Now the Roman occupiers of the kingdom of Israel required that all men go to their own towns to register for a census.
Making their way back to Bethlehem was a carpenter, named Joseph, who had with him his wife, Mary, who was with child.
Circling above the couple, just out of sight, were two sable crows, Crispus and Caius, blacker than black, a pair ignored in retellings of the Nativity story.
“Caw, caw, caw,” cackled Crispus, as he flew to a treetop just above the couple as they made their way to yet another inn seeking lodging.
“Crispus, you old coot, hold thy tongue,” said Caius, as he alighted on an adjacent branch.
The pair of birds were long-time associates (calling them friends would grossly oversimplify their complicated relationship). They watched intently as the couple turned away from another door.
“Caius, do you know of a place for them? It’s getting late, and I fear for the safety of the mother and their unborn child.”
“Crispus, what about the stable, alongside the cave, our old rendezvous. You remember the one -- we helped your cousins replace some thatch on the roof. You surely must remember.
“Ah yes, Caius, splendid bit of work, that. Yes, that stable could work for them.”
What that, Crispus alighted from the olive tree’s branch, with Caius in close pursuit. “Crispus, how can we direct them? It’s not as if we’re all on speaking terms.”
“Caius, they won’t likely find their way on their own. … See if you can find a fire, then light two twigs and bring them back. Post haste.”
Caius then flew to a Roman sentry’s bonfire on a nearby rise. Grabbing two foot-long twigs from beneath the nest of a startled starling and her brood, Caius lit them as the sentry dozed. With the twigs alight, he then flew to the ashes of a long-expired fire, at the foot of the stable. Caius’ sister Cleopatra saw his light and flew over to ask if she could help.
“Cleo, put some straw in the hearth and I’ll then light it. Quickly, the flames are flickering.”
Caius, Crispus and Cleopatra didn't make it into this portrayal of Christ's birth, painted by Dutch artist Gerard van Honthorst in 1622. ... What else is new?
Cleo pointed to a lamp hanging from a stable window.
“Caius, here, come here with that torch, and light this lamp. And then make haste with your twigs, to Crispus, before he nods off.”
Heeding Cleo's suggestion, Caius lit the stable’s sole lamp.
Crispus meanwhile cackled loudly as he circled over the heads of Joseph and Mary. Caius quickly caught up with him with Caius’ two torches, and he passed one to Crispus. The two then flew quickly down, directly at the heads of Mary and Joseph.
Having gotten their attention, Crispus and Caius then peeled off toward the stable. Joseph, just as the crows hoped, followed the light, and the arc of their path, to the stable.
“Mary, quickly follow me,” Joseph said as he moved toward the stable, toward that light.
Arriving, Joseph and Mary noted that the stable was rude, and very drafty, a hovel, really, but it did offer shelter. The couple then made ready for the birth of the Christ Child.
An angel, named Ceolus, took in the unfolding scene, and, her heart bursting with gratitude, swept the dirt from the window sill, providing Caius, Crispus and Cleo a front-row view of the imminent birth of Our Lord.
Marveling at Jesus’ arrival, the three crows vaulted from their perch and raced to spread the news to their fellow birds. Their message carried far and wide, across hill and dale, desert and forest, continents and oceans: “It’s the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, now among us in human form. The world is transformed! Alleluia, alleluia! Caw, caw.”
As a reward for this service to heaven and earth, from that day forward, the archangel Gabriel himself vested all crows a most distasteful flavor, discouraging all but the most desperate from consuming their flesh. To this very day, people favor turkey, duck, goose, and chicken, while “eating crow” has come to mean something far different.
Happy Christmas, one and all! And to all a blessed New Year! … Caw, caw, caw.