©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

"Christmas Gifts" provides an ideal way to introduce young children to the holiday season. Using sweet and simple language, it recounts the story of baby Jesus. The heroes of this Christmas tale are seven barnyard animals, who contribute their special gifts to help baby Jesus during his first night on earth. Make "Christmas Gifts" part of your holiday celebration. Not only is it entertaining, but it also contains valuable lessons about the spirit of holiday giving.

"Christmas Gifts"

It was Christmas Eve in the barnyard. Seven ordinary animals had just settled down for the night. It was just a typical night -- or so they thought.

The hour of midnight drew near. Silent snow fell gently to the ground. And then something quite amazing happened. These seven ordinary animals, in this simple barn, became seven special animals, if only for this one night.

"What has happened?" asked the young sheep. "Baa! Baa! I can talk."

"Me, too!" said the dog. "Ruff!"

"Moo! Listen to me!" said the calf.

"What's going on?" asked the surprised donkey. "Hee-haw!"

The cow wasn't surprised. "It's midnight," she said. "And it's Christmas Eve."

"What does that mean?" asked the young sheep.

"I'll tell you a story," said the cow, "about the very first Christmas. Then you will understand."

All the animals in the barn gathered to hear the cow's story.

"Long, long ago, one special night," began the cow, "Baby Jesus was born in an ordinary stable, in an ordinary town called Bethlehem. This was the first Christmas."

"Was the stable like this barn?" the dog asked.

"Yes, almost exactly like it," said the cow.

"With animals in the stable, just like us?" asked the young calf.

"Yes," said the cow, "with animals just like us. Let me explain.

"Before Baby Jesus was born, his mother, Mary, and her husband, Joseph, had to travel through the countryside to the town of Bethlehem. Their trip took many days. They traveled up and down steep hills. To make things easier for Mary, an ordinary donkey carried her on his back and Joseph led the way."

"A donkey, just like me?" asked the donkey.

"Yes, a donkey just like you," said the cow. "Finally, Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. But there was nowhere for them to sleep. They had to go to a stable and sleep with the animals. The donkey carried Mary safely to that stable.

"So it was an ordinary donkey who gave Baby Jesus a unique gift, even before he was born, by carrying Mary safely to Bethlehem.

"Later that evening, inside the simple stable, Mary gave birth to a special baby named Jesus.

"The stable was cold. Luckily, in the stable lived a handsome sheep with very soft, beautiful wool."

"A sheep, like me?" asked the young sheep.

"Yes, just like you and your mother," answered the cow. " And this sheep's soft, beautiful wool was made into a very special blanket. The sheep offered this blanket, her unique and most precious gift, to the baby. Mary wrapped Baby Jesus in this special, soft, woolly blanket. It would keep the baby snug and warm during his stay in the stable.

"After their long journey, and the birth of the baby, Mary and Joseph were too tired for lullabies. They needed something to lull the baby to sleep. But what? Mary and Joseph were lucky to find a gentle dove living high in the rafters of the stable."

"A dove, like me?" asked the dove.

"Just like you," said the cow. " And each night her soft cooing soothed the animals in the barn so they could enjoy a good night's sleep. That night was no different. The gentle dove's soft cooing quickly lulled Baby Jesus to sleep, as he lay covered with the sheep's special, soft, woolly blanket.

"But the baby still didn't have everything he needed, even with these most precious and unique gifts.

To learn how "Christmas Gifts" ends, go to the next page.