A Crib Service

The Lonely Barn Owl

By Vicki Howie


 CAROL: 36 Once in Royal David’s City (omit vv 3 & 4)

Leader – Introduction to Barney the soft toy Barn Owl*

A narrator – introduction to the story and practice congregational responses

Narr 1: In a dreary old stable in Bethlehem town, there lived a lonely barn owl, his feathers white and brown.

Narr 1: His echoing shelter though ROOMY . . .

ALL: Roomy!

Narr 1: . . . was so GLOOMY . . .

ALL: Gloomy!

Narr 1: . . . that nobody ever set foot through the door – well, apart from the innkeeper bringing fresh straw.

Leader: Is anyone here looking after the innkeeper’s animals, the ox and ass? Yes! I think the innkeeper’s rather busy tonight, so could you lead them up the track to the stable here and put them in their stall?

(The ox and the ass – placed at the lectern and on the piano – are brought forward, shown to the congregation, and placed in the crib)

Narr 2: The lonely barn owl uttered a cry. “If only a light would shine in this stable of mine, perhaps someone would drop by.” But only the ox and the ass nodded heads at the manger.

Narr 2: One afternoon, all was hubbub and commotion in the little town of Bethlehem. Horses neighed . . .

ALL: Neigh, neigh!

Narr 2: Donkeys brayed . . .

ALL: Hee-haw, hee-haw!

Narr 2: Sheep baa-ed . . .

ALL: Baa, baa!

Narr: Goats maa-ed.

ALL: Maa, maa!

Narr 2: And from the street came the pitter-patter of travellers’ feet and the chitter-chatter of voices at the inn.

Joseph: Have you a room for the night?

Mary:    Any shelter will do!

Narr 1: “What’s going on?” asked the barn owl. The ox and ass in their stall did their best to explain it all. “Haven’t you heard? They say a great and heavenly light is coming to shine on the earth tonight.”

Narr 2: “A light! Tonight?” screeched the barn owl. “Then I must hunt for it!” And calling goodbye . . .


Narr 2: . . . he was off and up into the twilit sky. Twit Twoo . . .

ALL: TWIT TWOO! (Barney flies to the communion table.)

Leader: That was a shame, because the barn owl just missed Mary and Joseph. The innkeeper said they could stay the night in his stable because there was no room for them at the busy inn. Is anyone looking after those two travellers who’ve been on such a long journey? Yes?

The figures of Mary and Joseph are shown to the congregation and placed in the Crib.

CAROL: 6 Away in a manger

In the last verse, Barney is brought back from the communion table to the front.

Narr 1: Now the barn owl saw the golden sun setting over the hilltops of Bethlehem. (A big sun appears from the pulpit) “Oh great and heavenly light, will you come down and shine in my home tonight?” he begged. “Not me!” replied the proud sun, looking down his nose at him. “I am King of the day and must go to shine on countries far away.” And with just a flicker of a smile, he disappeared behind the hills. (The sun disappears)

Narr 2: Now the wispy white moon rose above the hills. (A moon appears from the pulpit) “Oh great and heavenly light, will you come down and shine in my home tonight?” begged the barn owl. “Certainly not!” replied the haughty moon. “I am Queen of the night and must look down from a great height.” And she rose higher still above the hill. (The moon rises before disappearing again.)

Narr 1: As the barn owl swooped low over campfires aglow, he was startled by heavenly things – bright angels with glittering wings. “Don’t be afraid!” they sang. “Guess who’s in the manger!”

CAROL: 51 While shepherds watched

In the last verse, the barn owl is placed close to the crib

Narr 2: Puzzled, the barn owl returned to the town. But as he dived down to the stable he saw, streaming from his own front door, a GLORIOUS beam of light!

Turn on the light for the stable

Light the Christmas candle

Narr 1: Into that golden light he flew, into a mellow, yellow stable he hardly knew. And, there in the manger in the animal’s stall, he found that brightest light of all. A baby boy whose shining face lit the darkest corner of that dreary place! Whoo, whoo?

ALL: Whoo, whoo?

Narr 1: Then on foot (and on hoof and paw), many visitors flocked through the stable door. First came the shepherds from the hillside with their sheep . . .

Richard: Where are the shepherds and their sheep? There! Please could you help them to find their way to the baby in the manger?

(The shepherds and sheep are brought forward from the Lady Chapel, shown to the congregation, and placed in the Crib)

CAROL: 21 Infant holy, infant lowly

Narr 2: And after the shepherds came the wise men with precious gifts, riding on their exotic camels . . .

Vicar: Where are the wise men? Ah, could you be a star and guide them to the Crib?

(The wise men and their camels are brought forward from the altar frontal box, shown to the congregation, and placed in the Crib)

Narr 1: And they all adored the little child . . . Jesus. That’s who!

CAROL: 41 Shepherds left their flocks astraying

Narr 2: “Oh, thank you, tiny heavenly light! You came to shine in my home tonight!” called the barn owl, dancing. Whoo, hoo!

ALL: Whoo, hoo!

Narr 2: So, in a shining bright stable in Bethlehem town, there lived a joyful barn owl, his feathers white and brown!

© Vicki Howie

Blessing of the Crib


Bible reading            John 1:1-14


CAROL: 42 Silent night

Prayers & the Lord’s Prayer

CAROL: 18 Hark! the herald angels sing (“light and life to all he brings”)


* Available from the Barn Owl Trust – www.barnowltrust.org.uk


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