To pull it off effectively the person in the role of donkey must be willing to look foolish and to bray his/her heart out as he brays with excited enthusiasm one minute, brays in fear another, and brays in contentment and peace another.
The translator’s job is to translate the braying into language the children will understand. For props I made two brown paper ears and pinned them to my head (yes, I was the braying donkey) and I held my hands (hooves) up to my chest with fingers hanging down as if I were walking on my hind feet. (This probably looks more like a begging puppy, but children have good imaginations.) A rope leash could be around the donkey’s neck as the donkey leads the translator into the church.
It isn’t easy to bray the donkey’s part ahead of the translator and keep it all straight, so I printed notes on a 3X5 card to keep myself in the right place.
The Donkey’s Story
Donkey and translator enter, donkey eagerly leading the way…
Translator: (apologetically) We don’t usually bring animals to church with us, but this donkey insisted on coming with me today. He says he has quite a tale to tell us.
Donkey: Haw He Haw (Try to give inflections of excitement in voice.)
Translator: The donkey says, “Wow! What a day I’ve had today!” (turning to donkey) Won’t you please tell us about it?
Donkey: (Bray trying to give inflections of fear.)
Translator: The donkey says, “It started when two strange guys came and took me away. I’m a young donkey and have never been away from home.”
Donkey: (Bray: curiosity)
Translator: The donkey says, “These guys led me outside the city where I met a man who was different from any man I’ve ever met. He had the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen. And they looked sad too.”
By the way, do you have a name, Donkey?
Donkey: (Bray: brief – matter of fact)
Translator: The donkey says we can call him Jake. Do you have more to tell us?
Donkey: (Bray: fear followed by wonder of wonders & peace)
Translator: Jake says, “The two strangers helped this kind man to sit on my back. Nobody has ever ridden on my back before, so I started to jump around and toss him right off. But this man was different. I felt peaceful, and I just wanted to do whatever he wanted.”
Donkey: (Bray: excitement)
Translator: Jake says, “He headed me along the main road into the city, and soon there were people everywhere. Everyone was shouting ‘Hosanna’ and ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ It was like this guy was a king on the way to being crowned. I wondered if this could be the Messiah?”
Donkey: (Bray: wonder, distant recollections)
Translator: Jake says, “Then it came to me… Messiah! Yes! Didn’t I remember my mother telling me about something that happened to her grandfather long ago? Mama said her mama told her about it. Jake thinks that a donkey carried the Messiah’s mother to Bethlehem the very night he was born. She said the donkey told about seeing the baby Jesus being born. And then there were shepherds who came and told about angels on the hillside to tell them about baby Jesus.”
Donkey: (Bray: awe)
Translator: Jake says, “Wow! He chose just a little donkey like me to ride! But it couldn’t be, could it? I mean, I’m just a plain ole donkey. Shouldn’t a king be riding a great stallion?”
Donkey: (Bray: as if praying)
Translator: Jake says we should pray… Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for coming to us and for showing us your love. Bless these children and draw them closer to you every day.
Donkey: (Bray: motioning with head to invite to follow and praise Jesus)
Translator: Jake says we can praise Jesus just like the people did on the road to Jerusalem. Let’s shout “Hosanna” and praise Jesus too! (Give each child a palm leaf and lead them around the church saying “Hosanna” and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”)