One of the little boys in our church’s preschool raised his hand and volunteered to be a donkey in the annual preschool Christmas pageant. Then a few days later one of his friends told him it was “stupid” to be an animal. So he went home and told his mother he was unhappy with this part. Mom tried to comfort and encourage and remind him of the central role of animals in the birth of Jesus. How would Mary have gotten to the stable without the donkey carrying her? Finally he consented, though clearly humiliated. He told his Mom, “I will put on the donkey costume and participate, but I will not say ‘Heehaw.’”
I am amazed that by the time our children are in preschool we have already taught them that some roles are lowlier than others. Being a donkey in life is not cool. Though we may have initially thought it was. The message of Christmas is that the lowliest ones are the ones who “got it” and those wearing crowns and sitting on thrones didn’t.
We look around today and we know, we don’t want to be the donkey in this world of ours. (The man on the corner with the cardboard sign, the refugee at the border, the sanitation worker, the first to be let go when the downsizing began, the warehouse worker let go after the Christmas rush, the kid never picked for the team.) But they are the ones who heard the cry of Jesus in the stable and knew it was God.