Jeremiah 31:15-17

Thus says the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.

Thus says the Lord: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the Lord: they shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope for your future, says the Lord: your children shall come back to their own country. Jeremiah 31:15-17

What if Jesus was born today?

Bethlehem is in the West Bank. It is Palestinian territory. When I traveled there from Jerusalem I passed through exactly the kind of gate that I remembered separating East and West Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie. A tall concrete wall. Graffiti. Affluence and fear on one side. Poverty and despair on the other. Jesus would be a Palestinian Jew.

Jesus was born into a day when times were hard. Rome was a fearsome occupier. Everyone Jesus knew lived at a subsistence level. Barely getting by. Barely staying alive. Life was cheap and life was short.

I trust that Jesus was taught the history of his people much like we were. As children of the North we learned about a Civil War where the good guys won and the bad guys lost. It was a glorious, God-inspired victory. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord! Only later did I come to realize that other children were taught differently. Still later, that disease killed many more soldiers than bullets and bombs. War IS hell.

So Jesus no doubt learned stories of his people suffering. Under the Egyptians. Under the Assyrians. Under the Babylonians. Under the Greeks. Now under the Romans. Children killed in Egypt. Children killed in Bethlehem. Rachel is weeping for her children. But always the stories were tempered with hope – though we have often brought such destruction down upon ourselves, God will not forget about us. God will not let abandon us. We shall never lose hope.

What if Jesus was born today?

Would his life be any different? Would his life be any less obscure? Would his healing ministry be less welcomed? Would he finally not be rejected again with his pie in the sky ideas of loving God and loving neighbor? How is it that his life, his death, his resurrection, would renew trust in God and hope for the future?

Our whole lives many of us were taught that the only way to connect to Jesus was to confess our sins and “accept him into our hearts.” Such a tidy proposition. It cost us nothing but saying the right words in the right way to make all things right. Which led to acceptance among those who encouraged such a confession. We were in the club, on the bus to heaven!

Only later have we learned that there is so much more to following Jesus than this empty, hollow, game of lip service and social acceptance. There still remains the nitty gritty dirty business of actually living life with open eyes and open ears to the cries of mothers for their children as bombs fly and people die and others get rich by the carnage.

Loving God and loving neighbor. Neither is easy, safe, or socially acceptable. Both require choices to be made. Boundaries to be crossed. Weapons laid down. Whether then or now, Jesus was born into the real world, and his message of love would still be our only real hope.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, as we come into a new year, we continue to remember your birth. Your flesh and blood entry into a broken world. You embrace the broken. Guide us this year into real faith, real discipleship, real willingness to choose you and your way of being in our lives. For it is only in hearing the cries of Rachel’s children that we can know the hope of your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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2 Responses to “Jeremiah 31:15-17”

  1. Dave Aemstrong Says:

    Excellent thoughts and a prayer that I share with you in the full meaning and spirit.

  2. Lynette Bartel Says:

    Last three paragraphs…right to the heart. Thank you.

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