I sleep fitfully, aware of you close by, so new, so needy, so I wake quickly to the sound.
A kind of humming, gaining in volume, a resounding harmony of resonance. It pulls at my soul, something deep within, a knowledge I didn’t know of.
And then the light. First a chink of light, snaking down the mud-packed wall, a crack in the fabric which makes no sense in the dead of night. I glance around; you are sleeping quietly, making little muffled sounds and furling and unfurling tiny fists. A rush pounds through me. Beside you, my husband slumbers, his hand on your makeshift cradle.
The fissure of light bursts into a rift, rending our shelter apart; we are open to the world. Outside, I know it is silent, dark, so cold it bites at my fingers; but through the crevasse I see something more.
A cavernous space, like a palace, lit with a thousand lights glowing with an impossible brightness. In one corner a tree stands tall and strange, nothing like the olive trees of my surroundings. Something perhaps more like a cypress tree, strewn with more light and objects richer than I have ever seen; silver and gold glinting through inexplicable radiance. Under the tree lie objects I can only guess at, shapes and colours I cannot comprehend, shining ribbons twirling around them.
The humming is louder, echoing through the space and captivating me. I am bruised and battered; exhausted and drained, but you are perfect and peace flows over me as I watch.
Wooden doors fly open and an eruption of noise and colour gusts through the place as a hundred or more children crowd in, their garments so strange, some with only a little familiar head-coverings with patterns I cannot understand. Some all in white with a remarkable glittering material tied round their waists and heads, strangely beautiful. Some jumping and screeching. One comes close to me and you, peers right through the fissure, his gaze curious and serious all at once. He points a finger. ‘Jesus.’ He smiles so widely his face must crack, and bounds away, and my heart warms. He is talking of you.
Later, they sing, and I know they are singing of you and of me. Their tongue is strange but somehow I can comprehend each word. I shiver as I hear the words. Smile, too. Tonight wasn’t very silent, or really very calm. I remember the desperation, stumbling through the locked-up town, the cold and the pain gripping me like iron, finding a place far from bright. But it was holy. Holiness pervaded it like a great wave crashing over me, drowning me in perfect love.
They sing of more than your birth, though. They sing of the dawn of redeeming grace and my heart hammers in my chest. They sing of adoring you, of falling down to worship you, and I am warmed. Then they sing of nails and spears, piercing you through, and I am broken. They sing of glad tidings, of a wondrous gift, of joy to the world, and I am honoured beyond my wildest dreams. In this dream of mine, this rend in my time, they are worshipping you, dear one, the Son of God.
Later, they make a scene near the tree, and it is oddly resonant of where I sit with you safe close by. The little ones clad in white stand with arms held high, shimmering material cascading down, a little girl holding something like a baby in her arms, a blue shawl draped over her head.
Later still, the children are gone and more people stream through the doors, this time faces lit up with candlelight and beautiful voices streaming in harmony through the space, flowing over me. In a quiet moment, a woman approaches you and me and kneels. I notice her face is etched with pain, her brows drawn together, her lips pulled tight. She brings her hands together and whispers. ‘Dear Jesus, how can I celebrate this season when you took him? Why did you take him?’
There’s a whisper through the silence, and the woman looks up, gazing around her.
The woman brings her hands to her face, and I watch as tears leak from between her gnarled fingers.
‘God with us.’
The woman stands, and another woman is alongside her, bringing her into a warm embrace.
‘God with us.’
I watch as they light a candle together and place it on a stand near to you and me. And then more and more come, gazing upon you, crying out to you, washed in your peace as you sleep, the Light in the darkness, the babe so small, but the all in all, the Creator among them. Among us. I watch as they light candles and close their eyes, and listen to the whisper all around the space, echoing through the fissure and through eternity.
I watch the pain of a broken world, the suffering that I will know too much of, and the peace beyond understanding that floods the place before me and the place I am in. I hold in my heart the truth: In two thousand years, your redeeming grace will still be surging over broken lives, still be cascading over cold hearts, still be rebuilding and restoring and transforming, just as it always has and always will. Ashes turned into beauty, sorrow into joy.
God with us.
The crack is beginning to heal up, the beautiful scene before me dissipating and waning until all I see is a mud-packed wall. Beside me, you sleep, your tiny mouth puckered, dark downy hair swept over your smooth brow, and I wonder at the miracle.
The miracle of Immanuel.