Summary: Christmas Eve parable/sermon about a Bethlehem seamstress.
“She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn.” Luke 2:7
When it came to clothe Rachel was a way better than average weaver; and everyone in town knew it. She was the most accomplished cloth maker and seamstress in Bethlehem - way better any than of the men who worked a loom and a needle.
There were even people from Jerusalem who came to buy her wool tunics. All of the village elders owned at least something made by Rachel.
However, Rachel didn’t really think of herself as successful. She just didn’t think of herself.
You see, she was an extremely devout woman – who looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. That was her focus in life.
During her childhood, like most young girls, she entertained the far fetched notion that perhaps – just perhaps – SHE might grow up to become the mother of the Messiah.
Indeed, she grew up and married. And indeed she had sons – but it became clear pretty early on that none of her three sons were going to become the Messiah.
One was a drunk. One was awfully nice and pleasant, but not too swift – about two bits short of a dollar. And the other – a successful farmer – but with little interest in spiritual matters.
None were likely candidates to become the instrument of Jewish salvation.
This was a great disappointment to her but Rachel was a flexible woman -- still full of hope.
So, as she matured beyond her child-bearing years Rachel decided that if she couldn’t be the mother of the Messiah, that at least she would make clothes for the Messiah – after all wasn’t she the best seamstress in town? Or at least that’s what people were saying.
“What a wonderful idea! The Messiah will need to stay warm,” she told herself.
So, as she prayed the Shema three times a day she would always end it with her own little unauthorized but heart-felt addition.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Then she would add) “And might it be, Lord, that I could make clothes for the Messiah.”
Perhaps this is why Rachel became so exceptionally accomplished at her craft. She viewed every single piece of material she worked with as practice for the tunic she would weave and sew for the Messiah.
She didn’t know when he would come or when she would get to sew for him but it was probably going to be soon.
You see, there were rumors – underground armies – zealots were getting ready to throw off the Roman oppressors.
This is why the emperor, Caesar Augustus, was so intent on registering everyone -- especially the Jews. He wanted to know who was who. And he wanted to figure out how much more he could raise taxes to keep these aggravating Jews in line.
So he sent out a decree that all the world should be registered. And that meant that everyone had to make a visit to the place of their family’s origin.
And being that Bethlehem was the ancient home of King David – all those of the house and lineage of David were making a pilgrimage to become properly registered – according to the directive of the emperor.
“This was the kind of thing that might just pave the way for the Messiah,” Rachel quietly told herself. “They’re going to make things so bad that the Messiah will HAVE to come. And besides, all of these extra people in town aren’t bad for business either.”
She was extremely busy on the day that Kara, the innkeeper’s wife, came by to order a donkey blanket.
Rachel smiled when she heard what the woman wanted. And she tried to act as though she were not insulted. “Here I am preparing to make clothes for the Messiah and this woman wants me to whip out a donkey blanket,” she thought to herself.
But considering that Kara was a foreigner from a distant northern land, she bit her tongue. And not only did she bite her tongue but she did so nicely.
Walking over to a large pile of material on the side of the room she dug through it all for a moment until she found a piece that might be appropriate for life in the barn.
“O, that piece would be wonderful,” said the extremely grateful Kara. “I’ll take it. How much do you want for it?”
Rachel was feeling a little bit guilty for her initial thoughts about the foreign woman, and so she not only suggested an extremely low price but she also offered to stitch the sides of the material so that it would become a finished blanket.