Would I have said yes if I had known the price tag upfront? Possibly not. Knowledge of the future is a dangerous thing; perhaps that’s why the prophets so often speak in riddles. But, one step at a time, I have reached this place, and one step at a time we will continue.
My first reaction was total confusion. We all know how once our people were slaves in Egypt, how God Himself delivered us by His mighty hand and outstretched right arm, using Moses the Deliverer to lead us through the long travail of the wilderness to the land promised to Abraham. Then -- this is the story every child of Abraham’s line has been taught – because we did not keep the commands of our God, because we indulged ourselves with all the gods of the nations roundabout, we were sent forth into exile, to Babylon. And we came back. But things are not as they were before. The Romans choose our kings, and this king is a tormented soul who loves the favour of Rome far more than the burning glory of God.
And it is because of this king that we must do the unthinkable, and take this child, this child unlike any other child, the one who is to bring our people true freedom, out of the Land of the Promise and descend to Egypt, the land of bondage. Everything seems to be going backwards.
Sometimes I feel trapped in a nightmare where I will never see my home again. The world has changed, the rules have changed, utterly and irrevocably. But most of all, I have changed. I am no longer a girl, a child looking at the grown up world with wide-eyed eagerness, I am a woman, a wife and a mother in Israel. And I can never be that heedless, shiningly unaware girl again, however much there may be moments when I long to be free again, at home in the safe familiarity of my parents’ love and the ways and customs of Nazareth. There are moments when the strangeness, or the fear, hit me afresh, and for a split second I long to wake up again and find it was all a dream.
But not really. Because alongside the fear and the loss and the longing to go back and speak to my mother again, something else inside me is beginning to move with the wild dance of faith. The road is drear and long, the sun beats harshly on my eyes, but somewhere inside me those eyes are uplifted to the stars, and a breeze tanged by alien flowers is blowing through my hair. Since the day the angel came I have been learning to walk in two different worlds at once. Sometimes the double vision makes me dizzy, but often I find myself learning to breathe in a courage that is not my own.
And there is love. This little child, this miracle, is worth more than all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He looks up at me with those quiet eyes, and I know that I am blessed beyond all other women to be His mother. I would do this a thousand times over if this is what He needs, and still wonder, with tears of amazement in my eyes, why I was ever chosen. I reach out for Joseph’s hand, and in the midst of all this we smile at each other. Though this road may lead to Egypt, it is still the road of God.