Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Matthew 21: 1-9
When I was a young boy in southern Minnesota, the legendary Donkey Baseball League came to our small town. In the 1930’s, an enterprising business manager decided to add a little adventure and comic relief to the great American sport of baseball. Ray Doan thought that America’s favorite past time of hitting a ball with a bat, and running around the four bases was a little too tame. It needed an element of surprise that would level the playing fields for all the teams. And so he created Donkey Baseball. All the players, except for the pitcher and catcher, were required to ride donkeys during the course of the game. They fielded the ball while on the donkey. Hitters batted in the normal manner, but once the ball was hit, they had to mount a donkey and navigate their way around the bases. Needless to say, it wasn’t a beautiful game. Donkeys don’t always go where you want them to go. They have a mind of their own. Many of the players were too tall and lanky for their little steeds, while other players spent more time pushing and pulling than catching and hitting. Ray Doan’s gimmick was a hit, and in the middle of the Great Depression, in a hard and hopeless time, the fans in the crowd had a great laugh.
Often, our journey in life can seem like a game of donkey baseball. You think you know what you are doing, but that element of surprise takes you off guard. You know the destination you’re longing for, and you know the rules, but you just don’t seem to be making any progress.
For this reason, Jesus’ entry into the city of a Jerusalem on a donkey may come to you as a surprise. And yet, the prophet Zechariah had foreseen this royal entry, and foretold that this was the sign of a king. In the Old Testament, both King David and King Solomon rode donkey. More importantly, we are told that this was to be a sign of peace. A conquering king rode on the back of a horse. Horses were the military mode of travel and were weapons of war. Riding a donkey into battle, however, would be giving the enemy an unfair advantage. Taking a donkey into battle would require attending to the donkey, rather than the enemy. So the donkey was how a king rode to demonstrate that he came in peace.
That is the wonder of Advent, my friends. Jesus comes riding into our lives again not as a victor, but he comes as one meek and lowly in the joy and laugher of an innocent child. It is Jesus’ beguiling charm. He comes again this day, not to conquer you, but to offer you a new beginning. Jesus comes riding again into the city, into the scorched and ruined places of life, into broken and wounded hearts. He comes to you the lost and weary, you who are the searching and longing. He come to you pronouncing the good news that in the midst of all that has changed, that he never left you, and that he will be with you to the end of the age, if you will but open the doors and receive him.
On that Sunday in Jerusalem long ago, Jesus knew the death that was being planned for him. And yet he rode into the city of Jerusalem, meekly and peacefully, on the back of a donkey. Nothing could sway him or stop in his desire to share the gift of peace, life, forgiveness, joy and wondrous possibilities with you. Not even his death on the cross. Wonders and miracles, you see, come in the oddest form, even from a man riding on the back of a donkey. “Hosanna. Blessed be the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.