The fact that the little donkey has been bearing humanity’s burdens for thousands of years is well documented. This Christmas season I am reminded of this humble animal’s impact on the holidays and religion. The bible says that Mary rode a donkey into Bethlehem before giving birth to the baby Jesus. We see this today in most Nativity scenes where a donkey is standing or bedded close by the manger keeping watch over the new family. Then, on Palm Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last time on a donkey. The religious significance of the donkey is expressed in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The King, riding the lowly donkey, is seen as a symbol of peace and salvation.
You may have heard of the legend of the “Jerusalem Donkey”. It goes something like this – after he brought Jesus into Jerusalem the donkey was troubled because he knew what Jesus was about to go through with his trial, suffering and death on the cross. The donkey seeing the sad treatment of Jesus wished he had been able to carry the cross; after all, it was his job to carry man’s burdens. The donkey could not bear to watch and turned away but in his concern stayed nearby as Jesus endured his torture. God saw this and caused the shadow of the cross to fall across the little donkey’s back and he has carried the sign of the cross ever since as a symbol of God’s love.
On Christmas Day give your little burros a few carrots and an extra scratch or two and remember the burdens their ancestors have carried for thousands of years on behalf of mankind.
Merry Christmas to all my long-ear lovin’ friends!