Go back in time, a couple of millenia with me: It is the month of Tishri (Sept/Oct), year 3758 of the Hebrew calendar. 200 years ago the Ming Dynasty was building the Great Wall of China, and the Mayan civilization created a calendar. On this tiny little blue green planet, third from the modest star we call the Sun, we and all the angels and demons direct our attention to a minuscule village in the hills of Galilee to find a young couple, recently engaged, stressed in the preparations for a long awaited journey. All the beings that usually move in and out of the time spectrum sit on the edge of their seats at the end of a sabbath:
“Joe. Come see.” She hears nothing but the sound of the breeze behind the house. “JOE!” She speaks a little louder as she puts her right hand on her chair to maintain balance as she gets up, holding her round belly with her left. She walks in and through the house to find Joseph in the back, studying one of five unfinished carpentry projects. “Joe, I think I just saw the second star. It’s almost time to pack.”
“I only see one, and there are enough clouds that – well – I don’t know if we should pack tonight. Maybe we should just wait till morning, sleep in, have some breakfast and. . .” “It’s behind a cloud, but they are moving fast – just watch,” said Mary, nervous with natural anticipation on top of the hormones of a ripe first pregnancy. Within minutes, the clouds move out of the way to reveal the second star of the night. One more star and the sabbath is over, which means they begin packing for an eight day trip south. “Have you even prepared enough bread yet? Picked enough dates?” says Joseph. “Everything I can do was done before the shabbat – yes. It’s all yours now, unless you want me to pack the donkey.” “Nooo ma’am,” said Joseph, “she’s never balanced when you pack her, and then she can’t walk straight. I’ll do it as soon as the third star appears.” Joseph leaned back in his adirondack chair and took another dip of hummus on his pita chip. “You know you shouldn’t be dipping that . . .” said Mary, just as the wind blown clouds revealed the third star. “Sabbath is over – I’m fine. Where did you put the bags last?”
“YOU put them in the back room last time you returned from Magdala, remember?”
“Oh. Right. Well have you cleaned the cloaks and my new tallit? I want the one with the tekhelet just in case we make it to the temple for next sabbath,” Joseph says.
“I got it I got it. Again, all my stuff was done before shabbat. I’m going to the bathroom again while you get everything into the bags,” Mary pressed.
After an hour or so of gathering up clothing and odds and ends and food and water, Joseph and Mary finally get their bags ready and settle into their respective beds by candle-light, hardly able to close their eyes for the anticipation of morning. After what seems like 15 minutes of sleep, a rooster crows from a house several blocks away. Joseph awakes, sees no light, and rolls over. Another 30 minutes and the same rooster clears his throat and crows again. “Joe. . . Joseph! There’s the dawn!!” Mary is up, dressed and struggling to lift a bag to move it outside. “Whaat? . . . I’m up . . . don’t pick that up – you’ll hurt yourself. Sit down and I’ll get it when I finish my morning constitutional.” Mary, knowing her limits, sits down and waits patiently, watching him take a copy of the Galilee Times into the bathroom.
The young couple finally manage their bags on to Mel the Donkey (short for Melchizadek, of course, the ancient king of Salem – now Jerusalem) and after agreeing to stop at the Krispy Falafel on the way out of town, they head out, down a dusty, rocky path, excited and nervous about this, the longest trip they’ve taken together.
As they travel southeast toward Nain, they are as enthusiastic and energetic as any young couple, except that she is a glowing balance of moods and fears and hopes. Joseph leads Mel as they meander through the rocks and boulders of the Galilee hills. Other travelers pass them on the trail, being less burdened without the extra weight of diapers and bottles and such, but this does not discourage M & J as they have settled into their own pace and they are content to be in the same place at the same time in eternity. After an hour or so they look up the hill toward the sun rising over Endor, where King Saul infamously consulted a witch to obtain advice from the Prophet Samuel, long dead. (1 Sam.28)
“If you could ask one question about our future, what would it be, Joe?” said Mary.
“I would ask how you raise the child of Adonai.”
Mary was silent. Mary often thought more than she spoke, raising Joseph’s curiosity, but not usually to the point that he inquired, for fear he might not relish the response.
After they both walked for some time, pondering the magnitude of this journey, Mary speaks: “I would ask, if He is truly the Messiah then what does Adonai expect of us past his childhood,” says Mary. “The angel said we would give birth, but didn’t tell us much from there. . .” Joseph answers, carefully, “He will tell us as we need to know. Just as He would have enlightened Saul, had he been patient enough to avoid consulting witches. Nain is over the next hill, let’s take a break there.” (Luke 7:11) As they sat at a roadside cafe on the edge of Nain, looking out over the Jezreel Valley, they considered their God-ordained place in the history of Israel and the land spread out before them. This is where Gideon defeated the Midianites as Israel continued their fight to take the Promised Land and this is where the Philistines routed King Saul at Mount Gilboa, visible to the south, and the hung him on the walls of Bethshean, on the Jordan River side of this valley.
Refreshed, M & J continue on and before turning east at Mount Gilboa to descend the mountains down to the Jordan River, they pass through the old town where Jezebel was thrown out the window by her own eunuchs, to be eaten by dogs. (2 Kings 9) “If Jesus ever has a sister, let’s not name her Jezebel, ok Joe?”
“I’m with you. I would say Ruth, maybe.”
As the sky grows dim, our couple can see Bethshean in the distance. It’s a Roman town, which means as Jews they should be cautious, but they keep a low profile, explaining that they are traveling for the census called for by Quirinius Caesar, and that seemed to satisfy the guards. After checking a few places, they found an affordable but clean place to stay the night, hitched up old Mel and ducked into their quarters.
— continued at NW2 —