The Donkey

An “I Am the Clay” Vignette*

Mary-Joseph_Donkey

It was a pleasant, late fall day in the Samarian hill country. The main road was lined with men, women, children, the rich, the poor—each heading south, each on his or her way to take part in a government-ordered census.

Most seemed to be traveling in large groups of family and neighbors, with the exception of the young couple with the donkey traveling alone. (They had waited until most everyone in their own village had left, so as to keep from answering too many questions.)

She—Mary, very expectant—rode comfortably on the back of the donkey (Levi, she had named him; a good-natured jab at her younger brother with the same name) while he, Joseph, led the way.

Like us, Levi’s task was to carry the unborn Savior and, in effect, the good news He would bring—the gospel—to “all Judea and Samaria, and (our task, not Levi’s) to the ends of the earth.”

Unlike us, though, Levi wasn’t aware of that; after all, he was only a donkey. He didn’t know the one he was carrying was Immanuel—“God with us”—the one the prophet Isaiah had written about 700 years earlier.

Still, he faithfully carried out the task assigned to him.

The question is—are we? Are we faithfully carrying out the task assigned to us? Do we see it our calling to carry the light of the gospel to every corner of a dark world? Or are we content to leave that baby in the manger? Content to shop and feast and sing of the angels and the shepherds, the star and the wise men, the manger and the stable, and then pack it up and store it in the attic until next year?

That’s not why He came. He didn’t come to be the centerpiece of our Christmas pageant or the “reason for the season.” He came—His words, once He was old enough to speak them—“that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Not just life, but abundant life.

One day, after He was grown, He said that “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:16 NIV) He also said that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29 NIV)

The abundant life He came to give isn’t found in things or people or events—even events inspired by His birth. It’s found in Him, who He is. And one day, He told us who He is…

…He said He is “the life.” (John 14:6 NIV)

The life.”

As one who has been given “the life,” how can I not do as “the life” said and carry His good news to “the ends of the earth”?

Good question.

Levi faithfully carried out the task assigned to him…

Are we…?


*A brief written piece about a person or event. Or a donkey.

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A merciful and faithful High Priest

From the I Am the Clay “Story” Series

mary-visits-elisabeth-large

It was necessary for [Jesus] to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17 NIV

The priest who is anointed and ordained…as high priest…is to put on the sacred linen garments and make atonement for…all the members of the community. Leviticus 16:32,33 NIV

“Barnabus!” the woman called from the mouth of the cave. “It’s almost time for dinner.”

“Coming!” Her husband’s voice echoed from deep within the animal shelter.

He stepped out into the late afternoon sunlight holding a strip of cloth. “What’s that?” his wife asked.

“It appears to be baby swaddling. That young couple must have left it behind.” He handed it to her.

“My, my,” she said as she examined the cloth. “This is fine linen. Where did those poor children get this?”

“I don’t know. I guess they brought it with them, knowing she might have her baby while they were here,” he replied, closing the gate behind him. “And we don’t know that they were poor.”

“She had her baby in a stable.”

Our stable—warm and comfortable. I tried to give them our room but they wouldn’t hear of it; insisted they would be fine.” They made their way toward the inn.

“And they were fine—a beautiful baby boy and a story they can tell their grandchildren,” she said folding the piece of cloth as they walked. “Still, I wonder where they got this linen…”

And now for the rest of the story…

The Lamb

Shepherd

From the CLAY “Story” Series

And you, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come… Micah 4:8 NKJV

“Shimri—come quickly! Hannah is about to lamb!”

The young man came bounding up the hill, his tunic gathered so he could run and his torch held high.

“Hannah? You named a ewe Hannah?”

“Would you just come with me? We need to get her up to the birthing floor in the tower before the lamb comes.”

Shimri grabbed his staff and followed his younger brother down the hill.

“Nathanel, slow down—I don’t have a torch.”

Nathanel stopped while Shimri caught up. “If we don’t hurry—“

“She’ll be fine. Where is she?”

“Under the sycamore at the foot of the hill. This is her first lamb and I just—“

Shimri smiled. “So that’s why you named her Hannah. Good to know you’ve been paying attention in synagogue. Am I going to run into a Ruth or a Jochebed while we’re out here?”

“No. They’re both over in the far pasture.”

Shimri chuckled under his breath. “Of course they are.”

And now for the rest of the story…

“M” is for…

M is for

Where would we be without mothers? Biologically, of course, we wouldn’t—be, that is. But mothers have contributed a lot more to the world than just the fruits of their loins. No doubt we’ve all learned a lot from, and been blessed by, the various mothers in our lives. I know I have.

In addition to my real mother (more on that sweet thang later) I’ve had heaps of surrogate mothers in my life. (Turns out, I needed a lot of nurturing and guidance growing up.) They fed me and did my laundry while I was off at college; convinced me that opening car doors for their daughters was a sure-fire way to receive a to-go box of homemade baklava; patiently explained why we can’t wear the red stoles with our choir robes at Christmas—a liturgical calendar no-no, even though it seemed like a festive idea to me, a Baptist, who had no idea there was a liturgical calendar; and taught me to read music, use the correct fingering when playing the piano, and eat the English peas in a TV dinner without gagging.

It took a village.

And now for the rest of the story..

First-born Son

From the CLAY “Story” Series

Joseph

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

“Young man, you wait out here.”

“But—”

“Have you ever seen a baby being born?”

“No, but—”

“No ‘buts’.” The woman scurried back through the wooden gate and disappeared into the depths of the torch-lit cave, muttering to herself as she went. “Cows everywhere—shoo!”

The young man stood helplessly outside the animal enclosure, straining to get a glimpse of what was going on inside. He reached to open the gate.

“I wouldn’t go in there if I were you.” The young man hesitated and turned toward the older man sitting on a rock next to a small fire.

And now for the rest of the story…