It was a cold night. The sky was lit with the glow of the silvery full moon. The stars twinkled merrily and added to the cheer in the air.
Bayo leaned against the wall of the church building, and looked at the group of boys huddled together few houses to the church. Soon he saw an object shoot into the air and melted into an array of colours, and the words “merry Christmas” appear for a moment and then all was dark again. He sighed and debated sneaking out of the church and playing with the boys. His mother had refused to buy him fireworks and bangers saying they were a waste of money, and they undermined the real reason for the season. “It is a time for sober reflection and not for merriment” she would say.
He missed his father. He would have given him the money to buy as much fireworks as he needed. It had been a year since his father had left them. He had gone to another part of the country and had not bothered to call or write. Every time he thought about his father, Bayo always felt tears at the back of his eyes, tears that he struggled to keep in check. He missed his father, and he always wondered why he had left them. Since his father left, Bayo had been struggling with feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. He often felt that he was not good enough for his father to stay because of him, and he didn’t matter at all, for his father not to even think of sending just a letter or one single call.
He closed his eyes tightly and willed the tears back. He had promised not to cry over his father. If his father had decided that they were not worth anything to him, then he too would forget that he ever existed. He allowed the familiar stirring of anger to wash over him, further steeling his resolve.
“Bayo” a soft voice called out from a distance.
Without turning, Bayo knew the person that was calling. He would recognize that voice even in his sleep. He did not look at her. Cecilia was the one person that could tell what he was thinking from just one look at his face. It was one of the reasons why he was endeared to her; with her, he didn’t need to pretend. She knew him and she accepted him. She never judged nor mocked him. She was also very beautiful, with long jet black hair and brown eyes that graced her oval face.
“You are thinking about him again” she said as she came to stand beside him. He frowned. Why couldn’t he just hide anything from her? He thought, although he felt a warm feeling rising from the pit of his stomach.
“He will come back soon” she added, placing a hand on his shoulders and resting her head on it. He smiled. That was another thing he liked about her. She didn’t need him, he needed her, but it was her that was doing the leaning. She was giving comfort while trying to preserve his masculine ego. The girl was wise beyond her years.
“Really? And what makes you so sure? He asked, his voice steely. Cecilia was hell bent on giving him hope, something he didn’t have. He wasn’t even sure he wanted it. Would he be able to trust his father again if he showed up? Will things ever return to the way it was before he deserted them? He wasn’t so optimistic about it.
“Because I know it” she answered immediately without hesitation and for a second he wanted to believe her, wanted to believe that things could go back to the way they were. He looked at her and saw the kindness in her eyes and felt his throat constrict.
He shrugged her hands off and took two steps away from her. “You should go back inside” he said, averting her gaze “it is cold outside”
“Why are you pushing me away Bayo?” she took a step closer “Are you afraid that I am going to walk away from you?”
He didn’t answer
“I am not going anywhere” she said in a whisper, taking another step closer. “I am here. I am here now, and I will always be here for you”
She cradled his head in her hands and gently placed it on her bosom. Bayo leaned against her and all of a sudden he felt a rush of emotions and he couldn’t stop the tears anymore. A gasp escaped his lips and the sobs followed. Cecilia held him closer and rocked him as the spasms wracked his body.
“Merry Christmas” the pastor’s voice boomed over the loudspeaker followed by several boom and crackles of fireworks from the surrounding houses.
“Adam! Where are you?”
There was an ominous silence. There was no breeze and the animals were all silent.
“I am right here” the voice was thin and uncertain
“Where are you? And why aren’t you coming out?”
“I am hiding from you”
“Because I am afraid. I am naked and I can’t face you dressed in nothing”
“How do you know that you are naked?”
Adam came out of his hiding place, his groin covered in leaves and his hands covering the leaves. His eyes met that of his maker and they seem to be saying “can’t you see?”
“Have you eaten the fruit of the tree that I forbade you from eating from?”
Adam’s eyes were downcast. He was looking at the ground and drew patterns in the ground with his toes.
“You did, didn’t you?” Adonai’s voice was a whisper. “I told you what would happen when you eat the fruit of that tree. I told you that on the day that you ate of the fruit of that tree, you will die!”
A look of diffidence crossed Adam’s face. It hadn’t been his fault. He had gone out to tend the gardens as Adonai had instructed. When he had returned, he had met his wife, Eve, eating the fruit. Her eyes had gleamed with mischief as she narrated her encounter with a serpent earlier.
He had been mortified but Eve had convinced him that what the serpent has said was indeed true. The fruit was delicious, none of the other fruit could compare to it in its sweetness. Eve had told him, that she was eating the third fruit and she hadn’t died like Adonai had said, instead, she had become more enlightened and could see things in different perspective.
“The serpent was right!” Eve had crooned “this fruit does give one the knowledge of good and evil, just like Adonai”
He had been curious but wary. He hadn’t seen Eve talk like that before and he knew that something had happened to her. His heart had begun to beat faster and he knew he shouldn’t listen to her. The more he looked at the fruit however, the more it appealed to him, and coming from Eve, he couldn’t resist for long. He could never resist Eve’s charm, she was his own flesh. Definitely, she wouldn’t harm him, he had thought as he took the fruit from her and bit into the succulent flesh of the forbidden fruit. He had been wrong.
“It isn’t my fault!” he blurted out, meeting Adonai’s gaze now. “It is the woman that you gave me that seduced me and made me to eat the forbidden fruit. You know that I wouldn’t have conceived it in my mind to disobey you!”
In that moment, Adam hated his wife Eve. She knew what had happened to her after she ate the fruit and yet she had made him eat it. Since eating the fruit, he had begun to feel things he hadn’t felt before. All of a sudden, Eve wasn’t that special to him anymore. He couldn’t get past her wiles and subtlety. He should have known better. As he took the fruit from her, he had seen an expression of glee in her eyes but he had discarded it. Now he knew what he saw.
He also had begun to feel self-conscious after he ate the fruit. He began to feel ashamed of his nakedness. He had always felt comfortable in his own skin and appearance but suddenly, he felt the need to cover up his body. It was a very uncomfortable feeling.
“Eve, is it true what Adam said” Adonai’s voice cut through Adam’s thoughts. He looked and saw that Eve had also come out of her hiding place and was now standing behind him.
“It is not my fault” Eve replied. “I was deceived by the serpent”. She heard a chuckle behind her and looked. Standing a few feet from her was the serpent, standing on all fours and leaning against a tree. There was a glint in his eyes. In that moment, she felt intense hatred for the serpent. The feeling was so intense that it knocked the wind out of her. She had never felt like that before and it scared her. She also felt good, oddly.
Adonai saw the serpent too. His face turned steely as soon as he saw it. “What have you done?” his voice was a mixture of anger and sadness. “Is it not enough that you tried to take over my kingdom, you have also taken it upon yourself to corrupt my creations”
The serpent stared back with malevolence.
“For this that you have done, you are cursed above all the animals. You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head and you will strike his heels”
It was a cold wintry night. There air was thick with excitement. Something unprecedented was happening and there was a lot of speculation going on. A census had been declared and everybody had been ordered to go back to their town of nativity for the head count.
Jerusalem had its own share of influx of its citizens that had emigrated. There were debates going on in every street corner, houses were filled with laughter and merriment. Inn owners were flustered as they ran up and down trying to cater to the needs of guests. Never had business been so good.
In one such inn, the stable was alive with excitement. A woman lay on a bed of straws caught in the throes of labour pang. Her cries of pain rent the air, mixed the lowing of oxen and the braying of horses who seemed to be sharing in the pains of the woman.
The woman’s husband was flustered, and he was pacing the length of the room and would stop at intervals to hold the woman’s hands and console her.
Adonai’s voice rang clearly in the air. The couple were terrified. At the pronouncement of the serpent’s judgment, the once kingly and regal beast had lost it limbs and had been writhing on the floor. It had been reduced to a crawling animal.
“Eve, I will greatly multiply your sorrow” he said looking at the cowering woman who gasped at Adonai’s words “you will give birth to your babies in pain. Your desires shall be towards your husband and you will always seek to please him, and he will rule over you”
The pains were becoming unbearable. Joseph winced and held her hand, his brow creased in worry and apprehension. “Yahweh, please save my wife” he muttered.
She screamed again and lay limp. For a moment she appeared dead, and Joseph’s heart skipped a beat. Then her chest rose and fell and he found himself sighing with relief. Her birth was a tough one.
“God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the one who appeared to me and told me that this child was anointed and born of God, the one that delivered him from the sword of Herod, and that has preserved us from Nazareth till here; I beseech You to grant my wife a safe delivery of this child, Your child, the one You have ordained to save Your people from their sins” Joseph knelt beside Mary and prayed. “Give her strength and make her delivery like those of our mothers when they were held in captivity in Egypt”
“Quick, get her water to drink” the midwife that was attending to her ordered Joseph “she is losing strength” Joseph scrambled out of the room towards the inn to get water.
“Adam” Adonai turned to face the man, his wife whimpering beside him “because you have listened to your wife’s voice and disobeyed my command not to eat the fruit of the tree that I told you not to eat of, I have cursed the ground because of you. You will toil in sorrow and it is with sweat that you will have food to eat. The ground will grow thorns and thistles, and all your life you will struggle to scratch a living from the ground until you return to the ground. Out of the dust you were created, and to dust you shall return”
The air was deathly quiet. Adam shivered at the words of Adonai. All his life, he had felt special; the crown of God’s creation. He had been given the privilege of naming all the other creatures that were created by Adonai, and he had always had fellowship with the creator every evening. The creator never ceased to tell him how special he was. But not today.
Today, he had been told he was mere dust. It hurt deeply. He reckoned that he deserved it; he had despised the creator and listened to his wife instead. He had known that he was making a wrong choice when he took the fruit from Eve and now it was too late. Adonai was displeased.
“Now get out from my sight” Adonai’s voice was cold and the air suddenly became chilly.
Adam looked up with wide eyes. Had he heard correctly? Did Adonai just say they should leave? He looked into Adonai’s eyes and saw it there. Indescribable pain cut through his heart. All the punishment he could bear but not this. He couldn’t bear the thought of not fellowshipping with Adonai.
Surely all was lost now.
A cry rent air as Joseph rushed back into the stable. It was the cry of a newborn. Mary had delivered of a boy as promised by the angel. God had done his mighty works. Israel has a savour! Hope was reborn!
He rushed to his wife’s side and held her while the baby was being cleaned. Mary was smiling weakly as she turned to look at him. He gave her the water to drink and mopped the sweat from her brows.
“His name is Jesus” her voice was hoarse from the screaming.
“Jesus” joseph reiterated “he will save his people from their sins”
Mary looked at him puzzled. He smiled and told her that the angel that appeared to him in Nazareth had told him so.
The midwife brought back the baby boy wrapped in a swaddling cloth and placed it in her arms. Mary looked down at the bundle of joy in her arms and smiled. He was the son of God; God was dwelling among men in human flesh. It was a miracle.
Hope for mankind was restored.
Bayo woke up to sounds coming from the living room. He looked at the bedside clock and it read 9:00 am. It was still early for visitors. Frowning, he threw the covers aside and stood up from the bed.
He tiptoed to the living room not wanting to make his presence known. As he neared the parlor, he could make out the sounds of crying. His heart picked up beat as he inched closer.
He froze as he entered the living room. He stared as he watched his mother entwined in an embrace with a man that looked like his father. There were tears in the man’s eyes and he kept mumbling into his mother’s ears.
Bayo blinked. The man that was embracing his mother and crying like a baby was his father! He couldn’t believe it. He pinched himself to wake up from the too good to be true dream. But this was no dream, his father was back.
He wanted to squeal but the old hurts came rushing back and he bit down the urge, but not without making a muffled sound that gave him away.
It was the father that first saw him and his eyes lit up immediately. He untangled from his mother whose eyes opened in uncertainty, a look of confusion and alarm on her face. When she followed her once estranged husband’s gaze and saw Bayo, she heaved a sigh of relief and smiled. It was then that Bayo noticed that she had been crying too. At that moment, his heart melted.
He lunged forward and embraced his father.
“Forgive me son” his father whispered in his ears, still holding him tight “I have wronged you and your mother, and hurt you deeply. I hope you will give me another chance to make it up to you”
Bayo nodded fiercely. His voice had betrayed him and he couldn’t get any word past the lump in his throat. This was a dream he never hoped could come true.
His heart was filled with music.
Music filled the air. A symphony of brass and string instruments and drums mixed with voices in perfect harmony, one that makes the heart ache and joyful at the same time.
The shepherds gawked at the scene before them. The night sky was brightened by the glory and splendor of innumerable angels from where the music emanated from. They were scared and awed at the same time.
It had been a normal cold night and they had been tending their flocks talking about the recent happenings in Jerusalem while huddled over a fire. Nothing had prepared them for this angelic visitation.
“We bring you good news” the lead angel announced in a voice that rang like the clashing of cymbals, “for unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior”
And then the sky was black again, and the ensuing silence was total, leaving each heart with a dull ache and a longing for the beauty they had just witnessed. The message of the angels resonated in their hearts
“Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men”
Merry Christmas to all my readers! The Z channel celebrates each and every one of you. Here is wishing everyone their unique Christmas miracle…
All images courtesy http://www.google.com