Every ox knows its owner, and every donkey knows where his master's manger stands. But what about Israel: What do my people do? They have forgotten to whom they belong, and they do not want to know it anymore.
Isaiah 1: 3
the Republican party in the US has an elephant as its political symbol, the US democrats have a donkey. These party symbols date back to the 19th century. They are from caricatures of the German-born draftsman Thomas Nast (1840 - 1902). For the Democrats, the donkey means modesty, coziness, efficiency, courage and kindness. The Republicans see in the elephant dignity, strength, intelligence and a good memory. So far goes my research.
For us Christians, animal symbols also play a role, especially at Christmas. In almost every nativity scene, ox and donkey are part of the inventory. In many paintings they are placed on the sidelines and just watch what happens in the stable.
Ox and donkey are of course only onlookers. Jesus, the child in the manger, is at the center. Mary and Joseph are very close to him. And, of course, the shepherds and their sheep are also present. In my nativity scene three wise men (sometimes referred to as Kings) from the Orient present their gifts for the newborn child.
How is it that God´s two symbolic animals are there? Just so that children may enjoy it?
Ox and donkey symbolically stand in the stable of Bethlehem. The gospels do not mention them at all. But these symbolic animals of God, as already told by the prophet Isaiah, have an important message! With these two animals God makes it clear to his people in the Old Testament what he wants: He wants to be in the first place! He is their Lord.
God says: every ox, every donkey finds its way to the feeding place. Only my people do not find the way close to me. They would rather go hungry and die of thirst than come to me.
Wherever artists paint ox and donkey as part of the nativity scene or show them as figures, the message is: Men, go to the manger as well! Go to the manger where Jesus, the Messiah, lies. Through him you will find everything you need to live. Take an example of these two simple animals! At least they know where to find their food. But you, men, have more sense. You should find the way to the crib, to Jesus Christ.
The Savior lies in the manger, God´s peace lies there in person. To miss that would be really stupid! It would be silly to bypass the crib. Just take a look and then go on. The one who misses the crib will miss life as well.
If you are standing at a nativity scene these days, take a fresh new look, if ox and donkey are also part of the party. These creatures will remind you to go to the Savior of life. And if ox and donkey are missing: it is important that YOU are there, close to Jesus!
I wish you a blessed week in advent!
Jesus Christ, I do not want to neglect you.
I want to belong to you.
Thank you, that two animals remind me
every day to find the way to you.
When I am close to you, I will find everything I need to live.