HELI


Forgive me if I still find it hard to believe: Ending up in Nazareth was the end of a long road that stripped me of everything I once held dear, even my faith. Not that I'm not blaming God - my own stupidity and wrong choices brought me here; but with everything you lose you also lose a part of yourself, until you end up believing that even God was no longer interested in you. Until you end up in a backwater town where you live hand to mouth and hope, just this once, to sleep through a whole night ...
 
I am Heli, descendant of our great king David, but there is no greatness where I live. Only poverty, and regret, and a deadly tiredness. Anger had left a long time ago, together with hope and faith. All I know is the constant fear, like the sharp teeth of a rat, telling me every night that tomorrow can only be worse. And the heaviness eating away my soul, the emptiness reminding me day and night that things could have been different. If only ...
 
The one point of light, of irrepressible joy and peace, was my daughter Mary. After my wife's death she took care of me, enduring my dark moods, never complaining about her worn clothes, always ready to lift me up. She kept the faith, telling me that God will provide, even though she had to glean in the fields and work miracles in a bare kitchen! Then came Joseph, a good man if ever I've seen one, and I had hope again for my daughter's future.
 
And then everything fell apart, just as I secretly feared it would. One day Mary got up, totally out of sorts, and announced that she's going to the hill country to stay with Elizabeth. Six months later she returns, visibly pregnant, with stories about angels, even drawing Elizabeth's priest-husband into her fantasy. No shame about the disgrace to her father. Even here, even in dirt-poor Nazareth, people still had morals, and I could feel the condemnation in their stares.
 
Joseph took one look at his pregnant fiancée and bolted like a wild donkey. Could anyone blame him? Yet, the next morning he's back, babbling about another angel who told him to take Mary as his wife. Immediately.
 
And they talk about this coming child as if he was something special. As if he was going to change the world. As if he could take a thousand wrongs and make it right, like some prophet or judge of old. The grandson of a poor weary loser like me, saving his people? Come on!
 
If only I could see an angel too, maybe I'll believe. Maybe I'll allow the whisper of hope to grow. But after all these years, after all the illusions I've chased, I'm afraid to hope again. But these two youngsters, they positively shine, even when people stare at them and whisper when they walk past. It's as if nothing can touch them.
 
Maybe. Just maybe, they know something. But me, I'm still afraid.
 
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