Below is a short story I wrote for our evening service on December 19, 2010. I hope it reminds you that the Baby of Christmas didn’t grow up to be a King…He always was!
Tonight, I want to introduce you to three different donkeys. Each of them is without a name. They found themselves written into the story of Jesus Christ… accidentally; at least this is how it appeared to them. Without word…without hesitation…they served their master well. But…it is not their service that causes us to remember them.
They were like any other donkey you or I might know today. It wasn’t necessarily the work they performed, for it was no different than the work you would expect from a donkey. They were common animals, so there wasn’t some spectacular feat of strength or speed. The reason we remember them is not because of what they did, but rather who they did it for…The King!
The donkey of the Christ-child
It was a cold night as we traveled the familiar road from Nazareth up into Bethlehem. The Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus has issued a decree that everyone under his authority should be registered…so they could be taxed. This is why we have been traveling these past few days and nights. My owner, Joseph, was born in Bethlehem and Caesar’s law required him to return to his hometown. I’d been in Bethlehem before. In fact that is where I first met my kind and gentle owner. He is a carpenter by trade, and a very good one at that. He found work in Nazareth…decided to relocate there. That is when we met. I carried his belongings…his tools…his cloak. He was young and strong, so was I. We have both aged since our first journey together.
Joseph, my owner, will be married soon. He is betrothed to a beautiful young lady named Mary. Even as we walk, I can still smell her perfume. She is so kind to me. She will often sneak me a carrot whenever Joseph isn’t looking. I know that she is uncomfortable on my back. I feel her constant movement as we walk. I wish my old legs were stronger. Maybe in my younger days I could have steadied myself on this rocky road and made her ride more comfortable.
Oftentimes Mary will sing. Her voice is like nothing I have ever heard before. It always makes the journey seem shorter when she sings. Joseph will join in too, but his voice is not nearly as pleasing. They seem happy together.
We have finally arrived into Bethlehem! The streets are crowded with people. So many things to see here…and noises coming from every direction, but I don’t think I’ll have any trouble sleeping tonight.
The innkeeper was kind enough to let us stay in his barn. I don’t think Bethlehem was prepared for so many people. I know this is not what Joseph planned for Mary tonight. It suits me fine, but this isn’t a place for pregnant Mary.
I had never seen a baby before. He is beautiful! Mary is beautiful! Joseph…well, you won’t find a more proud papa than Joseph. The other animals and I watched intently as this new little baby boy raised his arms and stretched his fingers…He cried, but not too loudly. He nursed. He slept. They named Him Jesus!
The donkey of a Son
Ahh…the gentle breeze off the Mediterranean is nice this morning. It is good to be out walking today. It is fun to watch my master’s son run along in front of me. He enjoys picking up sticks and throwing rocks. He pretends to be just like his father…He will instruct me to stop…to go…He tries to make that clicking sound with his mouth…just like Joseph. My favorite game is to sneak up on Jesus and nudge Him with my nose. He smiles and laughs and gives me a giant hug around my neck. I can’t imagine working for any other master than Joseph.
We met in Egypt. His other donkey had aged and died. So I become his replacement. Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt when Herod demanded that all the little boys in Bethlehem be killed. How could a king be so cruel? Herod is dead now so we are journeying back to their home in Nazareth.
It has been several years now since we left Egypt. Jesus is almost ten now. You should see Him run. Joseph has given me to Jesus. He now cares for me. Every morning He feeds and waters me. I enjoy hearing Him pray while I eat my oats. He works and He prays and He sings. There is something very unusual about Him. He is gentle like His father Joseph. Each year we travel to Jerusalem to attend Passover. Now…Jesus leads the way. Joseph has taught Him well.
Now, Jesus runs the carpentry shop. Joseph is too old…as am I. It has been nearly three decades since we left Egypt. I expect I’ll be gone soon. Jesus is a man now. With His father sick and near death, He has taken on much responsibility for the family. Mary is still in good health. She is still as beautiful as she was the day we first met. She still sings too.
I don’t wander far from the barn any more, but Jesus is so faithful to take good care of me. Every day He brushes my course hair, changes my hay and covers me with blankets on cold nights. Recently, He has talked about selling the carpentry shop. I guess He has other plans…
The donkey of a King
Wait a second? Where are they taking me? Why isn’t my master doing anything? These were my thoughts as His disciples untied me and brought me here…just outside of Jerusalem. They told me I was a special colt…with a special job. I don’t understand exactly what is going on, but these men are nice… I trust them.
Suddenly, I hear a voice…
“I see you found him. Did his owner object to your request?”
“No Lord, as soon as we mentioned Your name he freely offered us this colt.”
The stranger then lifted my chin…looked into my eyes and spoke. “Hello friend. Are you ready to fulfill God’s promise? You were promised by the prophet Zechariah…today, you will carry me into Jerusalem.”
Without another word this Man…this One they call Lord…climbed upon me. No one had ever ridden upon me before. This was all happening so fast, but, for some strange reason, I trusted this stranger. Ever so gently He whispered into my ear – “Walk, My friend, walk.”
We entered through the gates of the city Jerusalem. As soon as the people saw us, they began to cheer. The noise was deafening, yet I felt safe to continue. It was as if I was being guided through those streets by another…I find it difficult to put into words. In unison people began shouting…
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
Men, women, boys and girls were throwing their cloaks upon the ground. I felt guilty walking on them, but knew I was to continue towards the Temple. All around me people were waving branches…palm branches. They called Him “King!”
There were others who seemed to not recognize who He was. Others shouted His name – Jesus. They said “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Me…just a little colt from the village of Bethany was carrying a prophet…I was carrying a King!
We made our way to the Temple. He jumped off my back…gave me a hearty pat and rub behind the ears. He smiled calmly and then walked away. That was a day I shall never forget…that was the day I carried the King!
This is the story of three donkeys. Each of them privileged to carry the King!