Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22964 – 1041
Here’s the haps:
After the initial commotion at Mary’s house, wedding preparations begin. She travels to see her elderly cousin and after three months returns with more stories of angels and strange goings-on. The aged Elizabeth is with child, too, well past the time in her life for such things. Her husband, Zechariah, an old man of a priestly family, was burning incense in the temple and the angel Gabriel stood by him and told him he was to have a son and to name him John. Zechariah couldn’t believe that someone his age with an elderly wife whose womb had been barren all of her life could conceive. Apparently, angels don’t care too much for backtalk because he made Zechariah unable to speak until the baby was born. Mary said that when she greeted her pregnant cousin Elizabeth the babe leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb and she spoke out by the Spirit of the Holy One. You know that the Scriptures teach that all children are created by God for a purpose, but hearing the tale of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the small hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and you feel like weeping, realizing that a great miracle has been done. When the child was born and the eighth day came and he was to be named, Elizabeth called him John. They argued with her but when they asked Zechariah, he wrote on a slate, “His name is John.” Suddenly he was able to speak again and tell of the angelic messenger. Then he began to prophesy about the child being the “prophet of the Highest” and that he would go before the face of the Lord.
That was months ago and now Mary is great with child. What next? Just as the question enters your mind, you hear a sound you had hoped you would never hear again. You cannot believe your ears. A horse! Bearing a Roman herald! Here in Nazareth of all places and with a proclamation from the Emperor, the Caesar. “Augustus” he calls himself. They all think so highly of themselves. And not only does the Roman king think he is a god, but since Herod had taken a calculated gamble and allied himself with Augustus and Agrippa in a civil war that had crushed the remaining opponents of Caesar, the emperor of Rome rewarded him by calling him the King of Judea.
Herod is a thoroughly vile man who has had two of his own children murdered as well as the wife he doted upon. An Edomite converted to Judaism, he was not worthy to be called a Jew, let alone the king of the Jews. Oh, he had made it easier for them to have their own religion, not being forced to say that the Roman Caesar was a god and he had built a beautiful temple, but he was also a completely heartless killer, destroying anyone he thought might get in his way, including an eighty-five-year-old man.
You ponder all this as you watch the herald dismount and unroll the scroll. Whatever this was, it must be big, because this was a real Roman herald, not one of Herod’s men. The herald stands in the middle of the town repeating himself, “All families everywhere in the world shall be registered and taxed in the cities of their origin by the twenty-fifth day of this month.” You groan within yourself. Registration will be done by tribe, clan, household, and family. You think of your poor young wife who is due to be delivered of the child any day, any moment, really and you shake your head. You are both heirs of David, no big thing these days to be sure, but this would mean a trip to Bethlehem, the city of David.
“Sir,” You speak in Latin, knowing you would likely be ignored if you spoke Hebrew. The word uttered to a Roman makes you want to vomit. You moved here to get away from them, but you also know how to approach them, “The Romans have never required such a thing before, surely his majesty means every male…”
“So, you speak a civilized language, do you? Shall I repeat it for you, then?” He says in Latin. “Let me explain something to you. His majesty means what he says and he says he wants to know every fact of who is who in his realm, where they came from, how much money they have and if they have paid their taxes on it. As if the likes of you deserves an explanation.”
“But sir, my wife is great with child. She is due any time, easily within the next two weeks and we would both have to travel to Bethlehem.”
“Well,” The Roman puts a heavy hand on your shoulder and leans so close to you that you can taste the garlic and wine on his breath, “That’s about a ten-day trip via these mountain sheep-paths you people so cleverly call roads, isn’t it?”
You nod, “Yes sir. An able-bodied man might even make it in seven or less, but my wife…”
“Yes, and you would like me to make an exception for you I suppose? Well, his majesty said that none would be exempt. I had to travel to Gaul to register with a wife, four children, and a mother-in-law. The twenty-fifth is 2 weeks away. I suggest you get going.”
He watches you, to see if you will dare to try to make a scene, but you have witnessed in your lifetime what happens in such a scene. Besides, you realize the futility of arguing further. At least Mary’s parents and many others from the villages around will be traveling with you and among you there are three donkeys, so the women can ride, and you will have a pack animal, but what about the baby? Mary has been in pains on and off. Just the night before last they had thought she would give birth. She had regular pains, but they turned out to be false. How would she stand ten days through the mountains? Oh, you’ve often walked into the mountains together, packing a little lunch but she was not nine months with child when you did it.
You sigh within yourself as you think about the last few months and how she has become increasingly uncomfortable and sometimes downright annoying. She can’t stand to sit on the cot, she can’t bear to stand, she snaps at everyone who in the least bit annoys her…You realize, of course, that this is all natural and normal for a woman in her condition and you try to be patient and understanding, but, oy! Traveling to Bethlehem on the back of a donkey? At least her mother will be with you since they are descended from David’s line, too. Your family is all gone and you can’t help but wonder what your parents would have thought. You think back to when you were a child and would hear them praying. You take comfort in the fact that they had faith in God even when there had been no voice from Him, while you have heard from a messenger of the Most High! You realize everything will have to work out somehow, but to travel with a pregnant woman in time to reach Bethlehem by the twenty-fifth…