Saturday, December 15, 2007

"Be a Good Donkey, You Hear?"

Well, all the talk at church this week has centered on one crucial subject - the donkey. Tomorrow is the big Christmas cantata and dramatic portrayal of the nativity scene. And, unlikely as it might seem, Mary and Joseph will trek across our sanctuary on a real live donkey. No, this was not my idea. I am just the narrator, reading bits of the story between acts and anthems. Today we had our dress rehearsal. We all had to be there, in costume for a long, exhausting practice. Everyone was there, the shepherds, the angels, the chorus, everyone - except the donkey. That's what makes me nervous, the whole idea that what takes us three hours to rehearse a donkey can get right on the first try.

All week long I've been figuring the odds. What are the chances that in the middle of a major production before a packed house that a normal, red-blooded, Missouri donkey is going to do just exactly what it's supposed to do? And, even more critical, what are the odds that the donkey will not do what we do not wish him/her to do, related to the sanctuary carpet?

Our directors decided it was far too risky to use a real infant to play the part of Baby Jesus, so we have this plastic doll whose head seems a little small, kind of a premature Jesus. But, a live donkey - no problem. I really don't mean to be critical. I do appreciate the ton of work that has gone into this production and I'm sure it will be a powerful telling of the coming of Christ into the world. And for what it's worth, this whole donkey watch has added an element of mystery and excitement to a very familiar story.

Come to think of it, God took the big gamble on that first Christmas sending His Son, our Savior into the world by way of a penniless teenage girl and her bewildered husband. I guess if we are going to tell that same story, there really should be some kind of risk involved. We'll take our chances. "Nice donkey. Be a good donkey, you hear?"

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