No Buddies in Bethlehem

by DanWolgemuth on December 11, 2020

Road trip!

But not in the back of a minivan. This trip was on foot. Roughly 65 miles to be exact. Nazareth to Jerusalem. This was Passover. An annual celebration of God’s protective hand. Liberty. Freedom. Passover.

Jesus, at 12. A boy… emerging as a young man.

No doubt familiar communities collected in Jerusalem. A neighborhood from Ephraim. A faithful group from Cana. A tribe of fishermen from Capernaum. A small throng from Nazareth that included a young couple in their late twenties or early thirties with a 12-year-old son. And yes, make no mistake, there was an assembly from Bethlehem.

But the assembly from Bethlehem was different. Lopsided. Somber. The collection of worshipers from the City of David and the surrounding area was missing a portion of their population. There were no ten- to twelve-year-old boys in their throng. None.

Somehow, Passover felt illusive to this crew. Herod had successfully accomplished what Moses had prevented. Passover brought pain. Unrelenting pain. And with it came the whispers. The recognition. After 12 years, they knew that the young boy who was growing up with His parents in Nazareth was The Boy. The one that had ignited the fury of Herod. Insecurity lived out at the tip of a spear, through the soul of their family. Bethlehem was lopsided. And Bethlehem still grieved.

Mary’s friends, the ones who had journeyed with her as companions during the early newborn years… had empty arms, and lingering grief. An escape to Egypt had protected Joe’s boy, but not theirs. And they found the grief too raw and real to celebrate with Mary.  

The cosmic choir of adoration and praise had given rise to the gut-wrenching wail of mothers.

Salvation exacted a toll… right from the beginning.

Jesus had no buddies from Bethlehem. Only painful stares. Only unwiped tears.

Perhaps this is why Jesus swept up little children in His arms. He showed love and dignity to the slice of humanity that Herod had abused, marginalized and sentenced to death. In that embrace, Jesus also confronted the lingering injustice of Jewish baby boys floating face down in the Nile because of Pharaoh’s similar political insecurity.

Jesus doesn’t dismiss our pain, He embraces it with love and compassion. In fact, He confronts those who would too easily ignore or diminish the anguish. He amplifies what fear seeks to silence. He elevates what power seeks to crush.

Sanitized. That’s what we’ve done with this story. A baby born. A Savior delivered.

Shepherds came. Wise men worshiped. Angels sang.

… and yes, mothers wailed. And babies died. And the perfect, only begotten Son of God was mocked, incarcerated, abused, beaten, belittled… and executed.

Innocent people died so sinners, like me, could be saved.

Passover had missed the families in Bethlehem. Their bitter tears would one day converge with Mary’s tears. And then, perhaps, only then, would they see that Jesus had come to die. For them. For Mary. For us.

Lopsided. That’s what hatred does.

Love. That’s who Jesus is.

Injustice confronted. Hope restored.

What a price He paid.

Christmas, unsanitized.

Christmas unleashed.

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