I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

The Innkeeper's Wife

A Christmas Reading for our church.

I want to tell you a story. One that many will not believe. But I do. And it has changed me.
But who am I?

Just a no body. An orphan caught by an inn keeper for stealing his fruit. Rather than have me flogged, he made me his wife. He promised meals and a warm place to stay for the night. Perhaps if I knew what I do now, I would have chosen the flogging, but I didn’t. And I have received meals and a place to stay. For that I should be grateful.

When he asked me my name to record in the city’s record, I did not know. No one called me by any name for as long as I could remember.
But what is a name anyway? 
My husband, impatient for my answer, called me, “His.” And that was done. 
He calls me, “woman” if he calls me anything anyway. 

Our inn does well. But Bethlehem is not a city located between other great cities. In fact, when people come to Bethlehem, it’s their final stop.  There’s nothing great to the south of us. Hebron is not a popular traveling place. Nor would you find anything around us, unless you’re looking for mountains and rolling hills suitable for sheep and goats. 

It has not always been so. Bethlehem was where our great father Isaac buried Rachel his wife. And wasn’t it Bethlehem where our great King David was born, raised and anointed king? When he rested from war, he made it great. A thoroughfare where travelers could journey from Egypt to other great cities of our land. But with the Babylonian exile our poor city became nothing. Even when our people returned, it was never quite the same.

How do I know these things? I sat outside the window as an orphan and listened to the scribes as they taught Hebrew boys our history. The stories gave me dreams that I could hold—Wishes that I could pretend would come true.

But I forget my point, Bethlehem is my home. I like it because this is what I know.
And our inn does well, in spite of the city’s size. 
Business has picked up, especially with the Roman guard here “to ensure our peace.”While its troops live in tents outside the city wall, their officers come to our inn for comfort.

They demand peace. As if we could do anything when they take everything we own! They have put taxes on produce, sales tax, temple tax, occupational tax, custom tax, transit tax—and now this! They tax us for being born! Every man, woman and child must return to his place of birth and give the man his money. 

Not that it matters to me. I pay no taxes. I am considered property. Not even with equity. But I hear my husband complain. Anytime his money must leave his hand, he groans as if he’s been stabbed. 

The officers who stay here talk as if their ruler were some god to be worshipped. Wasn’t his name changed from Octavian to Augustus? The officers tell that his name means “son of god,” since Julius, his father, was considered god. 
I would not want a god that takes all that I have. I would want a god who gives what he has. If he is god, would that not be so? 
But alas, maybe I believe more of those childhood stories that are only make-believe.

I hear the officers talk of Rome as a place where all must see—with great amphitheaters, public baths, and aqueducts. But who benefits from all of this? Only those in Rome! 
We are merely slaves to provide the extravagance for this emperor. Some of our people have paid their taxes by giving up their land—their inheritance given to their family since our people entered with Joshua. How can they provide for their family without land? 

It is all well for this emperor to be sitting on his throne in Rome to declare that everyone return to his birthplace, (SLOW DOWN) but where are they all going to stay?
Did he think of that? Of course not.

But if we complain, we are insubordinate and unappreciative. Don’t they bring peace and order? Bah! Our people are so bowed down by constraints, we must ask them if we can breathe! Survival is our daily existence.

If his constraints weren’t enough, I heard from travelers how Herod has added more for building his own empire. He rebuilds ourtemple. I hear the Jews talking about it. Not as our forefathers built to enter into God’s presence. But to make Herod’s own presence known throughout the world.
How can God be pleased?

So here we are in this predicament. The town of Bethlehem is bursting its walls, and still the people come.

It started last week when the first caravans arrived. Families from the coastlands of Joppa and Ashkelon came bringing tidings that Rome was excising another tax.
When my husband heard the news, he hurried to gather extra supplies and food from the surrounding areas. He even gave me coins to purchase extra at the market, but cautioned me to purchase low quality wine and not-so-fresh produce. 
I knew where to find a bargain. Hadn’t I lived in the streets before coming here?
When I returned, he examined my purchases.
He rubbed his hands together with a gleam in his eye. He foresaw his rising profits. He was good at extracting money from people.
I smiled, he was pleased.

By the end of the week and the beginning of Sabbath, the town was packed like the fisherman’s stall on market day.
But even with my husband’s foreknowledge, there was no way to prepare for all the crowds.
More people required more water. And didn’t their animals bring more waste? Good though it was for kindling the cook fires, hay became sparse. And the human waste that normally lay down the middle of the streets were only cleaned once a week. The larger mounds brought more flies and smell. 
It is beyond me, why men cannot watch where they are going. Must they walk through the stuff and bring it into our inn!
I must scrape it off the floors and chairs. And I have no time to shoo flies off food!

Our inn lies off the beaten streets, in fact only those who know of us will venture that far into the city to come to stay here. Which makes our inn less crowded, but allows us to be more selective as to who we allow to stay. My husband can charge more for the meals and floor space. Most inns, especially those at the entrance of the city, provide a meal and floor space with a courtyard for their animals.

We are one of the few who have guest chambers. And the Roman officers know that. They show little of their coins, although demand much in amenities. They are the pickiest, most ungrateful people. They expect our standard to be raised to that of Rome, yet do not want to pay the price.
I think, “Give us our money back and we can provide for you like Rome.”
But alas I must not speak out loud. We mustn’t stir them against us. They could inflict greater pains, although I don’t see how.
When they actually do give us coins, what are we to do with them? They have the head of their emperor on it. No one in the marketplace will accept that.Is that not idol worship? And yet, we must accept. And be thankful. 
We use their coins when my husband must pay taxes. He gives back their worthless money, though grudgingly.
The officer’s preference to our inn also puts us at enmity with our fellow neighbors. They think we patronize the Romans for their coin. Bah!
They accuse us of overcharging our fellow Jews. My husband tells them, “I must charge enough to stay in business. Someone must pay for the soldiers and officers staying here. I cannot feed people free.”

Speaking of feeding people, my oil jar goes empty, unlike the woman whose jar remained full of oil by Elijah’s miracle when she served him first.

Now wouldn’t that be something! To never lack oil—during a famine no less, because the widow gave her last to the prophet of God. 
Sometimes I think those stories were made up only for children, for a time when they could dream.
My dreams of deliverance are gone. I have nothing left but to struggle to survive. And almost empty oil jars. I’m afraid to tell my husband. He would blame me for not thinking of getting more when I could. But his coins would only go so far.

Someone interrupts my thinking by calling for more wine, his cup waving in the air for my service. There is no time to mope about grievances or dream about children’s stories. My work does not stop, not until these men are fed and asleep.
My pitcher is empty and I must return with more.
How am I to feed these men with nothing?

Another caravan has arrived.
The guide motions for my husband. They do not look as if they can pay much. They will not find rest here.

All our chambers are taken, and the floor, after pushing the tables and benches to the far wall, will only allow those already here to sleep.
Over the growing noise of the room, my husband shouts for them to leave. 
They do not.
By my husband’s expression I can tell, he’s not happy when he reaches them. He has thrown out many who have not abided his wishes.  I have also felt his wrath, though trying hard to please him. I hold my breath for these men look tired and spent from travel.
I notice the extra coins that pass between them. 
They will stay.
I sigh, mixed relief that harm did not come, but knowing arguments will come later when the men bed down for the night.

We have no room. The men will be packed like the Roman army when they march down our crowded streets. How these newcomers will sleep without moving, I don’t know. But their coins are Jewish and we live on that, even if they cannot sleep.

I meet my husband’s gaze and hurry back to the kitchen, where the fires are hot and begin preparing more flatbread. I look at my jar of oil. How can I make that stretch?

The kitchen, though hot, gives me calmness. The other room’s noise can be ignored. The rhythmic forming and kneading the bread allow my thoughts to rest, though my hands and shoulders ache so. 

When I return to the noisy room carrying flatbread and vegetables, I catch fragments of the newcomers’ conversation. 
They are arguing.
I work my way closer to where they squat. There are no more tables and benches for them. 
“Jacob, you know why we didn’t include them in the caravan.” The man looked condescendingly at his companion.
The man Jacob asked, “Is their sin so much more than ours—to leave them on their own with lions and bears?”
The other man shrugged, “God’s judgment on them.”
The anguish on this man Jacob’s face was enough for my own heart to melt. 
Lions and bears would be the least thing I would worry about in these days. With so many starving, I’d worry more about the wild beasts on two legs than of an animal. 
This caravan had left their own family to God’s judgment! What crime had they done that they couldn’t travel under their caravan’s protection? 

An officer called me away to refill his plate. 
I emptied my platter and hurried to the kitchen to bring more wine.
My husband intercepted me. “Put more water in the wine.”
I nodded, already thinking the drink was merely a suggestion of wine but would do his bidding.

I was weary. My head throbbed from the smoke-filled room, where the fire warmed only those sitting around it. Its embers glowed a deceptive orange-red, but I knew that was the last dung from the pile. I had no energy to clean the animal stalls again before nightfall. The fire would not make it through the night. Those against the wall would shiver from cold tonight.

Many ate squatting where they were. Others, who had finished eating, checked their animals in the courtyard. Maybe with so many bodies, the temperature would be bearable. 
I paused to breathe deeply and wished I hadn’t. I hid my nose in my tunic’s sleeve. The temperature may be bearable, but the smells would not.
The men’s bodies wreaked, not just of traveling under the sun’s heat, but of bodies not washed for days. Man’s sweat. Mixed with whatever animals they brought with them. And the cook fire’s smoke, fueled by the dung of their animals. 
I breathed again, wishing I hadn’t.
My husband caught my eye from across the room. His glare told me I had been thinking too long. I hurried to a table with my filled pitcher. 

The night wore on. Sleep would not come for me for a long time. For these men were just starting to converse before they wrapped in their cloaks and lay down for the night. 

Another caravan came to the door. I was close to the door this time to hear.
My husband barred the door. “There is no room.” He did not wait an answer but slammed and bolted the door.
I felt sorry for the wretches. Where could they go? But the day had been long. And the week promised the same.
I had been up long before the sun rose that morning, fixing the morning meal. Perhaps my husband would allow the neighbor girl to help serve, or at least gather dung for the fires. That would free me to make more meals. I sighed. He would not consent. Nor would I dare ask.

The morrow brought more of the same. The officers left in the morning after their meal, to go to the public square to record every man’s name and demand their payment. 
How could a government tax a person for being born? Seemed a blessing that was turned a curse. 
Those from the caravans would also leave to commit their names to the registry and give their money. 
What name would be put down for me? Who would even care?

I saw the man Jacob study the street, a wistful look on his face. Did he wish to find the wicked couple? How could anyone find them with all these people? 
His companion called him to hurry and he turned to catch up.
I watched them go. Where was that wicked couple? I could already feel their wickedness.
My husband caught me leaning on my broom and snapped me back to the moment, “You have work to do.”
I nodded, knowing only too well all the work that must be done for another night like before.
The tables and benches that had been pushed to the wall for sleeping, had been moved back again for eating. The remnants of a hastily eaten meal lay over the tables, floor, and chairs.

I rubbed my lower back. It had been hard to get up that morning, but as I worked, the stiffness worked its way out of it, leaving only a nagging pain and a bit of nauseousness. I grabbed the broom and started toward the courtyard door. The sunshine penetrated into the open spaces and tried to pierce my mind. But it was still too full of the couple not included with the caravan. And the weariness of every day existence.

The week progressed. Every day like the first. My husband found more men could stay by allowing them to sleep in our room.
We slept on the roof. 
The roof is comfortable in the summer when the weather is hot, especially with the cook fires in the kitchen, but when temperatures fall and the moisture creeps around you, the roof is not where you want to be. 
I shivered through the night. With the crisp, clear moonlight, I watched my husband’s form, wrapped in our only goat skin, rise and fall with his breathing. My tattered cloak did nothing to keep my feet warm, even when I tucked them under my legs. The itchy thatch poked me in places I couldn’t scratch. I tossed all night.

In the morning, I could not move. I massaged the stiffness in my hands before I could even untie my cloak and start the fire. 
I was weary of all these people. I could hardly stand to pour another drink. How many more must pay taxes?
Many looked as if once their taxes were paid, they would have nothing. They had brought all their goods, not intending to return to where they came. Surely they didn’t expect to stay here in Bethlehem!
Yet come they did. And some stayed. 

As the days wore on, I saw less of the officers. They worked all day, ate quickly, then returned to their room at our inn. By their routine, there was sameness. 
We kept a full house.
My husband’s pockets bulged and clanked with coins, both Roman and Jewish, as he moved among his patrons. These taxes would make him rich. My husband was ecstatic.
I thought nothing of the riches, only of the weariness. 

Another day. 
Preparing meals. 
Sweeping floors. 
Cleaning animal stalls. 
Skimping together enough flour to make the meals. 
Day melted into night, broken only by a feeling of dreariness no sleep would take away.

It had been a week since the caravan had come with the troubled Jacob. I had almost forgotten the problems of this couple who were judged by God. The night had brought its own problems, as the water was almost gone and I must draw more. 

I should have been grateful that my husband was one of the few who had dug his own well within the city. Had he not, I would have quite a walk to bring enough water to water all these men and animals. The bucket’s weight pulled on my shoulders as I struggled to raise it.  It had almost reached the brim of the well, when it slipped from my fingers and started to fall back into the well.
Two arms reached from behind me and grabbed the bucket before it dropped.
I glanced into Jacob’s face. 
He settled the bucket by me.
I could only whisper, “Thanks.”
His caravan had left days ago. Why was he back?
Jacob slipped a coin in my hands. “My son and his wife should be coming soon.” He lowered his voice, “I hope. I can’t imagine what is taking them so long.” He shook his head, then looked at me again. “Please take care of them.”
I shook my head to tell him that I couldn’t promise anything. That my husband decided who stayed here. Even as I extended my hand to return the coin. 
But he was gone. 

I was left holding the coin. So it was his son who was wicked. At least he still cared for his son, at least a little, even if he would not stand up to the community for him. I understood why he was torn. It is hard to love someone when they do wrong.
I was shaken from my thoughts by a rough voice behind me.
“What did he give you?”
I clamped my fingers over the coin as I dropped my arm to my side. I wanted to say, “Hope,” But my tongue felt swollen. I swallowed but couldn’t speak.
“Give me your hand.” He demanded, but not waiting for me, he grabbed it and took the coin. 
It wouldn’t have mattered what I said. 
He continued. “Of all the ungrateful, conniving—” Before he finished his sentence, his hand lashed out and slapped me.
I should have been ready for it, but I was still thinking about the father caring for his wicked son. The thought seemed too precious to forget.
I instinctively stepped back. My cheek burned with heat. The blow was low enough not to give me a black eye this time. 
He looked at the coin, his eye gleamed. “What was this for— some extra favor you gave him?” 
I knew his meaning. But knew better than to answer. I resisted the urge to rub my womb protectively. I had not told him of what it contained these few months, for the news would not give him joy. Would he accuse me of using it as an excuse to be lazy?

An officer called him. He hurried to give what he requested. His expression changed instantly to pleasure to attend the officer. My husband could mask his feelings well when coins were involved.
I was left standing there. The welt on my face growing like the hatred that wanted to erupt within, but I must squelch it for my baby’s future.
Yet the hole in my soul found no relief.

It was late two nights later. All lay asleep. They came weary, hurrying against the late fees their delay may incite. There was no longer happy drinking, only quiet eating and getting right to sleep.

The inn door was shut for the night.
No room.

My husband lay snoring beside me. His large frame covered in our goat skin. We still slept on the roof to provide more room for those who had coins to give. 
There were no clouds and the stars twinkled in the black velvet sky overhead. But without that cloud cover, the air was crisp, penetrating my thread-bare cloak and tunic. 
I lay unable to sleep, though exhausted enough to sleep for a week. I had enough oil to make one flatbread for my husband in the morning. 
That was all.  
I had not told my husband yet, nor could I. Should I just leave so I would not have to?

I rubbed my growing belly. The tears spilled. They seem to turn to ice as they coursed down my checks and into my neck. I needed to stay a little longer for my baby’s safety. Then I might be able to leave. I did not know where I could go, when I did. But it would be to safety—wherever that was.

A shuffling in the street caught my attention.
Someone knocked on our door. 
The noise echoed in the still night air. 
I wanted to ignore the traveler, but a muffled groan of pain caused me to creep down the ladder and step over the sleeping bodies. 
I wondered at my boldness. To think of opening the door against my husband’s command, “No more room.” But I didn’t hesitate. Someone was in pain. 
When I cracked open the door, I squinted at a couple.
A man protectively held a woman around her waist. 
Even in the darkness, I could see she was great with child. It was she who had groaned. 
My thoughts returned to the man Jacob. Ahhh, this was his son. This was his sin.
My eyes took in the woman. A mere girl.
My heart went out to her. Hadn’t I been her age when I married? Was it so long ago? 
Even as I hesitated, she groaned again.

I stepped out of the inn. My thoughts stumbled over how to help. There really was no room.
But they could not remain in the street.
As I hesitated, I felt someone behind me.
Without turning, I knew it was my husband. 
I shuddered.
There was no coin to be gained by these two. He would send them away.
“No room.” He slammed the door shut.
I heard him bolt the door behind me.
I was left on the doorstep with them.
Had he not seen me there?

The couple turned to leave.
The woman’s face pale in the moonlight.
The man’s shoulders stooped a bit more, but he nodded and said, “Shalome.”
“How could the night be good?” I wondered.
Nothing was right.
And now, I had no place to go either.
They took a few steps away. 
They paused and turned back, expectantly.
I had nothing to offer. Where was I going to go, but through the servant’s door to where the animals were bedded down for the night? There would be warmth there.

The woman groaned again, hunched over double. 

I felt my growing babe and ached for the girl. 
Clearness came to my jumbled thoughts.
“Follow me.” I led them to the servant’s door where deliveries and kitchen scraps were dumped in the street, then in where the animals were stalled for the night. There wasn’t much  hay.
But they wouldn’t be in the street.

I found them a secluded corner in the barn and brought a jar of water to them. 
The man took it with a nod, extending the dipper to the girl’s lips. 
She gulped down the water. 
He gave more.
Only when she had enough, did the man drink. 
His tenderness moved me to tears. I had never seen any man care for one so.
His eyes thanked me. But still held concern for the girl.
As did mine. How did one help a life be born?
I knew as little as the man.
But I knew of pain.
And I knew what helped.

I went into the kitchen to heat water. Warm compresses may bring some relieve.
I glanced around the kitchen. A few scraps of flatbread lay hardened by the hearth. I grabbed them before returning to the couple. When I handed it to the man, I shrugged. “Maybe you can suck on them to soften them.” 
The woman looked at the scraps with hungry eyes. 
The man broke off a piece. It snapped loudly. He extended it to her lips.
She took it. 
I couldn’t tell when she finally was able to swallow it, for another burst of pain interrupted.

I knelt beside her, my hand bracing her back, giving slight pressure. When her pain stopped, I left for the heated water. Warm compresses would bring some relief.
I was no longer tired or weary. 
That night a baby was born to that couple. But not only to that couple—to the world.

For I listened hungrily to their story of how the angel told of the coming Savior Who would bring hope, comfort and salvation.
I wanted to believe but it was too good to believe. Hope? What was that? Salvation? It was beyond my understanding.
I asked how the man, his name was Joseph, could believe such a story from his wife. My husband wouldn’t believe me with such a story. 
Joseph laughed, a twinkle in his eye, as he shared his own visit from the angel. The angel confirmed what his wife told him. He told him to marry her without making her his wife.
I could not believe a man could be so good. How could his family have thought him wicked?
But they had not believed. 
Why not?

I knew this man, not for the wickedness his family supposed, but for the righteous man who took this girl in absolute sacredness and right-ness, as his wife, in spite of what everyone else thought, and loved her.
Why could I believe?
Because I needed that hope— that salvation.
I’m not sure how that salvation would come, but I was ready for it.

The couple didn’t have much.
When the baby came, I found strips of cloth used to wrap a horse’s leg. The woman use them to wrap the baby. It fit him just fine.
The night wasn’t more than half gone before a bright light bathed the courtyard filling even the night shadows with its light. A star hovered above.
Even the skies were telling me to hope.

A commotion in the street made me run to the courtyard gate.
A group was making their way toward me as if they had been drawn to the light.
They were ill-clad. As they came closer, they smelled of sheep and goats.
Without a thought of what my husband would do to me, I let them through the gate.
They paused before the couple, then fell on their faces before the baby.

When one of the shepherds found his voice, he told how the sky had lit with heaven’s lights and the angel had told his message of this baby’s birth. Before the angel left, hosts of angels joined him and worshiped this baby. 

These shepherds had come to worship. They had come for the hope, too.
I watched from the shadows, now unable to hold my tears.
It was too good to believe someone had heard my many tears in the night, had felt my pain through the sorrows, had come to give hope. 
But I would believe.

The shepherds couldn’t stay long. They had left their flocks and worshipped. I knew what drove them—hope. Now they must returned to their flocks with praise!
Just as I, for the day was coming and I must prepare meals for all those within the inn. I rose but didn’t feel the weariness that usually accompanied a day’s beginning. Instead, I felt energy, that I could face the new day. I glanced back to make sure the couple was well concealed, and returned to my own duties.

Both Joseph and Mary offered their thanks for my accommodations.
I humphed. Accommodations? A barnyard and a manger? For the heavenly guest. I wish it was mine to give. I would have given all that I had.

When I reached the kitchen I remembered the last bit of oil.
Enough to make one flatbread. 
There was no more in the city to be bought. I had looked. 
Mary, the girl-mother, had to be hungry. 
I used the last of the oil to make her a flatbread. I would suffer the consequences that my husband would give.
I watched as she ate it, hungrily, gratefully. It was my only sacrifice.

I drew the water for the day. The many jars that would be added to make enough wine for the meals. The water to wash the many vessels. The water for the animals. 
I lifted the water-filled bucket. It didn’t seem so heavy today. I didn’t feel so burdened. 
I lingered over getting the water. I did not want to leave the scene before me, nor return to what faced me when my husband found his oil gone. But I swallowed and returned to the kitchen, clutching my womb as if I could protect my baby from what lay ahead.
When I reached the kitchen, I knelt before the empty jar. 

My tears had already started to fall. 
When a ray of sunshine caught my eye. It streamed through the kitchen window and danced at the top of the oil jar. 
I blinked and looked again. What did it mean?
I stuck my finger in the jar. 
I hit the surface of some liquid. I drew my finger out and licked it. Olive oil. Not the cheap kind my husband bought. This oil was not grainy or dark, but clear and smooth.
I knelt before the jar and wept.
My baby would be safe for a little bit longer.

When morning came, Joseph was hesitant to leave to pay their taxes. The line would be long and he would be gone long. 
I wished I could assure him that his family would be safe here, but I could not; for I know how fragile safety is. But I was beginning to know the One Who guarded their baby. Hadn’t He protected their way so far? And didn’t even the heavens declare His coming?
They slipped away sometime that day before I could see them again.
I wondered what came of them.

The inn’s busy-ness settled down after all had left from paying their taxes.
The Roman soldiers also left. 
A caravan came to our inn. Their camels laden with riches; their clothes spoke of wealth. 
My husband had opened wide his doors, welcoming these visitors. They spent several nights here. They told my husband they were looking for a heavenly king that was born.
So Joseph and Mary were still here, somewhere in the city.
I wished I could tell them where they had gone.

While my husband was pleased with their coins, our own son was born. Rather than be angry, he attended to me. I knew it was only because of the magi’s presence, but I was grateful. 

When the magi were leaving, I slipped out to the courtyard where they were loading their camels. “Did you find the Christ?”
The leader’s eyes twinkled and he nodded.
I wanted to ask, “Where?” I wanted to see them again, but my husband came to stand beside me. “We are honored by your visit. Come again.”
The leader signaled his camel to stand. 
They left that night. And I lay awake nursing my own son, wondering where the baby was that would bring salvation to the world. 
Hope still grew in my heart of the salvation that would come. 

The days melted into months. 
Our son was my only joy. While I nursed him, I taught him stories that I heard outside the scribe’s window of our God Who had saved our people from Egypt and led them through the wilderness, giving them manna and water. I told him, as I rocked him, of Elijah’s widow who had enough oil through a famine to keep her son alive. That was my favorite. For I too knew that God Who gave oil to keep my own son alive. We had been saved by this God. 

I carried my son asleep against me as I had finished cleaning from the morning meal.
The morning quietness was broken by marching of heavy feet through the street. I stuck my head out the door to see what was wrong. A soldier stood at the threshold, his sword already drawn. He grabbed my son from the blanket tied to my side and slid his sword through his little body.
I had no time to react. 

He drew back his sword and demanded if any more lived here. 
I held my son’s bleeding body tightly against me, unable to speak. His blood poured from his lifeless body. What had just happened?

My husband found me kneeling on the ground, holding our son hours later.
He shook me out of my stupor. “There’s dinner to be made.”
I shook my head and looked around the room. Nothing else had changed. But I had. 
I carried his limp body to the kitchen. 
I washed my bloody hands in a vessel and made flatbread.
But my heart was gone.

Life may have returned to its sameness, but my heart was not in it. 
News came from others, how the soldiers had been sent by Herod to kill every child two years and younger. 
I had not been alone in my grief. 
The entire town of Bethlehem mourned with me. 
But that did not bring back my son. 
Why had Herod done such a hideous sin?
Because he had heard by the magi of a baby Who was king.
I had forgotten about him. Had he survived this massacre?
God had given me hope on that night when angels told stories to shepherds and stars showed magi the way to find Him. And a baby was born in our inn. 
And if God would do those things to people like me, then I could dare to believe that God had protected His Son from Herod’s massacre.
But more than that, I felt my hope rekindle. 

Life continued by its sameness. But I had changed.
I could dare to dream of oil that would not be used up. Or of a God Who cared enough to send manna. 
I went through the motions of making meals, serving guests, cleaning. . . .wondering when salvation would come, but knowing it would indeed come.

Later when stories of this man Jesus filtered back to the inn, about how he made wine from water, I wished he could visit here. How he spoke of loving your enemy and doing good to those who hurt you, I wished I could ask him how? 
For I could not forget the night long ago when a babe named Jesus came into the world. 
I followed the news with hunger and hope. For I believed He would give more to this world than hope, He would give fulfilment of every longing that my soul ever felt. 

He was God’s only Son after all. Became man for me. 
And He would bring salvation, not just to the world, but to me. 

I learned later, that by his death, He paid for my wrong. I remembered the flogging that had brought me to this inn. God sent His Son to pay for it. I had no obligation to fulfill here anymore. I could leave.

I studied my husband across the room. Many years had brought his large, towering frame to be hunched and bent over. Though his voice could no longer holler out his wishes, his demands were still considered, but not as threatening. 
Yet I could not leave him. I had grown to accept his ways. Forgive his harshness. Love him.

That love could only have come from the hope brought by the babe that had come so long ago. 
But hope in something that I can’t touch is hard. So God gave me the oil. A sign of what would come.
God gave me a glimpse of that love—shown by the baby’s parents who lived godly against a world who did not understand.
But God didn’t stop there.
God’s love brought that baby, that—precious—only—Son of His, to a cross—where His blood flowed over all who come to Him. 
Though losing His blood brought His own death, His blood brings healing, cleansing, and hope for the world. 
His Son didn’t stay dead. 
He rose from the dead to give victory, not just over death, but anger, hatred, and fear. 
That babe gave me hope. 
That Son gave me life.
Because I want to serve Him, I can love my husband.

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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