Three donkeys, one King

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!

Sunday school done right…

Instead of our monthly meetings, I have decided to make this curriculum available to you through our church library.  I hope each of our Sunday school teachers will consider viewing this training resource for reaching, teaching and ministering through our Sunday school.  We also want to make it available to anyone involved in Christian education. 

 

Rethinking Christmas…

Keri shared this blog post from Ann Voskamp with me last night and I found the ideas presented here worthwhile to consider as we rethink our approach to Christmas.  The struggle in our consumer driven world is to resist the temptation of making Christmas all about the gifts bearing OUR name beneath the tree.  I want our family…our children…to know the real meaning of Christmas.  We haven’t forsaken the idea of giving gifts to one another, but we are taking greater efforts this year to ensure Jesus knows we are there to celebrate Him, not us.  Maybe this list will give you some ideas on how you can rethink your Christmas. 

Enjoy this post…

So for over ten years now, we have nothing under the Christmas tree here, and I tell that crazy story and people have to ask and it’s a good question:

So if you don’t exchange gifts, what do you do then on Christmas morning?

 Ten Things to Do on Christmas Morning When all the Gifts are for Him

1. Birthday for Breakfast

Serve Birthday Cake for Breakfast — with ice cream and an arch of balloons and birthday hats and light the candles and sing of wondrous grace! He has come! And for us!

Our tradition is angel food cake for the birthday cake — made with freshly ground wheat — and I think of the wheat that fell to the ground, died for us and the harvest of the many.

2. Sup with Him — Feast Fit for a King

And we make breakfast a feast fit for a king. One of our best meals of the year is reserved for Christmas breakfast — recipes we serve only for Christmas Morning Breakfast —- Victorian French Toast with whip cream and fresh fruit and a cranberry raspberry slushy drink and Sausage bake and orange juice and pineapple and we decorate with floating candles and and a nativity scene center piece and our best linens.

He’s invited us to His table, adopted us, made us one of His own— and we have time to come, to say yes to His invitation!

3. Gifts for Him, the Birthday Child

After breakfast, we gather together to give gifts to the birthday babe, the King Come —- and these are all gifts to the least of these, because Jesus Himself said, when you give to the least of these, you give to me, so we pick out more gifts from His catalogues. We don’t open presents but we open a far deeper joy.

One family writes of their creative Christmas mornings of giving Christmas gifts only to Jesus:

On Christmas morning this year, we had our oldest dress up as a wise man, and he went around the house, finding tin foil stars and taking the gifts he found there to the baby Jesus that we had in the living room. It was great!

What a creative way for kids, the whole family, to celebrate Christmas morning– tinfoil stars that have notes of donation to the least of these, a boy dressed up as a wise man, really worshipping!

It sounds, yes, terrifying, to not exchange gifts on Christmas morning, it did to me —- but the utter and unadulterated joy we unwrapped in giving away to those Jesus says He’s with, the poor. And we discovered all that He is absolutely true to His word: it is always better to give than to receive.

And when we give to them we are giving to Him, it leaves us filled and satisfied in the realest sense.

Satisfied that everything fits and nothing will be returned and no batteries are needed for we have done the one thing that is needful — touched the hem of God, murmured adoration and offered up gifts to Him.

4. Serve Him a Meal

A loaf of fresh bread to an elderly neighbor spending his first Christmas alone, a still-in-the-dark cup of coffee and an egg sandwich delivered downtown to a homeless person, ladling bowls in a soup kitchen at lunch time, delivering sticky buns and a hug to the family who buried a child this year, gifting all the neighborhood with cookies and a card rejoicing in Christ come —- serve Christ a meal this Christmas, bread of heaven come down for all the hungry.

5. Invite Him In

It may be a single relative in need of a welcoming hearth, a lonely person from your faith community, a widow from down the road, a grieving friend, a lonely stranger, but to invite someone in need to His party because Christ who came to a world that had no room in the inn now calls all to come and He calls us to His kind of hospitality.

We have done this and this is His party and this is who He wants to come — the one who feels as unwanted as He did when He came to us. So we open the door and say come and celebrate with those He came for…

6. Give Yourself Talent Show

We know a family who gives the only gift we ever can really give, the gift of ourselves, by offering a little Christmas Day Talent Show. He does a crazy little tap dance — and everyone laughs —- and she joins him —- and everyone howls. What can you give of yourself to offer to Jesus, your family, on Christmas morning?

7. Join all of Creation

We spend hours outdoors on Christmas day, joining all of Creation and the heavenly throng in giving Him praise. We walk through the bush and sing Christmas carols, we go sledding down the back hills, we play in the snow and we laugh. We’ve decorated trees outside with treats, strings of popcorn and cranberry, suet and peanut butter and, if the conditions are right, it’s the one day of the year that we pour maple syrup over snow and eat taffy — we taste and see that the Lord is good!

8. Tell the Story

Over the years, we’ve told the Christmas story on Christmas morning with cousins and kids getting dressed up and re-enacting it for us, with kids written-performed-directed puppet show, with blankets and spotlight and silhouettes. Old men have been Joseph and toddlers have been Mary and this is the story that we love to tell — to remember the gift who came.

9. Sing the Hallelujah Chorus

Sing it in the woods, on the streets, in a nursing home, a hospital hall, a prison lounge, around the piano with the family, for the next door neighbors, a shut in across town. We join the angels this day and we fill the world with the music of the Messiah here. Find a way, somewhere, to sing because isn’t this the day of all days, we need to sing?

10. Follow the Light

And come Christmas night, we follow the light and some years it’s outside in the woods, luminaries, candles in jars, lighting a path to a nativity scene and we sing worship in the deepening dark, and some windy years, its filling the house with candles and spending the last hours of Christmas day singing glory, glory, glory, glory to God in the Highest.

Top Ten Reasons Church Dropouts Stopped Attending Church

1. Simply wanted a break from church

2. Church members seemed judgmental and hypocritical

3. Moved to college and stopped attending church

4. Work responsibilities prevented me from attending

5. Moved too far away from the church to continue attending

6.  Became too busy, though still wanted to attend

7.  Didn’t feel connected to the people in my church

8.  Disagreed with the church’s stance on political or social issues

9.  Chose to spend more time with friends outside the church

10.  Was only going to church to please others

Taken from Essential Church? reclaiming a generation of dropouts (page 160)