Recently I entered the following short story in a Christmas contest sponsored by Journezine, the online magazine for Heart of God International Ministries. I'm excited to say that my entry won first place in their annual contest. The topic, "According to the Plan", pushed my imagination to think of the Christmas story from a totally new angle in which I let my Biblical fiction brain weave this story. Journey with me as I ponder how God's plan could not be destroyed by the evil, insecure King Herod.
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THE STAR IS GONE
At last our small village appeared to be returning to normal. The recent census had stirred up a hornet’s nest with so many people arriving in the land of their fathers to be counted. Then there were the rumors of the shepherds encounter with angels on the hillside announcing the birth of the long awaited Messiah.
People traveled to the shepherd’s fields to see the exact location of the supposed materialization of the angelic host and hear their stories. Then they would journey into town to the place where the brilliant new star appeared to hover over a baby in a manger. Not to mention the latest unusual caravan; men in their extreme finery, asking questions about a king being born and how they had followed the vivid star right to our town.
Father said people believed it because they needed something to hope in. That everyone was piecing together prophecies of old to fit what they wanted to be true. Mother loved to tell us girls the latest information she’d gathered after going to the market. Father, the pessimist, doubted the Messiah would ever come or that Yahweh even cared about his chosen people anymore.
After last night’s terror, he may never believe.
I bolted out of bed when I heard an ear splitting scream in the distance. I peeked out the window and saw men on horses, carrying torches and rushing through the streets, barging into homes. When our door burst open my eyes locked with the dark ones of a soldier.
“I’m here on official business for King Herod.” His piercing gaze and gruff announcement backed me into the darkness of the far wall. “Is there a baby boy residing in this home?”
I shook my head no. My knees quivered and I was fearful he might consider our Elias a baby, when in fact he was a toddler. Just then Elias cried out for Mother.
“He’s not a baby!” I shouted with more bravery than I knew existed within me. Instantly my legs propelled me towards the back of our home darting in front of the soldier. My three younger sisters, Mother and Father, and our beloved only male child Elias, were stirring on the other side of the partition.
With a shove of his meaty hand, my body flew through the air. The flash of his sword was the last thing I saw before my head hit the wall and I slumped to the floor. When I awoke, a blood smear marked where my skull had connected. I reached up and felt my head. My fingers became sticky and caught in a matted, tangled mess. I winced in pain.
Then I saw Mother. She lay on her bed, soaked in blood. I could see Elias’ tiny hand poking out from under her…lifeless…blue. My sisters were huddled in a corner, crimson splatters on their night clothes and faces. The more my eyes could focus the more blood I saw.
My sister’s all glanced towards the door. I stumbled to my feet and ran outside. Father knelt in the street, tearing at his clothes and his hair, throwing dirt and rocks over his head, beating his chest and crying out in anger to the heavens.
“Why?” He cried over the wails of several neighbor’s equally mournful shouts. “My only son! You took my only son!” He shook his fists at the dark skies.
Four-year-old Miriam wrapped her arm around my leg and stared up at me. I scooped her into my arms and attempted to wipe the dried dots off her innocent face. I turned to go inside to protect her from the angry mournful scene in the streets.
“They were looking for the Christ child,” she whispered. “But Rebekah… He’s gone now.”
Her soft voice stopped me in my tracks. I stared into the distance and listened to the moans of all who appeared to be grieving their infant sons’ gruesome death at the hand of King Herod’s soldiers. “How do you know anything about the Christ child?” I asked, processing my own gleaned information from the many months of gossip.
Light began to break in the east. The terror of the dark now gave way to the reality of our living nightmare. Father, despondent and filthy, collapsed on the floor near Mother who sat rocking the slaughtered body of our beloved Elias.
After cleaning my sisters up and feeding them a small meal, I took them out of the house. We crept around the inn and wandered the well worn path to the stable. Instantly I knelt at the feeding trough and wept, letting the strain of the vivid night’s events be released into the musty hay spilled on the ground around the manger. Miriam found her way into my lap while Rachel and Mary scooted in close.
I wiped my nose on my sleeve. “Do you girls believe the Christ child was born here like the shepherds have told everyone?” My hand rested on the edge of the temporary baby bed.
Miriam nodded emphatically but the other girls shrugged their shoulders.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the old time prophecies that have been fulfilled when that baby was born here. The shepherds, those rich men that came through following that star we see every night and now Herod having baby boys killed…” I gulped and choked on my tears. “If that baby was the Christ child, did they kill him too?”
“But Rebekah…” Miriam’s little face was so close to mine I could smell her breakfast on her breath. She placed her hands on my cheeks and stared me straight in the eyes. “The star…it’s gone.” She nodded as the impact of this realization hit me.
“We must have hope in Yahweh’s plan,” I announced to my little sisters in a motherly tone. “The Christ child...the promised Messiah…He is safe.”
Proverbs 21:30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD. (NIV)