Summary: A third person Christmas narrative told from the perspective of a rock watching the comings and goings of a millenia of people around Bethlehem.
Year by year we faithfully return to these passages to consider this Christmas story. Most of you have heard the story from childhood on, that the Son of God was born, not in a palace but a stable.
So common in this story that we see portions of it painted is store windows, broadcast on TV shows and recorded in our Christmas songs and music. But does the power of this story seem to wear thin at times? Not that the story is less miraculous, but that the mystery is gone and we know the end from the beginning. We know that the people who should have been waiting to welcome the Christ were asleep in their warm beds, while Shepherds in the fields by night received the shock of their life when the angels appeared to them, declaring the Christ’s birth.
We know that the home town crowd in Palestine had become so jaded in their waiting for a Messiah, and had so pre-determined the sort of Messiah they would seek, that it was left to wise and wealthy men from the Barbaric lands to the East to be the first to worship the Son of God, bringing gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. A foretelling of the Christ’s ultimate mission to live, die and rise again, not for the furtherance of Judaism, but for the salvation of the masses.
We know that the leaders of the Jews should have been the first to beat a path to Jesus’ door, but the only path that was beaten was the path King Herod’s men beat as they mercilessly killed a generation of children with the hope of securing a longer dynasty for their own king. And the leaders who should have turned their people’s eyes to God’s gracious gift instead plotted against him, to hand him over to the Roman’s as a traitor so that he might be crucified.
These are the things we know, but these are the very things that we need to be reminded of, for these are the foundation blocks upon which all spiritual reality rests. Jesus came, not as a warrior, but as a substitutionary sacrifice.
Will you consider this short passage again with me, to see if we can discover in it the power that has made it such a regular part of our spiritual tradition?
Imagine if rocks could talk? Jesus once stated that if the children of Jerusalem remained silent, the very rocks would have cried out. But what might they has said?
What if rocks could talk and think and feel; what would they say? What if we could go back in time and place to Bethlehem and listen to the rocks?
This is what they would tell you: The world is changing. It is darker and colder now. Gone are the happy golden hues that seemed to gild the evening sky in olden day, in their place a watery grayness with a washed out sun.
The age is different, the great powers of men that had been are no more. The rocks bear witness to the change. In the hill country of Judea they have watched as people come and go since creation. They were there before the people, before the village, before the homes. They were there before the road to Bethlehem was laid, they are there still, if you don’t believe me, go look for yourself.
They would tell you of the change they have seen. They could speak of the oldest powers, now long forgotten, of the Philistines, Canaanites and Jebusites, of the Nephilim – giants that once passed this way. Of primitive peoples and simple homes. But those people have passed out of memory now.
They would speak of better days, when these hills had rung with happy songs. When children had played freely, far from the watchful eye of parents, far from the need for protection. But there were no children playing here now, no happy songs.
They would remember a time when the grazing sheep blanketed the rills and ridges like drifts of snow. If rocks knew names they would recite for you a genealogy of shepherds who had tended these hills, and one of the shepherds who had been made a king, a great king. He was here once, among the hills and rocks of Bethlehem. Long days he would spend with his harp and staff, perfecting his praises with only the sheep and birds to hear.
Some of the rocks would even remember his skill with the sling. He used to find the young rocks (the humans call them stones, the rocks have a name for them that we can’t pronounce, basically it means ‘chip off the old block’) then he would hurl them at a tree, or a wild animal trying to make off with a sheep. Happier and easier days were those.