It’s such a familiar image: a little donkey carrying a pregnant woman on its back, while a man walks ahead, hand lightly on the rein. The next scene, of course, is the interior of a stable where several animals, the donkey included, surround a manger that holds the new born child. A child destined to become a man whose message would change the world.
I have often marvelled at the fact that a donkey would be such an integral part of the Christmas story. Then, again, we are told that Mary and Joseph were peasants and so the choice of the donkey becomes clear serving, as it does, to signal their poverty and their insignificant place in the general society.
At the same time, though, there is another dimension to that familiar image. You see, it was thanks to the donkey’s strength and fortitude that the trip could even take place. Without the contribution of that stoical beast of burden, the humans would not have been able to play their part in those awe – some events.
Just by shifting the lens a little, the picture changes and suddenly there is importance, significance where there was none before.
The human effort, worthy as it is, is not everything. We depend on so many other creatures of the earth as we move along the road of life. And now, more than ever before, our future depends on our recognition of the interconnectedness of all beings. Mary and Joseph – and a donkey – made the trip to Bethlehem.