It began as a particle of dirt on the forest floor, lifted by an autumn storm into the upper echelons of the atmosphere. Currents and pockets of air made it dance and swirl amid clouds of particles and moisture, high above the earth. The dance continued until it collected enough ice and sank beneath the clouds as a magnificent snowflake. Slowly and gently, it drifted and swayed in the breeze, in a gradual spiral down to earth before landing on the nose of a gray wolf.
The wolf sniffed the air as his nose began to tingle. The icy snowflake caused it to itch until he sneezed. Though he still felt its presence, he was distracted by the view overlooking the snow-covered village below. Bright colored lights illuminated the gabled roofs of homes and spires of churches. A chorus of voices sang words of cheer, notions of peace and hopes of good will — words and concepts the wolf could neither understand nor comprehend, yet he felt something stirring within himself he’d never felt before. Something besides hunger or fear or the instinct to survive. Even though he could smell prey nearby, he had little inclination to hunt, or even remain with his kind. He wandered away from the pack and headed down toward the village.
He made his approach with the greatest of caution. Villagers were accustomed to shooting wolves on sight, so he did not wish to draw any attention. Groups of carolers dotted the tree-lined streets, dressed in bright greens and reds and shivering in the wintry gales. Stealthily, he followed the scent of sheep towards the center of town, overwhelmed by the dazzling light displays and abundant decor along the way.
The town center hosted a large manger scene, populated with the standard Christmas icons such as Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. But what concerned the wolf most was the live display of animals, particularly the sheep. For a moment, his eyes dilated and his heart began to race wildly, as his mind flew into images of hunting and death. But for a reason that he failed to understand, on this particular night, he had no inclination to hunt or kill. He merely tucked his head submissively, and sauntered passively toward the nativity.
It was the strangest of scenes, as the wolf came into full view of the small gathered crowd. The wolf wasn’t howling and the people weren’t screaming. In fact, the people weren’t moving much at all, even though the wolf was within a few yards of them. The wolf walked on, bolder now, and with purpose. No one moved. Time stood still as fifty faces stared in awe, as this lone gray wolf knelt alongside a sheep within the wooden manger, and the sheep never bleated or attempted to run. In fact, none of the donkeys or other sheep moved so much as a muscle. It was as though a gray wolf in the nativity was always meant to be.
Much of the crowd moved in for a closer look, taking pictures and marveling at the miracle before them. Predator and prey, side by side. A perfect poetic symbol for the season of giving and light. A little girl, hand-in-hand with her mother, walked up to the wolf and felt of his fur, dazzled by its softness. Curious, she felt his cold nose and wiped the snowflake off onto her finger.
“Look mommy! A snowflake!”
Her mother noticed the unique crystalline symmetry on the tip of her daughter’s index finger, a large white flake of immaculate perfection. The little girl placed it on the end of her own nose and displayed it proudly, and thanked the wolf for his gift. The wolf, for his part, was happy to oblige and be thanked by a human. He had never before been the recipient of such gratitude.
The group continued to sing as they encircled the manger. “Silent Night” was soon followed by “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” The wolf didn’t know the words, any words, so he did what wolves do, and howled. Mightily. Aaaah-oooooooooooooooh!
In the distance, over the hilltops, the other wolves responded in kind. Aaaah-oooooooooh! Howling in cadence with the carols, the hills and forests echoed the villagers. Stars sparkling, moon glowing, snow drifting, chimneys puffing — all was right and perfect in the world, for this one blessed magical night.