[Symbol] The Donkey
[A Story relating to the Symbol]
The Way It Was
by Lillian Virgin
On the night before Christmas, the big cheery farmhouse glowed with the soft light of kerosene lamps. The center of activities was the warm cozy kitchen, where a fire blazed in the shiny black stove. Everyone had a job to do in preparation for Christmas dinner the next day—everyone, that is, except Elizabeth.
Elizabeth went from one person to the other in the big kitchen offering her services. “Can I help you string the popcorn? Let me help make the pumpkin pie! Please let me put the candles in the little holders for the Christmas tree. Why can’t I pick out the walnuts for the fudge?”
But everyone was too busy to stop and show her how; so she always received the same answer. “You’re too little. Maybe next year when you’re bigger.”
Finally she went to Mama, who was making the stuffing for the roasting hens.
“Mama, why can’t I do something special for Christmas like everybody else? Why am I always too little for the good things?”
“Of course you need a job too, Elizabeth. Let’s see. Why don’t you fill the woodbox?”
“Fill the woodbox, Mama? That’s not a Christmas job! That’s done everyday.”
“Well, there is something special that hasn’t been done yet,” Mama remembered. “It’s really a big job. Are you sure you’re big enough to do it?”
“I’m big, Mama. Just tell me. You’ll see I can do it!”
“All right. We’ve all been so busy we haven’t had time to go up to the main road to the mailbox and look for mail. You may go and get the mail all by yourself.”
“Way up to the road, Mama? All by myself? But it’s dark outside already and I’m afraid of the dark. Can’t one of the boys come with me?”
“You don’t need to be afraid,” Mama replied. “Pretty soon the moon will come out, and then it won’t be dark at all. Come, I’ll help you put on your things.”
Still Elizabeth was afraid. She had never gone up to the road all alone after dark. But Mama didn’t seem to notice her fear. She helped Elizabeth into her warm woolly sweater, and over that went a heavy coat. Then on went her big black boots, because the snow was deep. Next came a stocking cap with earmuffs to keep Jack Frost from nipping her ears. Then the collar of the coat went up, and a long matching scarf was tied around her neck. Last of all came her warm mittens.
Mama handed Elizabeth a big basket covered with a pretty embroidered towel in which to put the mail. Elizabeth was bundled up so big and fat that she could hardly bend over. So Mama went outside with her and helped her put on her stubby barrel-stave skis.
“There’s nothing to fear, Elizabeth,” said Mama. “On your way up the road, tell yourself the Christmas story. When you get there, put the mail in the basket and cover it with the towel so it won’t fall out. Then sing ‘Silent Night’ as you ski back home.”
Elizabeth went to the gate at the corner of the yard. She opened it wide and then propped it open with a stick, just in case she wanted to rush back in. She stood still a moment and listened to the silence of the dark night. She even tried to look up the main road where the mailbox stood, but it was too dark to see that far.
Elizabeth suddenly pushed ahead on her stubby little skis and began to tell herself the story of the first Christmas.
Once long ago there was a woman and a man. The woman’s name was Mary. She was going on a long journey, and she rode on a little donkey. The man’s name was Joseph. He was going on the long journey too. He led the little donkey. The donkey’s feet went clippity-clop, clippity-clop.
During the day the sun had been warm and had melted the surface snow. With the coldness of the night, this surface snow had turned to a thin crust of ice. So with each clippity-clop, Elizabeth slapped her stubby little skis down hard to break the crust and give herself a ski track.
Joseph’s feet went clip, clop, clip, clop.
Slap, slap went Elizabeth’s skis.
They went on and on and on.
Finally they came to a town. It was the little town of Bethlehem.
Mary and Joseph stopped at an inn. Joseph went to the door. “Knock, knock, knock,” he tapped.
Slap, slap, slap went Elizabeth’s skis.
A man opened the door.
“Please, may we come in? Mary is tired and needs to rest.”
“No room in the inn,” said the man. “No room. No room.”
Mary and Joseph went on. They came to the second inn. Joseph went to the door and tapped, “Knock, knock, knock.”
Slap, slap, slap went Elizabeth’s skis.
A woman put her head out of the window. “No room in the inn,” she called. “No room. No room.”
Mary and Joseph went on. They came to the third inn. Joseph went, “Knock, knock, knock.”
A man opened the door.
“Please, may we come in?” asked Joseph. “Mary is tired and needs to rest.”
The man smiled at Joseph. “No room in the inn,” he said. “But you may sleep in the hay out in the stable.”
Joseph took Mary and the little donkey to the stable. He fed the donkey some hay and gave it water to drink. He made a soft bed on the hay for Mary. All of the animals in the stable looked at them. “Moo, Moo,” said the cow. “We have room for you.”
And that night a Baby was born. Mary took the Baby in her arms and cuddled Him close. She said, “His name will be Jesus.”
So that’s just how it happened, and the Baby Jesus was born in a stable!
Now Elizabeth had reached the road at the top of the hill. When she opened the mailbox, it was filled with cards, letters, and three small packages. She carefully put them into the basket and covered them with the embroidered towel. Then she suddenly remembered that she was afraid of the dark. There were no horses or sleighs on the big road, and she was all alone in the dark and silent night.
Just then clouds overhead in the dark sky drifted away, and a big bright beautiful moon shone down on her. The stars came into view, and the darkness was gone! The light from above was reflected in the glazed icy crust of the snow. The whole world sparkled and the night was bright with a radiant light. Elizabeth stood in silent wonder.
“That’s the way it was,” she said softly. “That’s just the way the light shone for the shepherds in Bethlehem when they listened to the angels and then hurried to find Baby Jesus asleep on the hay.”
Elizabeth picked up her basket. She ran a few steps to give her stubby little barrel-stave skis a start. They carried her swiftly and safely down the long hill as she softly sang,
Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm; all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child,
Holy Infant, so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace;
Sleep in heavenly peace.
[Song] [Song] Little Donkey
[Scripture] Galatians 6:2
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
[Challenge – Be Helpful] – The donkey was helpful when Mary was tired and needed to rest. The donkey went with Mary and Joseph up to Bethlehem. He bore the burden of carrying Mary when she was tired because she was great with child. The donkey also carried their provisions like food and clothes. Find one way to be helpful or give rest to someone else today.
[Article relating to the challenge]
Becoming Instruments in the Hands of God
Don R. Clarke
Of the Second Quorum of the Seventy
A person does not need to have a Church calling, an invitation to help someone, or even good health to become an instrument in God’s hands.
My maternal grandfather, Alma Benjamin Larsen, was only 34 years old when he woke up one morning and noticed that he had problems seeing. Shortly thereafter, he lost his sight entirely. Grandfather had served a mission and been a faithful member of the Church. He was a farmer with a wife and three children, and he could not imagine life without sight. Grandfather’s wife and small children now had to bear the extra burdens of helping on the farm, and money became tight.
During this time of physical darkness, many people became instruments in God’s hands to help my blind grandfather. One experience that had a powerful impact on his family happened in 1919. It was a year of great financial difficulty for all the people in Grandfather’s town. Farms were being foreclosed, and businesses were going broke. There was a sizable mortgage on his farm, and Grandfather received a statement saying he would have to pay $195 in order to carry the mortgage over for another year. For him, paying this bill was like demanding a pound of flesh. Nearly everyone was in the same condition, and it seemed impossible to obtain that much money. If he had gathered everything that the farm produced—the horses, cows, and machinery—he could not have sold them for $195. Grandfather asked a neighbor to butcher two or three of his cows, and he sold them and some other products. He had extended credit to his neighbors with the understanding that they would pay at the end of the year, but none of his debtors was able to pay him. The economic situation for his family was bleak.
In his journal, Grandfather recounts: “I shall never forget that cold evening, just before Christmas of 1919. It looked as though we would lose the farm. My daughter, Gladys, laid a slip of paper in my hand and said, ‘This came in the mail today.’ I took it to her mother and asked her what it was. This is what my wife read to me, ‘Dear Brother Larsen, I’ve had you on my mind all day today. I am wondering if you are in financial trouble. If you are, I have $200 you may have.’ The letter was signed ‘Jim Drinkwater.’ Jim was a small, crippled man, and he would have been the last man on earth that anyone would have thought had that much money on hand. I went to his house that night and he said, ‘Brother Larsen, I received a wireless message from heaven this morning, and I could not get you off my mind all day. I was sure you were in financial trouble.’ Brother Drinkwater gave me $200 and we sent the $195 to the mortgage company, and with the extra $5 we bought boots and clothes for the children. Santa Claus did come that year.”
My grandfather then goes on to bear his testimony: “The Lord has never let me down. He has touched the hearts of others as He touched the heart of Brother Drinkwater. I bear witness that the only safety and security that I have ever found has come through trying to keep the commandments of the Lord and upholding and sustaining the authorities of this Church.”
I have thought about Jim Drinkwater many times and wondered how he came to be one that the Lord could trust. Jim was a little, crippled man that God trusted to help a blind farmer with a heavy mortgage and three children. I have learned a great deal from my grandfather’s experience with Jim Drinkwater. I have learned that a person does not need to have a Church calling, an invitation to help someone, or even good health to become an instrument in God’s hands. How then do you and I become instruments in God’s hands? The prophets and the scriptures teach us how.
First of all, we must have love for God’s children. When the lawyer asked the Savior, “Master, which is the great commandment?” the Savior replied:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:36–39).
Joseph F. Smith said: “Charity, or love, is the greatest principle in existence. If we can lend a helping hand to the oppressed, if we can aid those who are despondent and in sorrow, if we can uplift and ameliorate the condition of mankind, it is our mission to do it, it is an essential part of our religion to do it” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1917, 4). When we feel love for God’s children, we are given opportunities to help them in their journey back to His presence.
The missionary experiences of the sons of Mosiah also help us understand how to become instruments in God’s hands. “And it came to pass that they journeyed many days in the wilderness” (Alma 17:9). We must be willing to journey. The sons of Mosiah were willing to step outside their surroundings and do that which was uncomfortable. Had Ammon not been willing to journey into a foreign land, inhabited by a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people, he never would have found and helped Lamoni and his father, and many Lamanites may have never learned about Jesus Christ. God has asked us to journey, go on missions, accept callings, invite someone to church, or help someone in need.
In their pursuit to help their Lamanite brothers, the sons of Mosiah also learned the importance of fasting and prayer: “They fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God to bring, if it were possible, their brethren, the Lamanites, to the knowledge of the truth” (Alma 17:9). Do we really want to be instruments in God’s hands? If so, our desire will permeate our prayers and be the focus of our fasts.
After losing his eyesight, my grandfather fasted and prayed that if he was to remain in darkness, the Lord would give him peace. He states that almost within the hour “my mind was enlightened and the cloud of darkness had lifted from me.” He could see again, not with physical eyes, but spiritual eyes. Later, Alma Benjamin Larsen was called to be a patriarch, where he served for 32 years. Like the sons of Mosiah, my grandfather fasted and prayed, and as a result, he was given the opportunity to bless thousands of God’s children.
We, like Jim Drinkwater and my grandfather, also need to be receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, for when we desire to be an instrument in the hands of God, we can receive revelation. The prophet Alma the Younger tells us of revelations that he received: “I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it … yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy” (Alma 29:9). Alma had received revelation of what to do.
I have a little book that I carry with me, where I record the inspiration and thoughts that I receive from the Spirit. It does not look like much, and it becomes worn out and needs to be replaced from time to time. As thoughts come to my mind, I write them down and then I try to do them. I have found that many times, as I have done something on my list, my action was the answer to someone’s prayer. There have also been those times that I didn’t do something on my list, and I have found out later that there was someone I could have helped, but I didn’t. When we receive promptings regarding God’s children, if we write down the thoughts and inspiration we receive and then obey it, God’s confidence in us increases and we are given more opportunities to be instruments in His hands.
In the words of President Faust: “You can be powerful instruments in the hands of God to help bring about this great work. … You can do something for another person that no one else ever born can do”. God treasures those who help His children. I invite all of us to follow the counsel of the prophets and become instruments in the hands of God and be among His treasures because we have helped His children.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Media link: [Video that will change your life. I have no words left. ]
10th Anniversary Advent Throw-Back :
[A favourite from previous Advents]
I firmly believe that the only way to make Christmas real is to imitate The Master. We need to form living links with People everywhere whose loneliness needs brothering or sistering, whose hurts, physical and emotional, need healing, whose poverty cries out for bread and understanding. Jesus spent His life rescuing us all from ourselves. Shouldn’t we rescue others from Lonliness and discouragement? A death of someone close can always make Christmas more difficult. Those are they, that are on our list of Holiday party guests. For a few hours we hope to lift some anxiety or pain from these good people. On the other hand, if we wish to make Christmas no more than a winter holiday or a week-long celebration, we can sit on our hands and do nothing!
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