Monday, December 23, 2019

Voices from Bethlehem: Two Stories from Along the Way

He was no ordinary child. Yet we mold and we carve, shaping His likeness as a baby small enough to fit into a Nativity-set manger. That is where many young children encounter Him for the first time. Some even lift Him from the manger bed and cherish Him as his own.

In her article, Baby Jesus, Rachel Joy Welcher reflections, “through the incarnation, a baby can feel kinship with Christ. . . Real children looked Jesus in the face when he was also a child. Babies sitting together on the ground. God among us.” (from ) 

So much more so for the adults who encountered Christ along the way to Bethlehem. Whether they knew it or not, there lives were to be forever changed. How could they not shout out, in the face of such glory—baby-sized though He may be.

There are two pictures books I read this week that take on this approach. Each page records the perspective of a different character in the Christmas story. Each character performs a soliloquy in response to God’s incarnation.

The first book is Nikki Grimes’ Voices of Christmas, illustrated by Eric Velazquez. At the top of each page curves a line of Scripture introducing each character. We meet Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, a neighbor, the Innkeeper, a shepherd, Gaspar, Herod, Melchior, Simeon, Anna, Balthasar, and you… the reader, the modern-day responder to God’s miraculous grace. Below each name, Grimes works her poetic genius, imagining what is flowing through their minds as they work out what God set into motion. It is beautiful and personal; a meditation that helps us join the journey towards Bethlehem.
The second book is How Many Miles to Bethlehem? by Kevin Crossley-Holland, illustrated by Peter Malone. Much like the first, it carries us through the nativity narrative by introducing us to all the players and their perceptions of how they are participating in this great Story.

The last two pages end with the angels and the Christ-child himself:

We are angels. We are your secret voices. Listen!
“This baby!”
“This hope!”
“This peace”

Wandering shepherds, wise men, we will enfold you.
We will lead Mary and Joseph with our light.

I am the Light of Light.
The baby who will cradle the world.
In your heart, hold me.
I will never leave you.
If we listen well, we will be forever changed. Hear the hearts of those who led the way. The ones who help us say: There is pain, there is fear, there is wonder, there is sorrow. But along the way, we also see love, we see peace, we see hope, and we see joy.

Behold, all can be made new. The Light has come.

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