The Book of Zev
An Irreverent Recount of the Journey to Bethlehem
I, Zev, the son of Yaw who was begotten by Zot the son of Tev whose great-greatgreat-great-great-great-great…… great-great… uh… great grandmother was the servant of Balaam and first among our kind to see the angel of the Lord and speak the tongue of man whilst Balaam smote her.
So all the generations from Zev unto the smiting of Balaam’s ass were sixteen generations.
And I, Zev, having been born of goodly parents and therefore trained in all the labours of my fathers, yet seeing many great and wonderous things in the number of my long days, heretofore set forth to create a record of those proceedings.
Yea, I establish this record in the tongue of my fathers—HEE HAW—in which I bore a young woman, great with child, to a lowly manger far away from our home in Galilee.
And I bear witness to this record as it brings much truth, and I make it according to my knowledge.
For it came to pass, long ago in Nazareth (which was in Galilee) that I was in the service of a simple carpenter, who was gentle and stalwart in nature, and his betrothed whose father I had also served…
And it came to pass that a decree went forth across the lands, by order of Ceasar, that all men should return to their Fathers’ houses to be taxed.
So I, Zev, was burdened and laden with the great weight of all the supplies for this perilous journey and tethered whilst the Carpenter placed my waddling, rotund mistress also upon my back.
Notwitholding the hour of the day, we started through the streets of Nazareth, busy with the bustling about, to and fro, of many wonderous people and goods, which did cause me to gawk, though I had crossed this square many times before. The Carpenter did tug hardily upon my rope, despite my steady plodding, to which I withheld the expression of my displeasure, and into the countryside we did go.
Spring had stretched upon us mildly this year. The sun lay over us and though it offered some warmth, my bones still protested against the chill in the air. They moved stiffly at first, like dead branches in a winter breeze. Yet I kept on, diligent in my servitude, even though the weight upon my back seemed to wax heavier by the hour.
Yet not withstanding, I remained constant and true, a worthy mount even for a king. Imagine thus—a king upon my back wreathed in glory and many sundry sparkly trinkets tinkling about me. And I, Zev, would be Lord of the Asses, and I would carry Him proudly hitherto and fro.
Ah, alas, would it be so. But no. Here I was, indentured to a carpenter and my mistress, barely past girlhood and already heavy with child. Oh so heavy, as my back reminded me now, and my legs ached from the walking. Why was it my task to carry her forth?
I had heard people speak slander against her condition. Twas not my fault then Carpenter tied me nigh the market whilst he loaded my back with an order for delivery. How was I to avoid overhearing such language with the great long ears the Lord had blessed I and my kindred with? If it was not to overhear, nay eavesdrop a little, than what purpose did they serve sitting upon my head and flopping about?
Now it was not my place to judge my mistress, who did weigh greatly upon my back, for dearly, dearly did I love her, and indeed she had stood by my side all the days of my own youth, and foreasmuch I should serve her likewise, despite the slanderous things I had heard. For surely I would be rewarded for such loyalty, and be borne away to a better life and become Zev, Lord of the Asses! In which kings would fawn over my greatness and feed me sweet clover.
Now it came to pass that I did see sweet clover by the wayside of the road, and delighted in partaking, but the Carpenter did prod me onward, scolding me for my slowness. But my stomach did rumble and quell in a manner befitting a hungry beast. On and on we did go, pushing the limits of all our strengths. Did this man have no concept of supper?
Finally my mistress did make her own weariness beknownst to him, much to my relief, and noted that we should forebare my own welfare, to keep it in mind that we might make it to a land called Bethlehem. Twas nigh unto the Hill Country of Judah, home to the house of my mistress’s cousin which we had visited many years before. I knew the way, yea I could find it with my eyes closed—for that is how I had come by it before, at the hand of my mistress’s father and half asleep all the while.
Yea, I could fly there, if it were not for my mistress’s great weight and delicate condition. But now that she no longer burdened my sore and aching back, I could fly. Aye. Even with wings betwixt my hooves like unto the myths of the cloven hoofed swine kind. Ah, were it the day! Then, then even, the bovine would come home.
When darkness fell upon us, The Carpenter did pitch a light camp and built a warming fire, and we circled round about it. I listened as they spoke of their coming child. Mistress, young as she was, seemed comforted by the fact that her carpenter had raised three grown sons of his own, being the elder that he was. Yet I could sense a trembling in the air inherent of all new and nervous parents.
The Carpenter broke camp before the break of dawn and I, while not fully rested, was once again burdened with the great weight of my round mistress. We continued on our way in the darkness, passing others on the high road, who also were journeying to be taxed. The Carpenter made his way toward the house of his fathers in the south. We continued this way until the many days turned too hot to journey by the sunlight, and began making our way at night instead.
Once we were waylaid by brigands, to which end I did dart into the woods with my mistress, despite my aching joints and weariness. The Carpenter found us in the morning by a little running stream with Mistress safely at my feet, to which end The Carpenter did reprimand me profusely for not only being a coward, but a danger to my mistress!
Perish the thought that I, Zev, Lord of the Asses, even, should ever be a danger to my mistress. And a coward… okay, perhaps a bit of a coward, but my belly was not yellow, and I was not stupid, nor was I any other thing The Carpenter chose to accuse me of being. I mean, the fat-rumped girl… er… my sweet mistress, was safe, was she not?
As she was placed upon my back, I let this Carpenter have an ear full of what I thought about the situation and that he was making many assumptions in which he was not entitled to by my account, and we all know what it happens when we just ASS-UME, don’t we?
Despite my discontent in the matters, The Carpenter chose to ignore my choice of words, yet I did not give up on my cause and found many assundry ways to express my feelings the rest of the way. For I was Zev, Lord of the Asses, and son of Yaw who was begotten by Zot the son of Tev whose great-great-great-great-great-great-great… well you get the idea. This man was just a Carpenter, and I refused to be treated thusly.
It went on like this many days henceforth, that I murmured and protested all of these things to my great displeasure, until we entered Bethlehem, a city of David. O little town of Bethlehem, how still I see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamfilled sleep, we silent stars go by.
Such thoughts perplexed my mind as hopes and fears of finding, or not finding, a place of restitute waxed strongly on my confidence. Yet suddenly a great cry arose from my Mistress and was met with the very thunder of threatening storm clouds.
The Carpenter, in great concern, sought out the inn, to which extend the innkeeper refused us. The Carpenter begged and bartered as my mistress let out another cry which did split my very ears. I protested at the pain of it, to which the innkeeper took notice of me.
Lo, you may enter, save for your donkey. For I shall have him, sayeth the innkeeper.
Nay, said The Carpenter, I shall not be parted from this beast. Forasmuch of a burden he is unto me, he is also a boone, and all the riches of Solomon could not buy him from me.
Finally, I received a little respect! It was about time. The innkeeper seemed oddly enough impressed, and took pity on us, that he led us to a secret place that was little more than a lean-to, resting under a great rock. It was cave like and did smell of fowl animals.
The cries of my mistress grew louder and I saw her face draw with pain as The Carpenter laid her on his mantel, spread upon the ground.
I watched in great astonishment what came to pass as my mistress travaileth, and her cries were so tumultuous that even the fowl animals flittered about on wing. It was a noise so great I had only formerly thought the ass kind could exceed it. Yea, even the bovine lowed at the pitch in their ears, while the fowl animals continued to be frightened on wing.
I, however, withdrew myself to a dark corner, nigh a watering troth, for I could not bear to see my mistress in such throws of agony.
Only moments later was the tempest outside quieted as a new voice was ushered into our tiny manger.
I figured my mistress was no longer great with child at this heralding, and finally we would have some peace and rest. I had looked forward to this time of respite nigh unto a fortnight!
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked round about me and finding myself alone, I bowed my head and offered the desires of my heart up unto the Lord.
It would be nice, Lord, to have some sweet, dewey clover, and to really be Lord over all ass kind. For I, Zev, son of Yaw who was begotten by Zot the son of Tev whose great-great-great-great-great-great-great…… great-great… uh… great grandmother was the servant of Balaam, have served selflessly and with honor, have I not?
At this moment, and to my great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the mid-day sun, which descended gradually and fell upon me. I saw a personage whose brightness and glory exceeded that of all my own aspirations, and it called me by name.
“Zev, thou ungrateful sot, realize not the precious cargo thou hast borne into Bethlehem?”
“Is that thee, Lord? Why hast thou visited me, of all creatures, this very night? I am weary from carrying this oversized girl all of these days, and do long for the delights of my supper.”
“Look, see, Zev, the creator of this world, the saviour of mankind, there in the arms of the woman thou hast carried this long fortnight. Behold my son, and all the while thou hast murmured and not withheld thy malcontent. Because of this, I shall punish you. Henceforth thou and thy posterity will bear the burden of my Son all the days of thy ungrateful life.”
And when the light faded, I dropped my head to the waters of the trough before me and was astounded to see how my countenance had changed. There across my back was the shadow of a great cross. Upon my legs were bars, like unto nails. And a shadow of a crown of thorns appeared betwixt my eyes.
I gazed across the manger at my mistress, her Carpenter, and the babe in their arms, who had always loved and cared for me, and realized how foolish and ungrateful I had been. Surely now I was Lord of the Asses.
Now, as I look back across the years, I know how vain I have been. And again I bear witness to this record as it brings much truth, and I make it according to my knowledge, that all who will hear my message may receive it.
It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you already have. Please count your many blessings, one by one. Count your shelter, food, freedom, and loved ones twice, and you will realize how great a bounty our Lord has blessed you with. Often it is more than most others have, as I have come to realize.
And when it comes to pass that you gather with your loved ones to celebrate the birth of my Master, even the Lord, Jesus Christ, and you rush to open all the gifts you had to have, think of me, and how I, through my slothful and ungrateful ways, got exactly what I wished for—to be Zev, the foolish Lord of all Asses.