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A Christmas Eve idea to use: invite and bless the animals

 

Capturing the spirit of the Nativity

By Donna Frischknecht Jackson | Presbyterians Today

Honor the animals that were present at that the very first nativity by offering a Blessing of the Animals on Christmas Eve — or anytime during the Christmas season. Getty Images

While working the September/October story in Presbyterians Today on ministry to animals, I learned of a tradition that Central Presbyterian Church, located at Park Avenue and 64th Street in Manhattan, had for many years. They would bless the animals on Christmas Eve.

Traditionally, a Blessing of the Animals service is done in the fall on the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, which is Oct. 4, but the idea of blessing animals on such a holy night captures my imagination, conjuring images of cattle lowing that we hear about in “Away in a Manger.” It evokes images of the peaceable kingdom that the prophet of Advent, Isaiah, speaks of, telling us that the lion and the lamb will lie down together. It brings to life the old English carol “The Friendly Beasts.”

The reality, though, is that inviting animals to a Christmas Eve service is anything but peaceful. Dogs bark and cats meow (more like howl). The possible chaos shouldn’t cast a shadow on the outreach potential. What little child doesn’t want Fido to be part of Christmas celebrations? Who might be alone this holiday and would welcome the opportunity to have their only companion blessed?

When I reached out to Central Presbyterian Church and discovered that the Christmas Eve animal blessing is no longer held, I was disappointed. I really wanted to do a story on it for you the reader. As a pastor, though, it gave me the idea to offer it for my small congregation. And I pass it along now to you to offer a blessing for animals as part of the Christmas Eve service or maybe as a stand-alone service the afternoon of Dec. 24. Even consider holding it the Sunday after Christmas Eve, which is often sparsely attended. Such a service can also be done virtually. The possibilities are endless. So, this season, why not try something different? Why not bless the animals who were lowing, barking, meowing, purring by the cradle of the newborn Savior? If you do offer this service to your community, send me pictures at donna.jackson@pcusa.org.

Donna Frischknecht Jackson is editor of Presbyterians Today.

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