“The Little Donkey Who Knew Jesus”

26 December 2010

The Rev. Bryn Smallwood-Garcia
Congregational Church of Brookfield (UCC)

December 26, 2010

Numbers 22:21-35
Matthew 2:13-23

“The Little Donkey Who Knew Jesus”

Prayer:   “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts and minds here together be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.”

Once upon a time there was a very stubborn little donkey. He liked being on his own and always having things his own way. He didn’t have many friends, even among other donkeys.  And to tell you the truth, and not to be mean about it, donkeys as a rule are pretty stubborn.  When anything was put on his back he kicked it off, and he ran after people trying to bite them. His master couldn't do anything with him, so he sold him to another master, and that master couldn't do anything with him and also sold him, and finally he was sold for a few dollars to an awful old man who bought old worn-out donkeys and killed them by overwork and ill treatment. But the naughty donkey chased that old man and bit him, and then ran away kicking up his heels. He didn't want to be caught again so he joined a caravan that was going along the road. "Nobody will know who I belong to in all this crowd," thought the donkey.

These people were all going up to the city of Bethlehem, and when they got there they went into a big khan, which is a resting place for traveling caravans of people and animals. The little donkey slipped into a nice warm stable where there was an ox and a camel.

The camel was very haughty, like all camels, because camels think that they alone know the hundredth and secret name of God. He was too proud to speak to the donkey. So the donkey began to brag about himself. He loved boasting.

"I am a very unusual donkey," he said, "I have foresight and hindsight."

"What is that?" said the ox.

"Like my forelegs in front of me and my hind legs behind me. Why, my great great, thirty-seventh time great grandmother belonged to the Prophet Balaam, and saw with her own eyes the Angel of the Lord!"

But the ox went on chewing and the camel remained proud.

Then a man and a woman came in, and there was a lot of fuss, but the donkey soon found out that there was nothing to fuss about, only a woman having a baby, which happens every day. And after the baby was born some shepherds came and made a fuss of the baby – but what do shepherds know anyway? 

In the distance, high in the sky, came the sound of fluttering wings, like huge birds, and they were singing something.  The little donkey raised his head and tried to join in the song, but when he did, only a loud “Hee Haw!” came out and the baby started to cry. 

''Now, look what you have done!" said the camel.  “Hush!"

But then some men in rich robes came, and the baby became quiet again.

"V.I.P.s," hissed the camel. ''What's that?" asked the donkey.

''Very Important People," said the camel, “bringing gifts."

The donkey thought the gifts might be something good to eat, so when it was dark he began nosing around. But the first gift was yellow and hard, with no taste, the second made the donkey sneeze, and when he licked the third, the taste was nasty and bitter.  "What stupid gifts," said the donkey, disappointed.

But as he stood there by the manger, the baby stretched out his little hand and caught hold of the donkey's ear, clutching it tight as very young babies will.  And then a very odd thing happened. The donkey felt an unfamiliar feeling come over him, and he smiled at the baby.  He didn't want to be alone anymore. For the first time in his life he wanted to be good.  He wanted to help people.

And he wanted to give the baby a gift-but he hadn't anything to give. The baby seemed to like his ear, but the ear was part of him.  And then another strange idea came to him. Perhaps he could give the baby all of himself ...

It was not very long after that that Joseph came in with a tall stranger. The stranger was speaking urgently to Joseph, and as the donkey stared at them he could hardly believe his eyes!  The stranger seemed to turn into an Angel of the Lord, a golden figure with wings.

"Oh no, I'm seeing things," said the donkey to himself. "It must have been something I ate."

Joseph spoke to Mary.  "We must take the child and run away.  We have to get out of King Herod’s territory. There is no time to be lost." His eye fell on the donkey. "We will take this donkey here, and leave money for his owner whoever he may be. In that way no time will be lost."

So they went out on the road from Bethlehem. But as they came to a narrow place, the Angel of the Lord appeared with a flaming sword, and the donkey turned aside and began to climb the hillside. Joseph tried to turn him back on to the road.

But Mary said:  "Let him be. Remember the Prophet Balaam."

And just as they got to the shelter of some olive trees, the soldiers of King Herod came clattering down the road with drawn swords.

"Just like my great grandmother," said the donkey, very pleased with himself. "I wonder if I have foresight as well."

He blinked his eyes, and he saw a dim picture – a donkey fallen into a pit and a man helping to pull it out. "Why, it's my Master, grown up to be a man," said the donkey. Then he thought he saw the same man, riding on a donkey into a city.

"Of course," said the donkey. "He's going to be crowned King!" But the Crown seemed to be, not Gold, but Thorns (the donkey loved thorns and thistles, but it seemed the wrong thing for a Crown) and there was a smell he knew and feared – the smell of blood; and there was something on a sponge, bitter like the myrrh he had tasted in the stable ....

And the little donkey knew suddenly that he didn't want foresight any more. He just wanted to live for the day, to love his little Master and be loved by him, and to carry Him and his mother safely to Egypt.  He knew he would belong to his Master and serve Him for the rest of his days.  And knowing that, he was filled with hope and peace, and joy and love in a way he never had felt before.  It definitely was NOT indigestion!  It was as if he could hear Angels singing inside his heart, and for once and forever, he knew he would be a part of the song.

Let us pray:  Lord, thank you for calling to us and asking us to follow you.  Come into our hearts and become the Master of our souls.  Help us to serve you faithfully, with courage and with love, for all our days.  Amen.

Matthew 1:13-23

13Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

16When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

19When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

Numbers 22:21-35

22God’s anger was kindled because [the prophet Balaam] was going [to curse his people Israel at the command of the King of Moab], and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the road as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; so the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road. 24Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it scraped against the wall, and scraped Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck it again. 26Then the angel of the Lord went ahead, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!” 30But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?” And he said, “No.” 31Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed down, falling on his face. 32The angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? I have come out as an adversary, because your way is perverse before me. 33The donkey saw me, and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let it live.” 34Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now therefore, if it is displeasing to you, I will return home.” 35The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men [of Moab to the people of Israel]; but speak only what I tell you to speak.” So Balaam went …

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