Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weeping in Ramah (Matthew 2:18)

She thought it was over. Staying in Bethlehem to avoid the questioning looks of the neighbors back home, Mary and Joseph settled down to the good work of making a living and raising a son. Joseph’s skills made it possible for them to fit in without raising too many questions. Before long they realized Jesus was pretty much just like any other boy his age. The events surrounding his birth had faded to a treasured, and regularly pondered, memory.
Then out of the blue came the wise men with their wonderful story and over-whelming gifts. News of their arrival traveled fast in the small neighborhood – any thought of just going back to business as usual was shattered. And then, the angel – this time with a warning. Bethlehem was no longer safe, they must leave. Now. How do you decide what to take? How long are we going to be gone? Must we leave right now? Now! She had no time to say good bye to the few women she had become friends with.
The lights and sounds of the little village faded behind them as they began their weary way south. She wasn’t sure if she imagined it in that strange place between waking and sleeping, but the faint echo of the cries of mothers startled her into wakefulness. A shiver ran down her spine. She held the child so tightly that he squirmed in her embrace. The look in Joseph’s eyes told her she had not imagined the anguish – and that, but for the angel, it would be her cries of grief and outrage splitting the night air over Bethlehem. What kind of hatred, what kind of anger, what kind of fear, could move someone to slay innocent children – toddlers, some just learning to walk?
Simeon had warned her that the birth of her son would result in a sword piercing even her own heart. But so soon? And with this kind of pain? What right had she to be glad her son lived when so many of her friend’s sons had died? And worse, they died because he lived. Her heart ached with the battle and the shared pain. She finally surrendered to the numbing tedium of the road and let exhaustion over take her.
It was years before she could begin to understand what that night was all about - before she could place it in the  plan - before she knew what was at stake in the survival of her son and their travel into Egypt. For out of Egypt, God would call her son, and His. And begin the grand reversal. Tonight, his life resulted in death for many. One near day, his death would result in life for many, many more. He could not die this night. It wasn’t time . . . yet.

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