Max Lucado, Christian Author

Christmas bespeaks of nativity. And nativity gives occasion to nativity plays. Who knows who first came up with the idea of dramatizing the birth of Christ, but the first script has inspired innumerable others.

Though each has its own unique wrinkle, they all have some common features: angels with chiffon wings, wise men and their gifts from afar. A weary innkeeper will turn Mary away. A wide-eyed Joseph will bunch the manger’s hay. And Mary, weary and sweet will say, “I think today.”

Beneath a suspended star a baby will be born, the angels will sing, the wise men will kneel and children of all ages will go home telling their parents that next year they want a part in the nativity play. Little boys want to be Joseph. Little girls want to be Mary. Some want to wear the angel wings or bear gifts from a distant land. A few might even offer to be the hard-hearted Herod or the hassled innkeeper.

But no one, ever, as far as I know, volunteers to be the donkey. Which is odd, actually, for what greater honor could exist than to do what the donkey did? He carried Jesus. I know, Joseph is better looking and Mary is quite stunning. Wise men get the cool hats and angels have the hallelujahs. And the donkey? He just stands to the side and chews on hay.

But look at him. Do you not see contentment in those big, brown eyes? A look of satisfaction on his face? He just delivered history’s greatest gift! Before Santa had a sleigh or UPS had trucks, God had a donkey. Thanks, in no small part, to him, the choir can sing “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.”

I know, I know. We’d rather be Joseph, rugged and bearded. We’d rather be Mary, faithful, beautiful, and immaculate.

But somebody needs to be the donkey. I’m thinking a donkey at Christmas is a good thing to be.

The Christmas donkey did his work. He delivered Jesus so Jesus could be delivered.

He plodded. He didn’t gallop or giddy-up. He did what donkeys do. He steadily stepped in the direction the master directed.

And, upon arrival, he stepped to the side. He demanded no recognition, expected no compensation. He isn’t even mentioned in the Bible.

He was happy to do his job and let Jesus have all the attention.

Perhaps we could learn a lesson from the Christmas donkey? There is always a place in the nativity, God’s nativity story, for the person who will plod along expecting no applause, bear up under the weight of the long haul, and carry the One who will carry us all.

So here’s to the donkeys of the story. May your ride be faithful and your rest be fruitful. And we will do our best to follow your example.

©Max Lucado, December 2017

36 comments on “Let’s Be Donkeys This Christmas

  1. Beauriful Max, I wrote a Christmas story called one night in a stable, It was about the animals in the stable. I wrote a little bit about the donkey but not really very much. Here it is,
    A Special Night in the Stable
    Melinda K. Taylor. December 2016
    Dusk is falling as Joseph is walking toward Bethlehem leading the donkey that is carrying his wife Mary, who is pregnant and near time to deliver their first born child. Joseph, Mary and the donkey are all weary and hungry looking forward to a place to eat and rest.
    Finally Joseph sees a light up ahead, and excitedly, he calls to Mary, “There’s a light up ahead. It must be the inn.” They approached the inn, tied the donkey to the hitching post, walked up and knocked on the door. When the innkeeper answered the door Joseph asked “Is there room in the inn?” The innkeeper answers. “No, but there is room in the stable.” Do you think that the innkeeper offered them a hot meal and tea or coffee? The bible does not say but I hope they did. I wonder what the reaction would be today if a mid-eastern man and pregnant woman would show up at our door.
    Joseph and Mary approached the stable, opened the door and stepped inside. The stable is warm and filled with the smells and the night sounds of the animals inside. The hay has a sweet smell to it and the doves and pigeons are cooing in the rafters. There is a soft neighing of the horse, the baaing of the sheep and the braying of the donkey. I have to think that there is a Jersey cow (my favorite breed) near the manger. Joseph takes care of the donkey, making sure he has hay and water. Then he sets up a place where he and Mary can rest.
    Mary starts feeling uncomfortable and soon she is in labor. Do you think Mary and Joseph were scared? Mary was so young and having her first child with no other woman to help her. They take comfort because they knew that God was with them? I can imagine Mary looking into the soft brown eyes of the Jersey cow and taking some comfort from them.
    Finally the baby boy named JESUS is born. Mary examines him, as all new mothers do, wraps him in swaddling clothes that she brought with her, and lays him in the manger. I wonder if Joseph is thinking “How am I going to be a father to the SON OF GOD?” Mary looking down at this precious child, thinking many things and realizing this son of hers will be the Savior of the World. The animals are looking on and do you think that the first lullaby that the baby hears are the night sounds the animals are making in the stable?
    I imagine God looking down at this tiny human son of his. Does he feel a mixture of pride yet sorrow because he knew what would happen in the future? Yet he freely gave us this gift of eternal life.
    Heaven breaks out in the joyful noise of angels singing O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining. This is the night of the Dear Savior’s birth.
    This is what I imagine Christmas Eve was like the night The SAVIOR came into this world.

  2. Just absolutely great demonstration during a time when Christmas is so sold out for the almighty dollar.
    Merry Christmas !! Im grateful for Jesus Christ the only true gift at Christmas that will.last eternally

  3. Max, as “gifted” an author as you are, and, certainly, a devoted preacher of the Gospel, I am amazed in your liturgy of the 1st Christmas that you include the “wise men” or “magi” at the manger. The Bible CLEARLY states, “they found the CHILD at the HOUSE, and, NOT in Bethlehem. This is a COMMON misconception, and is carried out in numerous Christmas plays, pageants and Christmas cards. PLEASE, quit contributing to this falsehood.

    1. In the whole scheme of things, does it really matter. Does it make a difference in the salvation message? Not really. So it’s not worth getting so worked up about.

    2. Although you are correct about where the “wise men” actually met Jesus, Max is also correct in that nearly every skit, play or dramatized version of the Christmas story contains them at the stable. Until new skits are written, and people understand the truths as they are written, the “wise men” will continue to be a part of the story.

  4. Beautiful message! Love the perspective shared….and I will share it as well….with my Grade 3 students and with the seniors we will be visiting at the Vilna Lodge on the 21st! We shall sing some songs….read a Christmas story, do some puzzles, swap some recipes and talk donkeys!! Thoughtfulness and a new perspective have the power to build FAITH! Thank you!

  5. We don’t think of the logistics of the birth of our savior. Thinking of the donkey think of the long trip he made. When reading my Christmas devotional this week the writer brought up the donkey with an odd question and a reminder. This was a human birth. Mary carried extra weight the donkey bore. Could possibly as they approched the stable Mary’s water break? We don’t think about the horrible conditions Jesus was born in. He was born in blood just as he died. There were no sterile hospital beds for Mary to birth him. I’m sure Joesph did his best to make mother and child comfortable. God loved us so much that he gave us his son in that way. But without the donkey would they have even made it to shelter? Thank God for his grace! Merry. CHRISTmas

  6. I’ve always loved “The Small One”, and would cry as I heard Bing Crosby tell the story of the donkey who carried Mary. I’d play it on my record player, and someone has put it on YouTube. I’m a happy girl.

  7. This truly is one of the most precious articles I have read about Christmas. Oh, I want to be a donkey!!!

  8. I love the donkey. When my daughter was 4 all she wanted for Christmas was “Mary’s donkey”. She even told Santa that. Today she is a wildlife biologist and takes care of God’s animals. The donkey not only carried Mary but He carried Jesus too on Psalm Sunday. If you look at the back of the Donkey you will see a cross. Gentle creatures! Thank you for reminding us.

  9. Loved this story. Thanks for sharing it. Someone has to be the donkey and do the jobs no one else wants to.

  10. You are #AWSOME!!! I Have always learned and grew from the gift God has given you, Thank You, A Child Of The King

  11. Great narrative, Max.Reminds me off the current movie, The Star, told from the viewpoint of the donkey. He always wanted to carry a king, and at the end, he realizes that he has done exactly that, carrying the one and only King. Go see it, if you haven’t already.

  12. My beautiful sweet daughter Christina “Tini” forever 19 years old wanted to be the donkey every time they did the drama Sundays at Sunday School when she was 6 & 7 years old. We didn’t find this out until her Celebration of Life Service on May 2, 2016. Her Sunday School teacher told us that night that Tini requested to be the donkey each time. They finally pulled Tini aside and asked why she wanted to be the donkey. Tini didn’t hesitate and said because the donkey carries Jesus. Tini’s intimacy with the Lord was incredible. Tini and her three best friends went hand in hand together to be with Jesus after praying off campus before studying for finals. On their way back to UGA campus the driver lost control of the car and our beautiful daughter is now worshiping at the feet Jesus for eternity. Tini was a singer, songwriter and worship leader. Her passion was the least, the lost, the last and the hopeless. Tini wrote many songs. You can listen to her sing her song “Be Still” and playing her guitar. Tini wrote Be Still at Young Life’s Trail West while serving as a Horse Wrangler on Summer Staff the month of July 2015. Be blessed. Merry Christmas. Our hope and faith promises we will be with our beautiful sweet Tini for eternity one day soon. Click on this link and scroll down under my radio interview to listen to Tini’s song –

  13. Beautiful! Max Lucado ALWAYS offers a simply human, yet deeply meaningful perspective on Godly things, and this story is no exception! It just goes to show that each and every one of us has value, no matter how great or how small a part we play in kingdom-work…
    Merry, Merry Christmas!

  14. Beautiful, thank you for bringing the humble donkey into the light. I have had donkeys for over 50 years and they are one of God’s finest creatures. Patient, faithful and beautiful. For 30 of those years I took my donkeys to live Nativities, Posadas, into nursing homes. In most cases my donkey was the star of the show. Children and adults flocked to the donkey and I told them the story of the
    Christmas when a donkey carried Mary to Bethlehem. It was always a moving experience.

  15. I loved this. So many thoughtful comments were posted. As with any good Bible lesson, it should lead us to think and dare I say, maybe even wonder and imagine. When I read this story It dawned on me that a donkey delivered Jesus to the place He was to be born and a donkey delivered Him to the place He would die. I don’t know if it was the same donkey, but I like to imagine that it was. Donkeys can be stubborn, and so can I. Perhaps, me and the donkey have more in common than I originally thought. I too carry gifts that are entrusted to me to get them to the right destination, all to fulfill what God has planned for me. I may not see the light shining from that same star they followed long ago, but perhaps that is because that light now shines within me. Me and the donkey have a lot in common. If I am willing to carry Christ within me, then I too can deliver Him to the destination He is trying to reach—the heart of every man, woman and child!

    Thank you, Max!

  16. We have a lot of your books Max! You are by fa my favorite author!! I love how you get us to really stretch our minds and get out of the box with your amazing writing!! I have a Christmas specific little 24 day devotional. No author is listed but my 14 y. o totally thinks it’s you b/c of the writing style. Probably not but it could be done by u! thank you for once again showing us a new perspective on the most amazing story ever!! God bless and merry Christmas ✝️

  17. I have often thought about the donkey. Whenever we see him in the New Testament, he is carrying Jesus, in the beginning of His walk on earth and at the end of His walk on earth. We also see him being used in the Old Testament when God gave him an audible voice. It seems to me that he has always been a beast of burden, a Godly example for us to follow.

  18. Thank you for this story. I try to find a simple way to share a little Jesus each year with my big extended family. I believe a humble donkey will be the perfect example, for a bunch of dear hunters.
    Thank you for listening to our Lord Jesus Christ

    G.K. Chesterton

    When fishes flew and forests walked
    And figs grew upon thorn,
    Some moment when the moon was blood
    Then surely I was born;

    With monstrous head and sickening cry
    And ears like errant wings,
    The devil’s walking parody
    On all four-footed things.

    The tattered outlaw of the earth,
    Of ancient crooked will;
    Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
    I keep my secret still.

    Fools! For I also had my hour;
    One far fierce hour and sweet:
    There was a shout about my ears,
    And palms before my feet.

  20. Sorry, this story has nothing to do with scripture. First of all, Messiah was (conceived) on December 25, not birthed. Yes, that does make a difference, because by default you are celebrating something pagan in origin. Secondly, scripture never states there were 3 magi, and the manuscripts indicate that it was not a cave or stable, but more then likely He was birthed at relatives dwellings. And lastly, there is absolutely no commandment to celebrate this event anywhere in scripture. What the KING wanted us to observe is Passover, and communion in remembrance of HIS torture HE endured for us! Please note: not Easter, but Passover!
    There are many traditions of men interjected into the church denominations, and thereby making the real WORD void. So do research, and find out the real stories, and not what church leaders keep regurgitating year after year.

  21. Thank you so much for sharing!!! When I was in Kindergarten (‘68), I played the donkey, “all shaggy and brown” in our school play. For some reason, I always felt a bit ‘less than’ because I wasn’t the Virgin Mary or a beautiful angel. I saw the donkey’s character in this and saw myself. Your story helped heal an unrealized hurt inside my heart. I will hold my head up high in the future! I am a Donkey!! Thank you again!

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