1. Our story begins...
|A very old olive tree at Gethsemane, Israel|
Luke 1:5 When Herod was king of Judea…
Imagine with me that you are sitting in an olive tree. The day is a little chilly, and the wind is blowing. Your friends hang off branches and jump from rock to rock. You are in your family's olive grove and the year is about 4BC, although no one quite knows that for sure.
When you look around you see a small village. It’s not famous or important, but its home. Most of the people who live in this village are your family. This village is called Nazareth. It’s up in the north of Israel, near the mountains dusted with snow.
This is your village, the place you call home. Life is pretty good for you. Sure, you have to go to school, carry water from the town's well to your house, and you also have to work pretty hard in the family olive grove, but you get plenty of time to play with your friends climbing trees and keeping out of trouble.
But, things are not good for your country. The man in charge is named Herod. He is the king of Israel and he is a nasty man. As you walk around the market you can hear people grumbling about him. He charges the people lots of taxes so that he can build flash buildings. These are two of them, in the South of the country.
|The Herodium is a man-made hill with a fortress on top. |
Herod had it made by slaves who carried stone
and dirt to create the hill. Image: Wikipedia.
|Masada is a fortress on the top of a large hill. This is the view |
from the top, with the Dead Sea in the distance. The
round building is actually the foundations of one of
Herod's palaces, built right on the edge.
|This is a picture of what it used to look like. You can see the palaces in the |
bottom of the photo. This picture comes from a book called
'Daily Life at the time of Jesus'.
And then there are the Romans. They took over the country and now they rule it. There are soldiers who walk around, making sure no one is up to trouble. And they claim tax too. No wonder no one has any money. They have to give it all as taxes!
People talk about hope. There is an old tradition that says that God will send someone to rescue us. This person will be God's messiah, God's chosen one. But we have been waiting for a long time, since before your grandparents were born. And when a man like Herod is in charge, it's pretty hard not to despair. Some people have given up waiting. But, still your family share the stories of the past, and remind you that God keeps his promises.