“The Friendly Beasts” is a song about the gifts the animals gave to the baby Jesus. The melody comes from a Latin song first sung in 12th Century France to give thanks for the donkey that carried the Holy Family into Egypt. The current English words were written by Robert Davis (1881-1950) in the 1920s. Since then it’s been recorded by artists as varied as Burl Ives, Johnny Cash, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Garth Brooks.
Jesus our brother, kind and good
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around Him stood,
Jesus our brother, kind and good.
“I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
“I carried His mother up hill and down;
I carried her safely 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 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 Immanuel,
The gift he gave Immanuel.
This simple song has always been a favorite of mine. When my children were young, our family spent 6 months on a remote volunteer site in Guatemala. Missing music, I bought a cheap guitar in the local market and taught myself a few simple chords. This song is one I sang to my children at Christmas (I sing to kids and cats, no one else).
I try to remember animals at Christmastime. My daughter, who died in an accident in 1985, loved animals. Every Christmas I remember her with a gift to Best Friends, a wonderful no-kill animal sanctuary in Southern Utah. My sister and I, who need nothing, give each other charitable gifts. For her, I donate to Heifer International, an organization that provides livestock to needy families in many parts of the world.
Do you include animals in your Christmas celebration? Tell us how.
Here’s a link to a cute version of the song: