“This is my Son…I love Him above all else.
He makes me very happy!”
I wouldn't call it terror that greeted me when I opened the little leather door this morning. More like awe. The sort of thing that sucks the air from your lungs and makes you gasp to gain it back. Like seeing the ocean for the first time, or the Grand Canyon, or the surface of the moon.
Seated just inside the doorway to the cave is an enormous man, larger by far than I am. I can't tell for certain, but I would guess this man is at least seven feet tall and I am quite sure he is officially what the medical community would classify a giant. He is perhaps one of the most handsome men I have ever seen. He is fierce, yet not frightening. He doesn't say anything to me at first; he seems to be checking me out with a gaze that feels like it reveals my very soul to him. My eyes hurt, and at first I think it's just from the lack of sleep and the dingy lighting in this hovel but then I realize that it is, in fact, bright in here for the first time. Bright enough that I squint. I look at the oil lamps and they seem to be brilliant in a way I have never seen since this long night began. I can't even look at them without shielding my eyes.
The large man's face does not move for a long time and then I notice the faintest trace of a smile beginning to crease his lips. He answers the question I have in my heart before I even ask it. At first I thought I actually spoke, so loud was my inner voice. But I realize I did not. Yet he looks at me, and when my heart wonders silently “Why are you here?” He smiles and says "I am here with Him..." he said, nodding toward the manger, "I never leave his side unless it’s to do his bidding."
Glancing in the direction of the manger takes me a minute, because this gigantic man holds my attention so fully. Slowly I turn my gaze to the corner of the cave where Jesus lay sleeping and I see an older man. I can't quite make him out clearly in the brilliance of the suddenly powerful oil lamps, but I can tell he is an older man. He too is large, not as big as this giant before me, but a large man nonetheless. He is holding Jesus and I can hear him speaking. This is odd to me because, I am fairly certain his lips aren't moving, but with the dreadful glare I can't be sure. I listen and his voice is powerful and soothing at once. At first, I can't understand the words he speaks, it's a language I am not familiar with, but in an instant I begin to understand him. He is not speaking English but whatever it is; somehow, I know what he is saying.
He is holding Jesus and his gaze is more tender and loving than any visitor has displayed tonight. More loving than even Mary. "I love you" he whispers... "you are such a wonderful boy." The old man has tears in his eyes that fall on the child and dance like diamonds in the incredible light. I can only steal small glances because the brilliance hurts my eyes so. I think it is because I have been in this dark cave for so long tonight that light seems extra bothersome. The man is rocking the boy gently and the boy is gazing back with a look that I won't even try to describe, except it is a love I have never witnessed. Not at any age.
The man sings a lyrical song to the child and the boy smiles. The man speaks again, "I love you...you are beloved...you are my beloved little boy". I shudder and without even realizing it I fall on my face. "It can't be!" I scream in the silence of my soul..."It's not possible!" I cannot bring myself to look up again but I can still hear the words the old man is speaking to the child. "My son...my beloved son. You make me happy. What you will do in this world will change everything. Our enemy will be defeated forever and these children I love will be able to come home at last. Thank you my son, for being willing." The old man's voice breaks and he weeps his diamond-tears on the torn linen strips that encase his little boy.
The old man is long to release His precious little child. I am scared beyond measure and I feel a warm hand on my shoulder…it is the huge and handsome stranger seated in the doorway. “Look up at me Craig” he says in a voice that is at once thunderous and gentle. I struggle to raise my glance to his incredibly handsome face. He is smiling. I sit up and he begins to speak to me.
“I have been with Him since before all of this was here”, he says, sweeping his hands wide to seemingly encompass the whole world it. He created me before he created this place. “So, He is your father as well?” I asked him. “No!” the handsome man responded firmly. “No, I am not made in His image the way you are. I am different.” I could not see a noticeable difference and so as the question formed in my heart “How are you different” he was already answering. “He spoke me into existence like he did everything else He created. He said “let there be, and I was.” He made all of what you see in that way. This earth. The trees, the sky, the stars. The things that bring you joy.
He spoke all of that into being and it responded instantly.”
I was wondering why he told me this, because everyone knows this and I couldn’t understand the significance. I suppose this too was evident with this massive man because he looked at me very warmly and with a somewhat sly smile that told me he knew even this thought of mine and was about to upset my apple-cart. “I know,” he said “you’ve heard that since you were a child”. “Yes” I admitted…
“That’s sort of old news.”
The mountain man smiled and then he got very quiet, even for him. “You know there was one thing that during those six days of creation, He touched. One thing that He didn’t just speak into existence but He shaped and formed and caressed.” I was puzzled. I quickly tried to run back through the six days of creation in my mind and see if I could find it. I was trying to think quietly so maybe he couldn’t read my heart and just tell me, but I wasn’t that crafty and he put his massive hand on my shoulder and held my gaze with the sheer forcefulness of his eyes.
“Craig…” he whispered, “the only thing He created with his hands was you.” The enormous man paused for a long second or two, waiting for me to catch up to his words.
Suddenly it hit me. At once I understood what he was telling me, and what he was saying, and what it meant. I got it. God spoke everything into existence on those six amazing days…everything except man. He formed Adam from the ground, and then he breathed His very life into Him with a kiss. I suddenly saw it, and that’s when the massive and tender warrior spoke again.
“I wish you could have seen it. I wish I could describe it to you and do it justice. How He surveyed the work He had done before he made you. How He made sure every detail of this world was absolutely perfect before He did what He did that day. How that pause seemed so long. How much love He put into what He did next…” the giant was wistful now. He seemed to be reveling in the memories of that moment as he painted the picture for me. He was deeply moved as he continued… “He took His hands and he found the richest soil in the garden. He began shaping a big pile and He worked it down with such detail, with such precision, until it was absolutely perfect.” The man paused again and took a deep breath. He began again to tell me the story…
“I have stood by His side since the dawn of time and I have never seen the look on His face that He had that day, except maybe when He would communicate with this child, His son.” If I had any doubts as to the identity of the old man kneeling at the manger, they were gone now. I wanted to turn my head and see him but I dare not, and this man’s story had me enraptured. The giant continued; “He looked at this perfectly shaped pile of dirt with a look that I can only assume is…love.”
I was curious about the way he spoke that word, and again, before I could ask him, he answered me. “I don’t know love the way you know it. I am not made in his image as you are. He is love, you are made like Him. I can recognize it, I can see it, I can deeply appreciate it, but I don’t feel it like you do, or like He does.” I was baffled by this and I felt pity for the way he relayed this to me. “But don’t you love him?” I asked the giant man. “Yes, I think that’s what this is. I am loyal to Him. I fight for Him. I worship Him and adore him…but I don’t feel I am part of Him, not the way you are. You are all very different. That day as He shaped Adam, as His hands formed every detail, there was something in His gaze that I had never seen, not before the world or during its creation. He was eager. He was anticipating something. He was longing. I didn’t understand it until I watched what He did next.” The man paused and smiled to himself and I was sure he was seeing the moment once again in his mind.
“He stepped back from the pile of dirt He had been shaping and caressing and his eyes ran over it from top to bottom. Then He leaned in and kissed it tenderly on the lips, and He breathed into it, and a part of His very spirit moved into the form and it came to life. He named Him Adam and he loved him. Craig…He loved him. Do you understand me? He adored this man. He looked at him with a pride and satisfaction that nothing else He had made ever gave him. Not the five days of creation that went before, not even me. Nothing made Him as deeply happy as what His hands had made and what His breath brought to life that day.”
The man paused a long time and I was stunned. I sat there looking at him but seeing the picture he was painting with his words. I was dumbfounded. I had never -not once- considered the creation of man in the way this giant man was telling me. And it made all the difference. When he was sure I had digested all that he had told me until then, the man spoke again, this time in a faint whisper. “David once wrote that you were all fearfully and wonderfully made, and he was right. Each one of you who is born into this world carries the careful caress of the Father himself. Each of you has been shaped and formed and each detail has been memorized by Him.”
He paused a long time and looked sad and there was pity in his voice when he said; “What I don’t understand is how hard it is for you to grasp His love for you. I see it so plainly and yet you all seem to miss it and run from it.
Something terrible happened to make you forget that he made you by hand. Something over these years has caused you all to be unable to recognize the feeling of His touch on your skin or His breath in your lungs. I don’t understand it. He doesn’t even love me this way, and I have never left His side since time began. Why do you not grasp the way he sees you?” The man seemed to be asking this as a rhetorical now, not actually expecting an answer from me.
“I wish you could have seen how he would look at Adam back then. How He gazed at him with such affection. How He leaned in close to hear the faintest whisper from Adams lips that might be a call for help or a word of affection. He was wild about Adam.” There was another pause and then he continued, “You know that He carefully creates each of you in much the same way? He doesn’t make you out of dirt now but as each child is created -in those first few split seconds- He sees their whole life all at once. He blesses them and He breathes that same Life into every single one. If you all only knew how deeply He loves you, why your life would be more than you could ever imagine.”
The man said these words wistfully almost knowing it would never be this way for us. I was going to ask him more questions when there was a sound from the manger. The old man has spoken something and the giant in front of me understood it at once. “Yes, my Lord” he answers. I immediately am face down on the cave floor once again.
The old man holds the boy to His robes for a long second. Finally, he places the child back in his makeshift crib and kisses the baby. In his kiss, I can hear the slightest rushing of a breeze.
The man walks past me in my prostrate position and I feel his hand brush my head as he goes by. The lights in the cave calm to their previous dim. I am certain he is gone and I turn to look and the giant man is still at the doorway, getting ready to leave as well. "Wait!" I call out to him, "Wait...I need to ask you..." "Yes...” the man responds to the question I haven't asked yet. “Yes, that was." "But...how...why?" The angel laughs and the bellow hurts my ears a bit.
Amazingly Joseph and Mary and Jesus never rustle from their sleep even as the man booms in laughter. "This is His Son..." He says with a smile, "You didn't think He would miss this, did you? He is a daddy, after all, you know."
I burst into deep sobs. This scene has rent my heart in two. 47 years and I never once thought about God as a daddy on that night, as an expectant father eagerly celebrating the arrival of his precious child. The large man reaches a hand out and touches my head. "It's okay, it's a lot to grasp. But He is The Father, and this is His Son. He wanted to be here to see him, like any daddy would on the night his son was born." I look up at this mammoth man and before I can utter the words in my heart he answers me again, "Yes...I am Michael. I go with Him wherever He goes."
Leaning down to whisper in my ear he says only one word..."remember."
And with that, he is gone.
"I felt something impossible for me to explain in words.
Then, when they took her away, it hit me.
I got scared all over again and began to feel giddy.
Then it came to me... I was a father."
--Nat King Cole