The Gentle beasts of the field and fold
on Christmas Eve, so bleak and cold,
At midnight all, with one accord
Kneel to adore their newborn Lord.
From a traditional European Carol
One of the loveliest legends that has evolved around the story of the birth of Christ is the one portraying the animals in the stable bowing down in obeyance to the newborn Babe.
The tree animals most closely associated with the Christmas story are the donkey, the camel, and the ox.
It was the lowly donkey upon which the Virgin Mary made the arduous five-day trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Because Joseph was but a poor carpenter, it is unlikely that he could afford a donkey of his own. It can be assumed, therefore, that he rented or borrowed one so that his pregnant wife would not have to walk, as he himself did. No doubt the tired little animal was grateful for the shelter and sustenance of the stable where the family was forced to stay upon their arrival in Bethlehem.
The significance of the donkey’s presence at Jesus’ birth might even be associated with fact that, shortly before His arrest and crucifixion, Christ made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding upon such an animal.
God, as we consider all the minor elements of the story of the birth of our Savior, remind us of how every little piece plays a role in your kingdom. We thank you for the donkey who aided our Lord’s mother in her faithful journey. Help us to offer our aid along life’s path to other travelers. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.