Gabriel entered the presence of Almighty God, his angelic frame bowed by the sheer beauty and power of Love. God’s heart was never a mystery to his messengers, He wore his feelings openly. His ways might not always make for clear understanding or sense, but the heart of God was ever open. Amidst the Love, Gabriel sensed something else, a fleeting sadness. ‘Well done, servant Gabriel’, whispered God, ‘You have done well, We are pleased.’ ‘My Lord’, relied Gabriel, ‘I live to serve, but forgive me, is something wrong?’ ‘Much is wrong my beloved. But not with you nor your messages. It’s the cost, the cost of Love that sometimes troubles my heart. Do not fear, my herald, All is well, and more importantly all shall be well! Tell me Gabriel, how do you find these Sons of Adam? As Gabriel reported back to his Lord, lesser kings in much lesser palaces plotted and schemed for power and influence.
King Herod, (he himself had the moniker ‘The Great’ added), paced his emerging halls in yet another of his grand palaces. He was determined to leave a legacy that would last many lifetimes. It was unlikely that his renown would continue through his bloodline. His sons were weak, those who had survived his violent purges. They would divide the kingdom and dynasty that he had fought so hard to create. Their cowardly hearts had not the courage to kill each other, even though they hated and despised each other. A mad glint emerged in the eyes of the king, he chuckled to himself when he thought of how they would cope with his final command. A cruel unnecessary act of terror and violence to fulfil the craven yearning of the ageing king for acceptance and fealty. Written on the parchment scroll in front of him was his last instruction: All prisoners would be publicly executed as he, Herod, lay dying; just so he could hear the wailing and screams of grief and lament, and in his twisted mind, feel that his people were actually grieving for him. It would be the final act of lunacy and corruption of power. In the meantime, Herod the Great had more immediate concerns. This census worried him; even despot kings survive merely at the whim of the people. A census, especially among the Jews who had religious as well as financial reasons to oppose it violently was not what Herod needed just now. He was already taxing his people to the hilt, well someone had to pay for the excesses of his reign. He knew Augustus well enough to know that it would not just be the common folk who would have to cough up; even subject Kings had to pay homage to the emperor’s purse.
Herod wished, not for the first time, that he had better sons, more fitting to the cut and thrust of political life. His four surviving sons were worthless scum. It was one of many reasons why Herod was determined to live as long as possible, the waning hope that he might sire a son worthy of his name. Another reason Herod wanted to survive was simple, fear. His aging mind dreaded death. The reason he satisfied every craving now was a deep-rooted fear of the hollowness of death. He would seek distraction from this fear soon enough, but first he had to work out how to run a peaceful census in a land long divided and resentful.