From High Up in the Rocky Mountains
Following the bright star, the last three wise men knew they were closing in on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
Their excitement mounted with each step they took. They knew they must begin their search, for they knew without question who and what they would find. They did not know their precise destination, although they did know they must somehow reach it.
Entering the great city they were astounded at the variety of peoples. The colours of their dress and the aromas of their cooking pots were in stark contrast to the bareness of their long journey. The symphonic melodies of their many languages combined harmoniously with their dance and song. Exotic animals from across the globe communed silently in the stable’s light evening shadows. Lanterns began to glow from the portals and balconies of the colourfully adorned majestic dwellings. Richness, of health and wealth, abounded. Surely and truly they had arrived in the correct place, for this was a city befitting a new born King.
Shepherding all of his inner strength, a timid and beastly being peered around the corner of the stable stalls. His coal black eyes and small bushy beard were barely visible through the shadows. The stalls contained the draft animals and beasts of burden of dozens of caravans. Camels, horses, donkeys, oxen, elephants, llamas, sled dogs and velvety antlered reindeer had wordlessly told him of their many exciting journeys from their far flung homelands. He listened intently. Their masters had seen them safely to this place where a great wonder was to be revealed. They were amused by the pair of rounded gut webbed footwear, the long flat wooden utensils strung across his back and the single long haired grizzly bear skin that he wore as a tunic. They had yet to see his master or any of the master’s servants. Their own masters and servants came regularly to check on their well-being, to feed and water them. And yet this beast seemed to be on his own unattended. He was a beast for sure, as he had once communicated with them, and they, with regularity, with he. Still, in all this beast seemed to be very well nourished, having plenty of strength and vigor, as was demonstrated when he held the roof of the corral when the beam had come loose as an elephant swayed. Although the communication was sparse, it was also evident that the beast was possessed with intelligence which matched their own masters’, for indeed he had single handedly effectuated the majority of the repairs when their masters had arrived. His hands were as gentle as they were strong. He ministered to those who were weary or ailing from their long, tiring journey. They accepted his touch unflinchingly; were soothed immediately and rested fearlessly under his blanket of vigilance. They now watched the watcher and wondered why this curious beast seemed unwilling to make his presence known to the human beings. He silently conveyed that it was not that he was afraid of the humans, but that the humans, he knew, would fear him.
He studied the convention of the Magi as they discussed the need to move quickly if they were to be on time. They were resplendent in their native finery. They had arrived with all sorts of gifts befitting a new born king. Yet their many languages impeded the progress of the discussion; equally resplendent translators struggled with the multitude of languages and dialects. He desperately wanted to join in their deliberations, but knew he could not. He understood all of their native tongues but could not converse with them. His knowledge would confuse them all the more and distract them from their mission. His dress would offend the Magi. His entire countenance would frighten them. As importantly, his lack of exotic gifts for the new born child would further segregate him from those he watched. All that he had to offer would not be accepted, that which he had not to offer would be the most noted. So he watched.
The star which had led them all to this place rose higher in the sky. The shadows darkened and lengthened. Clouds threatened and caused the stars to appear to twinkle. The guiding star sat motionless in the sky. Those who had followed it, now studied it. They had interviewed every servant and porter that they could. They had sent emissaries to each of the great dwellings to inquire as to a recent birth. They had been to the inns to investigate their client lists. The star continued to tell them they were nigh. They were so close, and yet no closer to the child they sought than when they began their treks so many months ago. Desperation and frustration flowed between the watcher and those he watched.
As he watched, he pictured in his mind’s eye the exact location these great men sought. He had seen the place. He had already been there. He had ensured that the place would be available and suitable for the exact purpose for which it had always been intended. This was his task. Who had given him the task, he really did not know. The task had been accomplished to the very best of his ability. In fact, it was absolutely perfect. Indeed, he had come from that place to meet these great men. He wanted to see all of these great visitors. He wanted to see the great gifts they bore. He wanted to learn from the great beasts that had brought them here. And all would be for naught if he couldn’t see this greatest of events unfold.
And so he turned back to the beasts in the stables. They could not see the consternation on his face. The sense of foreboding lingered momentarily, then vanished. The answer had been with him the whole time.
He now had a gift for this new born king. He knew the baby would count his gift as greatly as the gifts of the Magi, as greatly as the gift of the drummer boy and as greatly as all the gifts that would be given in His name for all time. All the beasts in the stable knew it as well. Their strange companion would find a way to impart his knowledge to the impressive human beings without speaking to them, without revealing himself, without showing his lack of fine gifts, without frightening them and without embarrassing them.
He nodded gently to the least of the beasts in the stables. A graying swaybacked donkey rose quietly to his feet. The aches in his brittle old bones blinded him momentarily. He staggered. The timid watcher of human beings steadied him, his hands smoothed the graying old coat, his own tears washed clarity into the cataract-impaired eyes, and the donkey delved deeply into his own reserve of strength. The stranger then gently held the donkey by the head and looked deeply into the donkey’s eyes. Nobly, the donkey started for the massive doors of the stables. With neither master or shepherd to guide him, the donkey left the stables and strode confidently towards the congregation of powerful human beings. All of the other beasts rose as one. Quietly, so as not to alert the masters or servants, they followed the donkey toward the assembled Magi. The donkey stopped at several paces from the group of human beings, he allowed the other beasts to catch up to him. As if on hidden signal, the donkey brayed as he had not brayed in twenty years. The majestic men turned from their discussions to see all of their prized beasts gathered behind an old donkey. The panic which began to rise in their chests quickly subsided. This was not a stampede. It was more of a parade. A parade led by an old donkey. They gathered up all of their fine clothes and gifts and followed the strange parade. From behind the great doors of the stables, the coal black eyes of the beasts’ strange companion followed the parade. He knew the donkey would lead them all to the exact spot they had so ardently sought. All would now be as it had been intended.
Moving as rapidly and as stealthily as possible, the strange companion made his way to the manger. He would be there to greet the parade. He knew those already assembled in the manger awaited them.
And so the prophesy was fulfilled. The precious gifts, carried from afar by the greatest men of earth, were bestowed upon the Christ Child. And this is why, millennia later, when celebrating this blessed event, we see the figure of the donkey at rest in the front of the crèche.
This is our gift from the Griz.