closer and his big-billed beak quivered. Something was the matter! Why wouldn’t the baby stop crying?
Soon, all the barnyard animals began to creep toward the manger to see if they could help. Each creature, big and small, as if trying to soothe the crying infant, began to sing in their own voices.
A tiny lamb, wooly as a sweater, wobbled up to the where the baby lay— baa-baaa, she said.
A big milk cow with a shiny brown nose crooned, moooo.
A short-eared pig, his round belly dragging, grunted, groink, groink.
And up in the dusty eaves, the swallows and the sparrows sang, sweet-sweet-sweet, and one pure white dove cooed a solo.
The stork, enchanted by the wonderful grunts and coos and moos, desperately wanted to join the animal’s choir. Somehow, this was no ordinary baby. He hoped with all his heart that he might also express the joy he felt and sing a word of praise like all the other animals.
He stepped away from the door, flung back his head and pointed his long beak toward the sky. He opened his bill and forced air through his throat, but nothing came out. Not one sound. He was mute as all storks are, totally unable to sing.
Crestfallen, the stork took one last look inside as he was about to leave for points south. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that the baby was still squirming in his crib and despite the wonderful animal lullaby, the baby’s insistent crying hadn’t yet stopped.
In a flash, the stork knew just what to do. He strode into the stable on his long, skinny legs and stood at the manger, towering above the crying infant. His heart nearly broke as he saw the baby’s discomfort.
Without giving it a second thought, the stork began plucking at the soft down that protected his chest. One by one, he tore off his feathers (Ouch- it stung the stork’s most sensitive spot!) and with his plumes, he made the softest pillow any baby could ask for. With a cushion of the stork’s own feathers, the crying infant finally had a comfortable place to rest his head.
And just like that, the dear little baby stretched his arms and quieted his legs, yawned a big yawn, closed his eyes and fell fast asleep.
–At Christmas, a family is wherever you find yourself sharing your best gifts with others–