THE SNOBBISH OX
One of my favorite Christmas stories concerns the rather SNOBBISH OX,
Who shared the stable that night in Bethlehem with Joseph and Mary and the
Baby. With considerable amazement, he witnessed the birth, the visit of the
shepherds, and the arrival of the exotic strangers from the east. He heard all the
talk about the stars and angelic choruses, and finally watched (the next morning)
as Joseph and Mary fled with their son.
For days, all the other animals in the stable could talk about nothing but their curious human guests – while the ox silently chewed his cud over in the dark corner of the manger. Finally, he couldn’t stand all the fuss they were making and came out of the corner to snap, “I don’t understand all this excitement! I don’t know, I really don’t know why you are all so interested in that vagabond family. If they had been anyone worth knowing, they would never have stayed in this broken-down stable. As for the baby – it was very like any other baby that I ever saw, born just the way all babies are born. They were very ordinary people, I would say…very ordinary people indeed!”
Now oxen are very long-lived creatures, and this one was no exception. He was still around thirty-odd years later to witness the sad end of the stable-born child at the hands of Pilate and his cruel Roman soldiers. The ox then remarked to his companions, “I knew it all the time. That chap as of no account. He was the very ordinary son of some very ordinary people!”
It was then that the donkey:
who had carried Jesus many interesting miles during his lifetime – spoke up and said, “Perhaps you are right. This man may have had a humble birth and a humiliating death…an ordinary birth and an ordinary death…but he certainly live an extraordinary life.”
It is the wise donkey who carries for us all a hint as to how our Christmastime this year can be more significant. Most of us in this room this morning can confess to being even more ordinary than the family from Nazareth. No wise men, or shepherds (and certainly no “choruses of angels”) attended our cradle. And our deaths shall undoubtedly NOT be remembered as Jesus’ is. But the astounding things about the Christmas season is that we can make it a time of extraordinary living. If we choose to, we can touch other people around us with unusual neighborliness…unusual generosity…unusual expressions of love and tenderness and care. We can remember – and perhaps even take to heart during the rest of the year – the unusual message of Jesus…the “GOOD NEWS” he shared with the people of his time…namely that there is something WE can do about justice…something WE can do about peace. Jesus’ message is that there is love waiting for US to bring to birth…love for someone, somewhere on earth who needs our simple compassion and concern.
Christmas comes with the message that no matter how ORDINARY we may feel ourselves to be, we are capable of developing an EXTRAORDINARY HEART…and (if only for a season) living with an astounding generosity of spirit. This Christmas season, I would have you remember the story of the SNOBBISH OX, who missed the real point of Christmas. But remember even more the wisdom of the donkey, who reminds us that, ordinary folks like us can be extraordinary messengers of that which is best and brightest in this creation. YOU can help to make Christmas true in your little corner of creation…you can bring the spirit of this season to birth right where you live.