The one thing she regretted was the other children. To know that her own was safe and well, and that the others probably would have been too if it wasn’t for her son, was troubling. It seemed so short a time ago that she had been living a “normal” life, and expecting nothing less. Like most girls she sometimes got irritated with the amount her mother expected around the house, and nervous about her planned marriage (would he be kind? Would she feel completely and totally loved? Would he still be pleased with her when he really got to know her?), but life was fairly easy really. She knew what to expect, she was among friends and neighbours she had known all her life, dear and familiar, and the Law of her people seemed good and right to her. She had dreamed of something more of course, she was a sensitive and imaginative girl, but she had been reared to plainness and responsibility, and never expected the deepest longings of her heart to come out and walk the earth in the ordinary light of day.
But they had, and everything was changed forever. And in that moment of total change, not only had her life been caught up and transformed, but her understanding of God, and His real values and intentions would never be the same again. She had expected an ordered universe, where every aspect of life could be regulated and codified, or at least explained, only to discover that the very One who had created it all and given them the Law was the same one who delighted to turn all expectations upside down, to lift up the lowly and pull down the proud..
But where, in this new understanding, could she fit the deaths of these children, who just happened to be born in the wrong place at the wrong time? At first she had not wanted to believe the rumours that came to them, but the grim look on her husband’s face confirmed that he found them all too believable. After all, there was good reason why they had been warned to flee, this was a king who would tolerate no rivals for the throne that was his glory and his torture. But they were beyond his jurisdiction here, and he, no doubt, believed that his infant rival had been destroyed in that terrifying night of violence. Why, God, why? Why was it necessary that others should die so that her son should live?
It made no sense. Must violence and hurt and horror always appear when the grace of God shone forth into the world? Must the innocent die so that righteousness could be fulfilled? Was this strange, marvellous son of hers going to be someone other people would have to die for? That was all back to front. The gods of other nations were like that, bloated parasites of wood and stone who sucked the very lifeblood from their people. It was the cruel greed of human idolatry that had slaughtered those little ones, the idolatry of a half-crazed king for his precarious throne. But this, her God, the true God, was not like that. Her son was not like that. Instead he had become vulnerable flesh and blood, and he had come to give, not to take. Her mind shied away from completing the analogy. Could it be that He had come to give his very lifeblood? Instead of men dying for their gods, God Himself would die for man? It was too shocking, too enormous to fit her mind around. She was not yet ready to engage with such a thought. And besides, he was her little first-born son, and she would give all that she was to guard his life.