Did We Kill Him Because He Cried?

"The cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes;
But little lord Jesus, no crying he makes..."
--Away in a Manger, 1865 hymn LBW #67
Mary was very insistent. For several weeks before the pageant, she asked me every chance she got if we were going to find a real baby for the manger scene. Nothing else would do. A real person must represent our real Savior.
The night of the pageant, there was in fact a baby Jesus, a three-month-old boy who sat in Mary's arms quite calmly for about half of his time on stage, and then noticed mom was missing. He wasn't having any of that, and he started to cry. Backstage, the ushers asked "Is that baby Jesus?" and peeked through the sanctuary door to check. As they opened the door, he let out a wail that pierced ears from front to back in the church, halted the narrators and set the entire congregation asking "Why is baby Jesus crying?"
His mother walked quickly up the aisle with the backup baby, a doll wrapped in gold fabric, to switch the two so we could move on. This pageant is carefully timed and the show must go on. For just a moment, until it becomes awkward, Mary refuses to let go of the child, holding on, loving him even though he is disturbing the reverence of him.
Why is it important that the baby Jesus does not cry? More than that, if baby Jesus cannot cry from his cradle, how do we give him so much credit for the humanity he showed when he wept at Lazarus' grave?
I think many of us want Jesus to stay quiet and mild, the way we imagine him in the manger, for his whole life. Making Jesus cry is the ultimate threat in a Christian parent's arsenal for child-rearing, because that child knows if it makes Jesus cry, it must be pretty bad. If Jesus cries, something is wrong with our world, our behavior, our worship.
We killed him because he cried. If Jesus had always been the baby in the manger, making no unhappy sound, we would have felt justified. If he had come without condemning anyone, we would know he is on our side on our terms. As a quiet baby, Jesus makes us comfortable. But that was not what he came to do. And so, when he cried, we killed him.
At Christmas, the crying baby is a better picture of God's son in the world than the happy, silent infant. If Jesus cried from his cradle, we would all leave the church rattled this evening, because we made him cry. Jesus' heart must have been broken for the world his entire life. We must remember that, because it will teach us how much we need him.

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