As Christmas draws near, I look at my miniature donkeys, Samson and Delilah, when I spend time with them out in the barn or pasture and picture them at the Manger scene. Right now, it’s a little difficult to imagine them with the baby Jesus since they are young, energetic and at times, unruly! But they are gentle, loving creatures and it would seem appropriate for them to be near the manger.
They make me think of two wonderful stories about animals, including donkeys, and Jesus. The first is the story “The Night the Animals Talked,” a favorite of mine since I was a child.
In Norway, there is a legend that draws children to all kinds of stables and stalls throughout the country each Christmas Eve night. They are hoping to hear a miracle, waiting to hear the animals talk.
When baby Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, it was a working stable, filled with animals of all kinds, including the little donkey. In those humble surroundings, circled by the innocent creatures of God, the Savior of man came into the world.
According to the legend, Christ's birth occurred at exactly midnight. Inside the stable, the animals watched in wonder as the newborn babe was lovingly wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. Suddenly, God gave the animals voices and immediately they began to praise Him for the miracle they had just seen. This went on for several minutes and just before the shepherds arrived, the animals again fell silent. The only humans who had heard them were Mary, Joseph and the Christ child.
The legend of the talking animals still continues in Scandinavia. Every Christmas Eve, children creep into stables just before midnight to hear the animals praise God for the wondrous birth of His Son. The adults scoff but the children know, or at least believe, that animals really do praise God at midnight every Christmas Eve.
This legend makes me wonder if Samson and Delilah will be “talking” at midnight on Christmas Eve, such a special night. I’ll have to go to the barn and stay with them to find out.
The other story, also associated with Jesus, is how the donkey got the cross on its back. Miniature donkeys have a dark cross that goes from shoulder to shoulder and down their back, from their neck down.
This is the story by Mary Singer: “Bring me the colt of a donkey,” was the Master’s request. A young donkey was brought to Jesus to carry him into Jerusalem. A week later, Jesus was ordered crucified.
The little donkey so loved the Lord that he wanted to help him carry the cross. But alas, he was pushed away. The sad little donkey waited to say goodbye until nearly everyone had left. As he turned to leave, the shadow of the cross fell upon his back and shoulders. And there it has remained as a tribute to the loyalty and love of the humblest of God’s creatures.
A very touching tribute to the loyalty and love of the miniature donkey. Samson and Delilah are no exception. They are the most loving little creatures, having to be touched and hugged every time I go to the barn. They have brought much joy as they lean their warm little bodies against my leg and wait to be nuzzled and hugged.
From Samson, Delilah and all of us at Mudville, a very Merry Christmas!
Samson and Delilah enjoy a Christmas treat!