Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
When asked to write about the Christmas story from the perspective of a Stephen Minister,* my mind went immediately to the donkey standing in so many Nativity scenes. Well-trained over many days and weeks to carry the burdens of others, the donkey is an often overlooked example of a Steven Minister.
The Christmas story is a very familiar one to most of us. Imagine with me this beautiful old story in a new way.
Mary, a young woman from the small town of Nazareth, has become pregnant. Going into the shed adjoining her home, Mary weeps on the neck of her family’s donkey as she pours out to this trusted beast of burden her fear, her amazement, and her confusion. With silent acceptance the donkey looks at her with eyes of love. There is no judgment or condemnation in those brown eyes. Mary strokes the long grey ears that listen so patiently and takes comfort from the touch of the soft muzzle of the quiet animal.
Months later we find Joseph helping Mary onto the back of the now heavily loaded donkey. All the way over the rough road to Bethlehem the donkey bearing Mary listens as she shares her hopes and fears, her aches and pains, and at times complains bitterly about her chosen lot. The donkey never gets angry or impatient or refuses to continue on. Seemingly, this most ordinary of beasts understands what a gift it is to have even a small part of this amazing journey.
Later, settled in the warm manger, the donkey gazes in wonder as the Christ Child enters the world. The donkey’s work is not finished. There is more travel ahead for Mary and Joseph and the Holy Child, but the donkey welcomes the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. He, too, is part of God’s glorious plan for humanity.
*A Stephen Minister is a lay person who has been called to provide Christian care to individuals in our congregation who are in need of emotional and spiritual support as they go through difficult periods of their lives. The confidential one-to-one care is provided weekly for about an hour at a time for as long as there is a need. A Stephen Minister has been called by God to receive extensive training in order to serve the person who is hurting.
Prayer: Gracious God, may each of us—like the donkey—find our place in your plan for humanity. Amen.
About the Contributor
Nancy Lassiter is a native of Ottawa, Canada whose family emigrated to Charlotte, North Carolina. Much of her adult life has been as an educator—first at Dorman High School and later at Fairmont State University in WV. As proud parents of a blended family of six adult children, seven grandchildren, and one great granddaughter, Nancy and Gene are enjoying their life in retirement.