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Mary’s Cradle Song

Isaiah 9:2,6-7; Luke 2:1-10
MARY IN THE MOONLIGHT,
BESIDE A MANGER,
CRADLES A TINY GIFT OF LIFE.
IT HAS ALL COME TO PASS --
in that brief but powerful moment of pain and release.
The child she has nurtured within her womb --
drawing life from her,
and growing towards the day when he must be born --
has broken forth into life.
Now she holds her tiny gift of love in her arms.
She murmurs a mother’s song of love --
so to comfort her baby
and to make his first moments of life in this world
as soft and comforting as only she can give.
HOW HAD ALL THIS COME UPON HER?
This tiny gift of love at last in her arms:
her memories flood back upon her:
the angel who came to her to tell her
the news of God’s salvation;
her fear, her questioning, her anxiety;
Joseph’s reassurance he will not abandon her;
her visit to her cousin Elizabeth,
also with child in her old age;
that first leap of life within her;
her own songs of hope and beginnings.
Then came that awful decree from the Emperor Caesar Augustus
that everyone had to go to the towns of their ancestors
to pay their taxes;
that journey on the rough roads on the back of a donkey
(she had grown to love that animal,
but she was ever so glad when the journey was over);
the pressure against her chest as she scrunched over the donkey
to keep herself on the animal’s back;
the long days it took to reach Bethlehem;
the arrival late at night
as the labor pains began to assert themselves,
and there was no place to lie down.
And now -- here in this stable --
the smells and the warmth;
the filth and the dirt;
the low, soft noises of the animals --
yet somehow Mary felt the stable alive
with the assurance of life.
She looked around her
as she cradled her tiny baby --
the stone walls in the back,
keeping our the cold;
the hay pitched here and there;
the old cow lying lazily in the far corner,
huddled for warmth, slowing chewing her cud;
the few sheep standing over by the manger,
taking a munch of hay every now and then.
The donkey who carried Mary,
a stranger among the rest of the animals,
stood apart,
his tail swishing away the flies;
The doves in the rafters cooed also,
as if to sing her baby a lullaby.
THIS IS WHERE IT ALL HAD LEAD.
She looked at her baby, and said softly:
“Are you a king, my son, or a carpenter?
Will you lead, Child?
Have I a part?”
MARY IN THE MOONLIGHT WITHIN THE STABLE
PONDERS THE FUTURE IN HER HEART,
AS SHE GENTLY LAYS HER BABY IN THE MANGER.
The sheep look at this intruder in their hay
and baaa in surprise and puzzle.
After some moments of quiet and rest, Mary hears a commotion,
looks up from her baby,
and sees some shepherd enter the tiny stable.
There is hardly room enough for the three of them,
and now the shepherds and more sheep?
Joseph quickly inserts himself
between Mary and the shepherds.
No harm will come to his beloved and her child.
The shepherds tell their story about the angels
and how they have come down from the hills
to see the newborn baby.
Mary nods her consent,
and they move silently towards her and the manger
so to see this thing that has come to pass.
They linger there awhile in silence --
They are hardened men.
They have seen enough birthing of sheep of their lambs,
and they know it’s a miracle.
And they knew how many
will never survive the night.
They look upon this newborn baby,
melting before this miracle of new life.
They know they will never pass this way again.
They take these moments to fix them
in their hearts.
The heat of their presence adds
to the warmth of the stable.
Glances of their eyes and gentle smiles speak volumes,
while their lips remain silent
less the baby awake.
IIMARY IN THE MORNING
BESIDES A MANGER,
SEEKING TO UNDERSTAND
WHAT HAS COME TO PASS.
Dreaming of the angel’s song just months before --
but an age away.
Did the shepherd’s hear the same angel as she?
Dreaming of the shepherds’ visit --
the night has come and gone all too swiftly.
She feels the fleetness of a moment --
a moment that has come and gone in an instant --
gone forever,
yet forever remaining within her life,
forever changing her life.
She knows the angel’s choir is ended --
never to be sung again.
She knows the shepherds will soon be gone;
never to be seen again.
She knows the morning light is about to come --
Then the shepherds bid their leave,
and go out into the early promise of light.
ECHOES OF WORDS -- WE HEARD THEM AGAIN.
Years later we find this tiny gift of love --
this gentle child of a manger --
become a man who is both loved and hated.
But only love is felt in that stable that night,
become day.
Years later we will see him riding on the back of a donkey once again -
not to his birthing place in Bethlehem,
but to his place of death in Jerusalem.
The disciples will sing,
as the angels sang so many years before:
“Peace...and glory to God in the Highest.”
“Hosanna ...Blessed is the One who comes
in the name of the Lord.”
Years later we will see Him weeping,
not over his hunger as a newborn,
but over the fate of Jerusalem.
Years later we will see his face not asleep in serene rest,
but set as flint as He moves to the cross.
YES -- WE HEAR THE ECHOES OF THE ANGEL’S SONG --
a hymn of joy has blended
with the minor keys of lament.
The baby in the manger will bring peace and glory...
at the cost of his life as a man.
Yes, we hear echoes of songs...
and the horrible truth comes forth:
THE CRIB AND THE CROSS ARE MADE
OF THE SAME WOOD.
YES, WE HEAR THE ECHOES OF WORDS,
AND MARY MUST HEAR THEM ALSO.
She takes up Jesus back into her arms,
and plants a gentle kiss on his forehead
and cries softly, I love you so.”
She has given birth,
and she knows she holds the future in her arms.
She smiles inwardly.
She gave herself to God that night
when the angel Gabriel came to her.
Now she cradles her new baby in her arms.
She begins to sing a new lullaby.
Amen
Gerald J. Rounds
Benediction:
SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT OF OUR LIVES, A BABY CRIES.
THAT CRY IS OUR HOPE AND HIS MOTHER SINGS A SOFT LULLABY. THE GRACE OF GOD HAS APPEARED FOR THE SALVATION OF OUR WORLD. GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, AND ON EARTH, PEACE.