I love nativity scenes. Just gazing at one in the early hours of Christmas morning, before all the sights and sounds and smells of the day begin clamoring for one’s attention, can be so peaceful and serene.

A farm boy’s memory springs alive like a seven-year old waking up on Christmas Day. You can almost smell the hay that’s spread as a blanket for the Baby Jesus. With His outstretched arms, He is the focal point of the manger scene.

The angel and the star overhead point the way. And Mary and Joseph don’t look the least bit frustrated that there was no room for them in the inn.

And then there are the animals. After all, it IS a stable. And according to that favorite Christmas carol, Away In A Manger, the cattle are lowing. But it’s another animal that not often gets much attention. Sometimes not even a second glance. It’s the Christmas donkey.

I’ll admit – donkeys as such are not much to look at. Sometimes stubborn and stinky. And there never has been a derby won by a donkey. But take a look at your manger scene. He just sits over there by the side, chewing on a piece of hay. His job is done and he’s happy not to be in the spotlight.

His job, you ask? All the donkey did was deliver the Savior of the world to this little town of Bethlehem. No brown trucks. No jolly ol’ man with bag of gifts and a sleigh. No, the greatest Christmas present ever given was delivered by a donkey. With the pregnant Mary on its back for the long and dangerous 70-mile trip to the cattle stall, God used a donkey to deliver Jesus to His appointed destination. All part of God’s plan to deliver you and me.

Maestro, strike up the choir and orchestra. Church, let’s sing all four verses of Joy To The World! The Lord is Come.

Thanks to the Christmas donkey.