By now a whole bunch of townsfolk have heard about this new baby that was born in the stable behind the busy inn Jethro and Martha keep. They work their fingers to their bones this census year but not their mouths shut. Why should they? It's not every day a couple for which they had no room but the stable had a baby among the donkeys, ox and other beasts whod carried the burdens of the travelers stopping to be counted. Now a baby was among them. A baby to be gawked at by near and far, shepherds from fields in the hills firsts, but townsfolk on the streets as well.
In the last week since I've been stuck where I landed after a major surgery, many folks have stopped or sent well wishes. Flowers, cards, Facebook greetings, soup, candy, scarves. So I imagine what was showing up when that baby was born unexpectedly in that stable in Bethlehem. Clothes, for one thing. You can count on it. New moms began digging through their baskets of just-out-grown baby clothes for this little one. Dads began working with Joseph to figure out how to make that stable a livable place. Make that manger a fit cradle. Joseph was a carpenter, he could have managed most of the work himself, I'm sure. But this is what people do when babies are born, when people need help. Hammers were offered, wood was given, hands were lent. Yes, that's the point of it, hands were lent. Meals were made at first, then dishes were borrowed. "I haven't used that jug in ages. I have plenty. Keep it."
We aren't talking a wealthy community. Just a community that came together. That was there to lend a hand when baby was born. Mary and Joseph and that baby had to stay in Bethlehem longer than it takes to read the story. We can get the feeling that the angels came, the shepherds went running, the wise men appeared, Herod got angry (and insanely, murdurously jealous) all in the course of a single night. Maybe a week. But it was at least 40 days. At least that long before the baby was presented at the temple. So the little family had time to be shared with by their good neighbors in Bethlehem.
And then, when another angel spoke, that little family was up and gone like thieves in the night. By the time the next day was over, the worst kind of grief had swallowed the town of Bethelem. Babies lost. Not just one or two but ALL of them. ALL the baby boys younger than two. That's unfathomable.
A month before they'd been a town teeming with people just there to be counted.
People who'd come there because they were "The city of David."
In a single month we can imagine that they served a single family with a single baby.
Without even knowing who that baby was.
For us, their story ends here. It ends with the loss of all those babies.
But let us not forget that where it begins, is where it REALLY ends-- a KING.
I can't answer the loss of those babies.
None of us can. It's a loss of sin. Just as ever murder is. Not to be blamed on God, or on His providence. EVER. Murder came after the garden. God knew it would.
But I can say a something about that month where those townsfolk ministered to the family with the newborn baby without knowing who He was.
That's a precious picture to imagine, isn't it?
Having little, but giving it to a baby.
Not knowing what I have to give but giving it...and who it goes to is CHRIST HIMSELF.
THINK of this.
Sometimes I try so hard to think of how to give to Him.
But maybe, just maybe--being myself, doing what I do in my real life for those I do for--is for Him.
Maybe we should all stop trying so hard and just live with Him among us (perhaps like we don't even know it's Him!).