There are people everywhere in this little village of Bethlehem. It was light when we began our journey. My little ones are cold, but they have to wait in line like the rest of us. “There will be a crust of bread soon,” I whisper. I rock back and forth on my feet to keep warm. My shawl is wrapped around my daughter’s shoulders. The memory of the day’s sun is my only warmth. “Move along” a soldier on horseback almost knocks over my little boy. My husband silently pulls his namesake close. I know he wants to curse the Romans but even a scowl of discontent will lock him in prison. A murmur courses through the crowd, ” It is said Messiah will come.” “Maybe this year,” an old priest says in hushed tones. God knows we are destitute and Rome is an unbearable manacle around our wrists. “Please come and restore peace,” I silently pray. “Lift your face” a Roman holds his rod under my chin. “Were you praying?” I shake my head. “Dust in my eyes, master.” “Keep your pretty eyes open.” He looks lustfully at me. “Get going,” he strikes my husband forcefully on the back.
“There was a chorus of angels,” a message filters down the line.
“Shepherds in the fields saw them.”
“It must have been frightening.”
“Do you know what that means?”
“Our God has heard us.”
“Why are we still in these rags then?”
“Be patient wrongs will be made right.”
“Rome must be destroyed.”
“In good time…”
“Messiah will set us free.”
I imagine life free of this nightmare. Tyranny’s fist gone from our lives. My children will not know oppression as I have. I take a risk and fall to my knees praising God in my heart for His gift of love.
My arm is gently grasped. “Come with me” a voice grazes past my ear. “You will find your family later.” I am led to a stall. “Thank you,” I say to the man who has vanished. I am used to animals so the strong smell doesn’t bother me. I kneel because I am filled with knowledge that I am in the presence of glory. God is with me in this moment and all the cares of life have been washed away. I get off my knees and spin in a joyful dance. My eyes meet the mothers’. Her smile is so serene as she holds her precious baby. “Here,” she offers “hold Him.” I am a mother of three,but I feel ill equipped to hold the chosen one. “Yes, it’s alright.” I look in His face. A single word fills me “blessed.” His finger grasps at mine. ” Yes, I am blessed,” I coo. Somehow I understood with no words being spoken what this small child was meant to do. “I will pray for you,” I mouthed to the mother as I looked at my Messiah one last time. “Shalom,” I said as I departed.
It’s as if everything around Him was acknowledging His birth. I heard the words of Isaiah brush by me on a fragrant stream of air. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ¹
As I walked back to my family, my circumstances had not changed. The Romans were as callous and barbaric as before, but I knew that my life would always be different. “God is with us,” I smiled, ” and He has come as a babe to save the world.”
Jesus came to the world not to rule with iron might but to love in absolute vulnerability. The ultimate gift was given to mankind. This love is more fierce and powerful than any military or political presence. This love sets all people free. It is only in this guileless love that Peace can be found; only in the Son of man can we be delivered from life’s manacles. SHALOM