Anna watched as couple after couple stopped at the front of the altar and laid down their sacrifice. It was nearing the end of another day, but Anna could feel the Spirit working inside her. She watched closely, anticipating the new King. Who would it be? She watched a few more couples lay their sacrifice upon the altar and moving away, clearing the way for another couple and their child. She looked closer. This one was different. They had no sacrifice with them. She stood with excitement as a flash of understanding came to her. They weren’t empty-handed after all. They had brought the greatest gift: their baby. She rushed to them. Their child was to be the new King. He was to be the sacrifice.

Before John could talk, he motioned suddenly in the distance, stabbing a finger into the air at some point on the horizon. “Look!” he pointed again. As one the crowd turned. James looked, too, and saw a solitary figure approaching the crowd from the west. John spoke, “Remember the one of whom I said I was unworthy to untie his sandal strap? It is him!” James froze, as did the rest of the crowd. As the figure, a man, walked up to John, everyone held their breath. This was truly something remarkable.

“Master,” John greeted Jesus. “What are you doing here?”

“I have come to be baptized.” To James, the words came out in such a sublime manner he became entranced. The crowd, the heat, and the rocky ground became as nothing as he watched.

John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. (Matthew 3:14-15)

James watched as John led Jesus down to the riverbank where they both waded in to their waists. He heard John utter the prayer that he himself had used for James, then Jesus fell backward into John’s arms, immersing his head completely in the water. For a fleeting moment, he remained there underwater, then shot back up. James watched in fascination as single water droplets flew off Jesus’ head. Then something strange happened to the water. It became very clear, so clear that he could not only see the bottom from his vantage point fifteen yards from the riverbank. James closed his eyes and rubbed them. He opened them and to his wonder, he was able to see upstream, underneath the water, and underneath all the way to the opposite riverbank. It was as if the river became the color blue-tinged air, almost as one with the sky.

Mary sat on the ground and stared ahead at some point on the horizon. The angel’s words to her kept reverberating in her head, so much so that her legs became numb from sitting so long.

Mary looked at the completed breadbasket in her arms, the one she had just crafted in her mother’s memory. She originally planned to give it to the high priest for service in the Temple, but since the angel told her that Elizabeth was pregnant, Mary thought she could use it more than the Temple authorities. Besides, she smiled, the high priest Zechariah was Elizabeth’s husband. She was sure he would understand.

Oh, how she desired to be at Elizabeth’s side! She was six months along now, which was a difficult enough condition to begin with, but Elizabeth was much older and would need help. Mary wished she could be there right now, but she lived so far away. Mary would need to cover the distance between them.

Where to begin? Mary looked at her feet. They were dirty and bare, as usual. She did have simple sandals made of a few pieces of leather sewn together; she would have to get those from her hut. What else to bring? The basket of course. What to put in it? Her mortar for grain grinding; her needles and thread, perhaps. She put these in and tied it together in the basket with a large shawl. She set off to find Joseph.

**

Nahara shifted uncomfortably on the ground. Her thin mat was no match for the rocky ground underneath her. She stared up at the night sky. Not that the gravelly surface was the main culprit for her sleeplessness anyways. She had tried to close her eyes, but she could only think of the journey ahead. She and her uncle were on their way to Jerusalem where Nahara was to be given away in marriage. She did not know the groom. Questions, as countless as the stars overhead, hovered in the air. What would the man be like? Was he much older than she? Did he have all his teeth? Would he beat her? She shuddered as she thought of her cousin Marta, betrothed to a known drunkard 15 years her senior. It was only a little solace to think of her, for Nahara could not imagine it to be any worse than Marta would have it. Nahara turned over for what seemed like the thousandth time. Surely her parents would not have chosen someone so awful for their only daughter? Perhaps they would look for someone like her three older brothers. They were honorable men with fine wives, beautiful, gracious wives, who were diligent in their tasks and took care of their households. Nahara wanted to be like that, but only for the right man.

The right man. Thoughts of Achan filled her head and made her shut her eyes against the night sky. How she wished she had never even talked with him. His specter lurked everywhere, a constant reminder of what happens when one acts against the natural order of things. The night continued like that, constantly turning over, fighting the cold, rocky ground underneath and the memory of sins until the blessed sun rose in the east. Oh, how she welcomed the sun.

**

Immerse yourself in the lives of Jesus, Mary and the Apostles. Be with Mary when she gives her fiat, travel with her to see Elizabeth and join the shepherds as they follow the chorus of angels to the Messiah in the manger. Go fishing with Peter and follow him as Christ invites him to be a fisher of men. Celebrate the wedding feast of Canaa and go with the Apostles as they proclaim the kingdom.

Stand on the mountainside when Jesus's full glory is revealed, and be there at the Last Supper and Christ's passion, death and resurrection. Finally, live with the early Church as she grows in the face of persecution.

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