December 2017
On the Edge of Common Sense

How Do You Know It’s Christmas?

So how do you know it’s Christmas?

‘Cause the sheep can always tell.

They follow a little tradition and have for quite a spell.

On Christmas Eve around midnight, the sheep, wherever they are,

All rise in quiet unison and fixate on a star.

And from their stirring comes a sound, a chuckling tra, la, la

That weaves and builds itself into a soft melodious baaa,

Which carries like a dove’s lament when nights are very still,

As if they’re calling for someone beyond a yonder hill.


The legend herders passed on down attributes this tradition

To one late night in Bethlehem. A heavenly petition

Wherein a host of angels came and lured them with a song.

The herders left in haste, they say, and stayed gone all night long.

Well, sheep don’t do too well alone. They’ve never comprehended

That on that night they waited up the world was upended.


So, now when daylight shortens up and nights get long and cold,

I make my check at midnight like we’ve done since days of old.

And if I find the flock intent and standing all around

I listen for the heavenly host above their throaty sound

And scan the dim horizon in an effort to discern

The sign the sheep are seeking … that their shepherds will return.


And I am but a watchman in this drama that replays

Around the Earth this time of year, and so I stand and gaze

And, though I see no special star or hear no sweet noel,

I know it must be Christmas, ‘cause the sheep can always tell.


Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television, and also through his books, cds, videos and website,