This is a short Advent story by the Reverend Geoff Kohler. It’s about an elderly donkey who had been abused, and was now blessed to be part of the greatest story ever told!
This story also touches at the heart of all of us who have ever rescued an animal. We know how grateful they are for small kindnesses.
“We had nothing left to trade,” Joseph said, looking wistfully at the donkey. He shouldered his pack, picked up the posts of the litter that he dragged the rest of their things with. “We need the rest of these things for our life in Bethlehem.”
“It does not matter,” Mary agreed. “I walked before. I can walk now”
“Maybe we should wait,” Joseph started to say.
‘You know that woman with the blue sash I was speaking with this morning,” Mary interrupted. “She and that whole group she was with were on their way to Bethlehem as well. We better get moving. It’s only another day”
“I’m just thinking the child is coming soon.”
“Better there than here,” said Mary, not enjoying the idea of being so close to Herod’s home. But then she thought, there’s no place out of Herod’s reach. Then Joseph saw her smile as she thought on that the king’s arm wasn’t as long as God’s.
They left the donkey they had examined. It was a fine animal, sturdy, healthy and the trader called after them as they moved on that they wouldn’t find another as good. They were sure of that.
Down through the valley, past caravans setting up on the outskirts of the city, out toward the low, rolling hills they walked. Joseph had one eye on the path and one on his young wife who seemed to be walking better than him as they dragged the litter.
As they came over a rise there was a heavy man, big, brawny who seemed to be beating a sack of wheat with a stick. Then they realized it wasn’t a lifeless bag, it was an animal, a donkey almost white with age. It was on its knees with its head curled away from the whipping.
Joseph leaped down the slope to the man and grabbed his arm. “Leave me alone! This creature has seen its last day,” the man screamed. He shifted but he could not pull free of Joseph’s grip. Finally he stopped trying and stepped away. “You want this miserable animal’s life? Fine! It’s yours.” He scrambled up the roadway, giving Mary a clouded scowl and went on towards Jerusalem.
The animal was in terrible shape, but it scrambled to its feet once it saw that the attack was over. It drank their water as if it had just discovered the ability, but after a little while they left it on its own. The donkey watched them go for a little, but then it trotted after them. For half the way to Bethlehem it followed and finally with a sense of desperation and a prayer, Joseph placed Mary on its back.
He was shocked as he watched the old, white animal straighten under the burden of the young woman. He was even more surprised when it walked so steadily. He dragged the litter, watching for any tremor or wobble but it kept moving. Joseph had no way of knowing the delight of the animal that, for the first time in its life, was moving without being struck.
- Reverend Geoff Kohler, from 2008