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This Nativity story started one Christmas Eve in one of the little churches scattered through the Monaro district of south-eastern Australia when, following the story of the shepherds coming with haste to Bethlehem, a small boy asked the minister, "Was Haste their dog?" And the minister answered, "Yes."
This congregation of country women, sheep graziers, farmers, station hands and their kids related to the Christmas story from their own experience. They knew very well about working with sheep in difficult country and cold weather. They would respond generously to the plight of a young couple having their first baby in a crowded and smelly shed because of no vacancies in the hotel. This book tells the familiar story from their perspective. The midwife did what those women would do; the shepherds may have symbolic Jewish names – Jacob, Israel, Benjamin - but they speak Australian. And Haste the sheepdog can perceive, perhaps more clearly than the humans, the strangeness and wonder of this intrusion from another and greater dimension into their everyday world.
Susan Mary's story of the Nativity builds into a tradition of storytelling where the crowds, midwife, shepherds, gifts, animals scary and nice are all included. These inclusions have long been a part of the Christmas story and the Mystery Plays popular for centuries, but which are beginning to disappear from the presentations today.
Teachers, parents, grandparents and children would welcome this book as a delightful and important way to keep them linked with a great cultural tradition and a good story from a time when Emperor Augustus conducted a census throughout the Roman Empire.