The man who carved Christmas
I love to collect nativity sets: big ones;small ones; funny ones and strange ones. I bought a new one last week, and out of it fell a lovely smiley wooden sheep. When I turned it over in my hand, it reminded me of an old story about the man who carved Christmas. It’s a story about a little wooden donkey, a little wooden sheep, a little wooden cow and a little wooden camel…and I want to tell it to you now.
The story takes place long, long ago, when a monk from Germany left his home and walked all the way to Spain. His name was Foilan, and he wasn’t quite sure how to go about things.
He wasn’t very clever with words, and he wasn’t very impressive to look at. In fact, most of the grown-ups took no notice of him at all. With the children, though, it was a different story.
You see, Foilan loved nothing more than to sit by the fire, take an old piece of wood, and carve it into a little wooden animal. He would carve ducks, and pigs and dogs, and cats and give them to the children.
One day, as they sat by the fire, Foilan carved a donkey – but he didn’t give it away. “That’s for Mary”, he said – “to ride to Bethlehem.” The children looked at one another and said ‘there’s no Mary here’. There was a an Alys and a Rita….but no Mary. “She’ll need it, he said, to ride to Bethlehem”, and put it on one side.
Next time they were all gathered round the fire he made a sheep. The children laughed. “Why make a sheep”, they said “we have so many of them here”. “I need a sheep to sit with the shepherds when the angel comes”, he explained, and set it aside. Next day it was a cow he made, and he explained to the children – “the cow will have to step aside when the baby comes” and they scratched their heads at what he said.
Now there was a little collection beside his fire – a little wooden donkey, a little wooden sheep, and a little wooden cow. When the children came running to sit by the fire, their breath like smoke in the cold night air, he was just finishing another animal. This time, it was a camel – and he had to tell the children its name as they had never seen such a creature before. “The great kings will need their camels”, he said “to travel far and far so they can see the baby”
By now the children were bursting to know just what the story was all about – so he told them.
He told them about Mary, who rode a donkey to Bethlehem, where the baby Jesus would be born. He told them about the sheep – who looked on as the shepherds met an angel. He told them about the cow, who stepped aside to make room in the stable, so that baby Jesus had somewhere to lay his head. He told them about the kings who rode from far far away on their camels to see the baby king.
When the children came next day – Foilan’s fire was all gone. Wherever could he be? They looked and saw a commotion further down the road where two paths met. Into the fork of a tree Foilan had placed a little wooden stable, with a little wooden donkey, a little wooden sheep, a little wooden cow and a little wooden camel. The grown-ups couldn’t make head nor tail of what it all meant…but the children could, and they told them the story.
To be quite honest, they are still doing it now. Now that you know the story of Foilan, the man who carved Christmas…you can do it too.