The next day the festivities began at dawn. Trumpet blasts rang through the city. The courtyard of the palace was being prepared for a massive banquet. Noise and movement were all about the grounds. By midmorning, they were on their way to the parade grounds.
Eliah and his daughter Zariah joined Avi and the delegation of 13 Sundarians. They gathered at a place outside the city near one of the ancient gates. There were people everywhere, too many to count. The crowd was grouped and divided according to nationalities. Other delegations from Tamesh were on hand and nearby in the parade. The procession was to begin right outside the city gates.
As evening approached, a loud trumpet sounded through the city. It signaled the beginning of the festivities. It took a long time for the movement to reach them. Eventually, the crowd was thinning and reshaping into a parade. Music, cheering, and noise swelled from the inside of the city.
As they came through the enormous gates of the city, they were handed the traditional three tied branches and fruit. They were to wave them during the parade.
“I can't see,” Margreth said, having to shout over the crowd. She was surrounded by people three times her height. Avi knelt down.
“You want to ride on Bhoora’s back? I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”
“Yippee!” she said, which was a hardy yes. Avi lifted her onto the bear, which helped her see the activity. Bhoora didn't protest; he probably didn't notice she was there.
As they poured onto the city street, the music was loud, and it seemed to come from everywhere. It was as if a thousand different musicians were playing the same song in unison from every direction. Avi couldn't help but bounce along with the rhythm. The others from Sundar joined in with the movements.
They walked down the central street that snaked through the city. Jerusalem's inhabitants shouted warm welcomes to all the pilgrims. Thousands of people lined the streets as the delegations walked alongside the members of a dozen from other provinces. Every tribe and tongue was represented in that mass of celebrating humanity. All around them, those in the traditional colorful apparel of their home countries danced in the streets and sang along with the music that echoed down the alleys.
Before long, the parade came to a turn in the road, which Avi could see over the tops of buildings would bring them to the temple. His pulse rose as he knew he would soon see his King and Creator. He leaned against Bhoora's side so he could talk to his little sister.
“Margreth, we’re about to see the Emperor,” Avi said.
“Yeah, I know,” she responded.
“Do you know what we do when we see the King?” he asked.
“We bow?” she said.
“That’s right,” Avi replied. “We worship him.”
“What does word ship mean?” she asked.
They turned the corner, and there it was. The familiar outline of the incredible temple of the Emperor and his Father God. It stood like a golden beacon pointing toward the heavens. Avi could hardly believe the emotion that exploded in him on seeing its full form in the blazing daylight.
“It’s amazing,” Avi said to Zariah, who was walking on his other side from Bhoora and Margreth.
"I know.” Zariah smiled. “It never gets old, either.”
Standing at the gates of the temple about halfway up the steps was a group of men and women. All were glowing, but one was brighter than all the rest. Staring upon him was like looking directly into the sun, only to find that the blinding brightness doesn’t overwhelm the eye. Avi gasped at the sight.
“There he is!” Margreth shouted. The parade of people from so many nations spilled out into the massive plaza to which the temple gates opened. The crowd had to be at least a hundred thousand strong. They shouted and sang as one unified voice. As the delegation flowed into the crowd, they found a place among the bulk of humanity.
The music seemed to quiet down. The people who had all arrived together hit their knees. Like a wave that swept across the sea of people, they lowered to the stone pavement, letting their heads bow as they worshiped the Emperor, the Holy One. Even Bhoora, as dense as he could sometimes be, understood what was expected. The entire throng was on their knees.
“Welcome to Jerusalem!” the Lord said, able to be heard both by the ears but also by the mind. Avi recognized his voice from the Sabbat broadcasts. With those words, the people rose, as if with one voice, in a grand cheer. As the sound died back down, the Lord of the realm continued. “It honors the Father that you have come to honor me. I look forward to our time together for this year's festival. Why don't we begin with some music?” Once again, the crowd erupted with agreement.
“David,” the Lord said. Low King David of Israel began making his way to the front from the side of the steps. Avi watched, knowing what was coming.
“It’s time,” Zariah said in Avi’s ear. It was as if his feet were on their own errand. He rose with almost no conscious thought to do so. He followed Zariah to the front of the crowd.
“Here's my granddaughter, Zariah,” David said as he took the center of the steps. With an outstretched hand, he pointed in their direction. “And our new friend Avi.”
Avi came to stand on one side of David, and Zariah on the other. He was looking out over the crowd and realized that they weren't the source of his nervousness. He turned his head to find The Emperor, sitting on the steps with about a dozen others around him. He could easily be mistaken for a mere man, although, Avi knew the truth or at least a piece of the truth. Right there was the God-man, the one who had redeemed the world by his own sacrifice.
“What an amazing gift music is,” David was saying to the crowd.
At the deepest place, Avi wanted only one thing. He wanted more than anything he had ever wanted; he wished with every part of his soul; he longed with such deep and ancient longing, only that the Lord would be pleased with him. Lord Yeshua glanced toward Avi and made eye contact. He smiled. As clear as if he was speaking right in his ear, Avi heard the King’s voice, though his lips did not move.
I will put a new song in your heart, The Lord said in Avi’s mind. Would you let me sing to my people through you? Avi's eyes widened, and his chest heaved with excitement. Warm tingling rushes poured over him.
“Yes,” Avi said aloud. The Emperor rose from his step, walked toward king David. David paused from what he was saying and leaned over to hear. The Lord spoke in David's ear briefly. Avi couldn't hear what was said, but he could see David smile and nod. The Low King addressed the crowd once again.
“To start us off, let’s hear from Avi of Sundar,” David said. Both Zariah and her grandfather stepped down and sat on the steps next to where Avi stood. They looked up at him.