One of our children who goes by the nickname of Miss Nan told me she heard someone singing her a Christmas lullaby the other night when it was all quiet in the hospital. A lullaby so sweet, so beautiful, it would make the angels weep.
When she heard it, she awoke, looked around: only her crippled-up, Aid-struck, foster-Auntie Gung was there. And (Heavens to Betsy!) even Miss Nan's pet frog Albert can sing better than Auntie Gung. Everyone in the whole world knows Auntie Gung can't sing. But a lullaby it was that Miss Nan heard.
And who could doubt such a child? Miss Nan, who is only seven and was born with HIV, goes to the hospital a little longer each time now, so she has the learned the wisdom of such things. And Auntie Gung stays at her bedside for a week at a time - sometimes two weeks - sleeping at night on a mat on the floor next to Miss Nan's bed.
It's Christmas time, a time for special lullabies: the telling of Joseph the Carpenter and Lady Mary and her infant son, baby Jesus born in Bethlehem; and its also time for the silent lullabies Auntie Gung sings to Miss Nan in the quiet of the night.
Our ancient sacred stories date back two thousand years, telling us how Joseph the Carpenter and his wife, the Virgin Mary journeyed for days from Nazareth to the village of Bethlehem, just outside Jerusalem.
There, in Bethlehem, Lady Mary gave birth to Jesus at a local inn, not in a proper room but rather in a stable at the back of the inn as the inn was full. When we recently played a Christmas story to our children in Mercy Centre, Auntie Gung remarked, "There wouldn't have been room in the inn for Miss Nan and me either, but that's okay. Rooms are not all that important."
And she's right, a stable would do just fine for Miss Nan and Auntie Gung - or even a room in a government hospital, where the nurses talk kindly, just like the shepherds who came to visit the baby Jesus.
And there are other parts in the story that ring true today, too - the part where Joseph the Carpenter has a dream that he must run away with Lady Mary and Jesus from the inn at that moment, in the middle of the night - to flee for their lives out of Bethlehem and start a new life. That's not so different from the moment when Auntie Gung was told that she had a disease, a virus, that her husband would die, that her family and friends would shun her forever after, and that she must leave everything she had known in life and flee to a strange land and start life anew.
And then there's the part about the Magi, the three Wise Men in the story who traveled from the East, following a star they saw bright in the heavens, to visit the baby Jesus. They had seen the star and searched their own sacred stories and found one about a birth of a child and a star in the East - a star that no storm clouds can ever hide.
And maybe they too heard a lullaby in the quiet of the Night - so sweet and beautiful it would make the Angels weep.
Well, Miss Nan and Auntie Gung tell us that sometimes - not often, but sometimes - here in Bangkok Town, if you close your eyes real tight and stay very still you too can see the Wise Men riding on Thai elephants propelled on the wings of the early morning dawn. And if you keep your eyes closed a bit longer, you can see the Wise Men riding past your own home where you and your children greet them, offering bananas or carrots or apples to their elephants. And then even the worst storm clouds will turn beautiful and you might be able to catch a glimpse of the Star. And then, if you listen intently, you might hear a lullaby - so sweet and beautiful it will make the angels weep.
How can this be? Can it happen? I'm sure of it. Miss Nan and Auntie Gung have told us it's true; and who could doubt them?
And sometimes, right around Christmas, if you listen hard and you still can't hear the lullaby, you, too, must sing a lullaby softly to your own family - no matter where they are, far away or sitting right beside you.