Zadkiel stood shaking, with his wings covering his face.
Michael came to him. They were not easy companions, these two, but Michael could feel Zadkiel’s terror, and knew he must stand guard.
‘What’s wrong? Why are you afraid?’
‘He wasn’t supposed to see me. He wasn’t supposed to know.’
Is that all? Michael wondered, a glance from Jesus, and he’s overcome?
Oh God — why did you choose this angel?
Michael tried to reassure him. ‘He may not have, you know — they don’t see much at first.’
But both Michael and Zadkiel knew there was no truth in it. There had been a moment, just after first cry, when Jesus looked at Mary, then at Joseph, and finally at Zadkiel, who shimmered bright gold — and who remembered to hide himself just as Jesus reached out for him.
‘But he saw me. I felt it. The air broke with his cry and I wanted to laugh, but then– when I looked at him…
‘You know what it’s like when God is at play — when he comes to you and chats and dreams and spins out Creation’s plan? You know how it is when Sophia teases, and God jokes, and they draw you in and you laugh and dance, and just for a moment you forget they are God? And then suddenly you feel your heart expand, love for them surging — and you must stop it, quickly, before they notice and you make a mess of everything?’
Michael watched his companion closely. Did he know? What this how he experienced God? Maybe. Sometimes — but he usually saw a different side of God. He nodded for Zadkiel to go on.
‘I have always been afraid of that moment — afraid that if I gave myself to it, and they realised…’ Zadkiel fell silent and tucked down his head.
‘Then?’ Michael prompted.
Zadkiel shivered. ‘Then it would be too much. If the love were let loose, if they saw it, it would overwhelm me. Everything would change.’
This Michael understood. The moment of change. So he waited…
Zadkiel uncurled himself and looked at Michael — could he really be saying this? to Michael of all angels? But they both knew what had happened, and there was no point in denying it now.
‘When Jesus looked at me, I forgot to hide. All the love I’ve ever felt, I’ve ever avoided feeling, filled the space between us as the air turned gold.’
‘And everything changed?’
‘And everything changed.’
Michael thought of the vast complexity of God — the mind that set the universe spinning, the imagination that gave beauty and light, the love that shimmered bright on the air. And yet it all came down to this: God in a manger, a new born child. Michael marvelled at the daring of it: God come as a child who could not be ignored, from whom no one would think to hide.