My job is to talk with God. I describe what I see happening in the lives of His Bethlehem family and ask what I should be doing to help the people love Him more. Then I listen for His answers. Today was the first time I heard His voice.
The people keep me young, and tired. Squabbles, demands, celebrations, skin diseases, and arguments over what Moses must really have meant when he told stories about snakes. I understand why God threw a third of the angels out of heaven. If He had to live down here with the people in my synagogue, He'd probably throw the whole lot of them out. But I do not have that option. I cannot throw them anywhere. I get to live with them, right here, every day, in every crisis, every hope, and every victory. I love each one of them!
I often walk away from the village to spend quiet time with Him in the Hills. These are the very hills where David walked with Him. I imagine sitting beside the young shepherd while he’s strumming his harp, making up songs of hope, peace, protection, and love. God songs. Like the one I heard this morning.
Someday, I imagine, The Messiah Himself will strum a harp somewhere in these hills.
One day I found some old lion bones in a clump of brush. If I had looked more carefully, I might even have found the stone David used to slay the marauding beast. I wish I could care for the disasters in my synagogue as easily as David cared for the dangers to his sheep.
Today the shepherds brought me the most wonderful problem of my entire life. They rushed into the synagogue wagging their tongues about seeing multicolored lightning in the middle of the night, hearing angels singing in Aramaic, and being sent to find a baby in the stable cave behind the inn. “We dashed to the city,” old Ezekiel shouted, “broke through the gates, and sprinted up the path to the stable cave.”
“The Messiah is in the cave,” another shepherd said, eyes bright with excitement. “The baby’s here. Right here in Bethlehem. Exactly where the angels said we would find him.”
It was more than too much to believe. I asked old Ben the shepherd leader “what did you guys eat for supper?”
Then Ben's wife told the story, as if I hadn’t been listening.
Almost believing, I slipped through town and interviewed the innkeeper and his wife. I even talked to the stable boy who'd spread out the straw. It was too much to believe.
Then I talked to the village midwife. We all know how she laughs at the myriads of Messiahs Bethlehem breeds, so I knew her story would put all the others to rest.
“There’s a baby in the stable, Rabbi Zacharias,” she proclaimed. “No question about it. A baby that looks a lot like the Messiah!”
I went to the stable, knowing the whole town was waiting for my judgment. With a few words I could turn the whole town into a Messiah-shaped party. I could probably also get us killed by the Centurion‘s men.
He was there. Crying loudly. Scattering light into the cave’s darkest corners.
An hour later I walked out to face the people.
“The baby is a baby, like all other babies. Pudgy cheeks and a loudly wailing hunger voice.” I still didn’t know how to say it without causing a riot. Then I couldn’t help myself.
“This baby is The Messiah,” I said. His cry was still singing in my ears.
“Clearly. Without question.”
“I believe,” I added.
Then the city began to party.