Just a couple more days till Christmas and the end of Full of Grace. You can get the ebook version by clicking here, or continue reading by clicking here. I will be updating my purchase and bookshelf pages in the upcoming week, so make sure to come on back. Thanks as always for stopping by.
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The sun has broken over the horizon, spreading its warmth to everything in its path. Mary is already sweating, though, from lugging the water jar from the well. She doesn’t want to stop as she is almost home, but she can’t take another step. She sets the water jar down and rests. Mary places her hand on her belly and tries to quell the uneasiness inside her. She thought she had gotten big when she was six months along, but now that she was in her ninth month, she couldn’t believe how much more she had stretched out. How big was this child to get? The day of her fulfillment was coming close; still if he delayed any longer, she wouldn’t be able to do anything. As it was, Mary found herself waddling, not walking. And carrying anything, much less a full water jar, was difficult – though she did use her belly as a make-shift shelf sometimes.
The thought makes her chuckle and Mary decides it’s time to head home, before her absence provoked Miriam. Mary had yet to talk to Joseph, but…
The clanging of metal catches her off-guard. The sound is subtle at first, but then it increases, almost like thunderous herd steadily moving her way. Mary quickly picks up her water jar and moves away from the road leading into town as it appears over the horizon – first one head, then another, then a detail of Roman soldiers, all marching in formation, their metal swords clanging against the rest of their gear. She watches in awe as they begin parading past her. She had seen soldiers before – indeed there was a company stationed there in Nazareth – but never this many: rows and rows of men, with their stoic faces, marching forward into her town, her country.
A hand rests on her shoulder, causing Mary to jump. She looks back, expecting to see one of the foreigners, but it’s Joseph. He places his arms around her and pulls her closer to him, protectively. Around her, other townsfolk have started congregating to watch this procession – women, children, men; they are all there and they all bear same anxious expressions.
What was happening now? She thinks, her gaze returning to the soldiers, still marching past them.
There was fear in everyone’s eyes lately and Joseph was no exception. The Roman presence in the area had increased exponentially and with the escalation came a decree requiring all men to register in their hometowns.
“They’re going to tax us to death!” one man shouts. The men from Nazareth had filled the synagogue to talk about this latest development. Many were angry; all were scared, though few would admit it.
“This is nothing but a tactic from the goy. They want to know how many of us there are, so they know how to destroy us,” another yells.
“What do we do about it?”
The last response achieved its intended affect and the men began shouting. This was dangerous, though, considering the soldiers who were now stationed in their town.
“Achichem!” The voice is barely audible in all the noise, but it’s persistent. “Achichem!”
Noise begins dying down.
“Achichem,” the voice cries out again. It’s the miller. “This is not the time for fighting. We must wait on the Mashiac; the conditions are ripe for him to come.”
This elicits another round of angry responses. Some cry that they can’t wait that long, while others say there was no Mashiac,.. that they had to fight and free themselves. Joseph says nothing, figuring it was not the place for it. Would they want to hear that the savior was in their midst? More than that, would they be content to know he was not what they wanted – a warrior prince? What purpose could a babe serve them now as soldiers lined the streets of their town?
“Listen!” another voice booms from the front. Joseph recognizes it – Heli. “Listen. Regardless of what you feel right now, the miller is right – this is not the time to fight.”
A young man approaches Heli, his stance defiant.
“And when is? When we have our beloved Mashiac to lead us? We’ve been waiting on him for centuries and still he doesn’t come. Instead we are enslaved by one goyem after another. G-d has turned a deaf ear to our suffering. We cannot wait.”
Not moved by the man’s speech, Heli replies, “We must. We are few; they are many. We are laymen, millers, smiths, carpenters; they are soldiers. They are organized and we are emotional. They would cut us down in an instant, and where would that leave our wives and children and even grandchildren?”
Silence permeates the room. Joseph watches his father-in-law proudly.
“G-d is not deaf, nor is he sleeping. Like the psalmist said, I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the L-rd, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep. Is this a test, then? I don’t know. What I do know is that G-d still works, he still cares, in spite of our disbelief. The time is always ripe for a savior, but we must look for him in the right place. And right now, that place is not the end of a sword.”
With that, the arguing is done, which for Joseph means the course has been set – he will be traveling to Bethlehem to register.