The late December day started out cold and grey, and, as the dark clouds pressed lower, the sheer bleakness of it only increased as the day wore on. It was not the most encouraging start to the Quest, but, encouraging or not, it was the date agreed upon.
There was no sunset, no cheering of the sky with crimson and violet hues – just the same unrelenting grey. But once it grew dark, they set out.
Frodo never really remembered the walk that night, passing out of the warm safety of Rivendell and into the cold danger of the wilderness beyond. He never remembered saying goodnight to his companions, although he knew he must have said it. The whole trek from Rivendell to Hollin was, to him, forever sketchy at best.
But there was one thing from that first night that would linger in his memory…
He woke up, and though he felt as if he had slept for hours, the sky was still as dark as when he had fallen asleep. He pushed himself up into a sitting position on the not-so-soft ground and looked around in bewilderment. Where was he? This was not the wilderness on the western side of the Misty Mountains! And more importantly, where was the rest of the Fellowship? They all were gone!
Frodo shot to his feet in a panic. What was happening?!
Forcing himself to calm down, he took a few deep breaths and cast his gaze over his surroundings once more, slowly and carefully. Grassy hills rolled on for miles in every direction, with a walled town not too far in the distance. And these hills were inhabited by… sheep? Yes, sheep! And their shepherds were Big Folk, of course, not hobbits. How strange!
He realized that the air was not as cold here – wherever here was – either. Hmm. He folded his arms and tapped one furry foot in thought. Where in Middle-earth was he?!
All at once, the starry sky blazed with light, nearly as bright as day. Frodo threw his arms up over his eyes to shield them from the intense brilliance. He heard the nearby shepherds cry out in a strange tongue he had never heard before. But he did not need to understand the words – or even to see the shepherds fall to the ground – to know that they were afraid.
He was afraid, himself.
A voice rang out of the light, deep and rich and rolling. Somehow, it reminded Frodo of Gandalf, Tom Bombadil, and Goldberry, and yet, this voice was different. So much more glorious and powerful. It was simultaneously the most beautiful and terrifying sound he had ever heard in his life.
Whereas he could not understand the shepherds' speech, somehow he could understand the voice, even though he knew it was not speaking in his own tongue. And as it spoke, he uncovered his face and lifted his eyes to the truly awesome sight. He could see the owner of the voice, shining with glory.
"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
Frodo understood the words, but he had no idea what they meant. City of David? Christ the Lord? A baby in an animal's feed trough?
But his questions were quickly erased as thousands more joined the first being in the sky. Their voices lifted in a song so completely ethereal and breathtaking that it broke Frodo's heart to hear it.
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
Frodo felt the tears form in his eyes and roll down his cheeks as he watched and listened, enraptured by the pure radiance of light and song.
And as suddenly as it had begun, it ended – like a candle's flame flickering out. Frodo felt a sudden emptiness in his heart, a longing for more, for it to last forever and ever.
The shepherds' animated voices broke into his sudden melancholy. After several moments of discussion in a language Frodo could not hope to understand, they began to run from their flock, never noticing the little stranger in their midst, which suited Frodo just fine. He did not want to try to explain himself to people who might not understand what he was saying even if he knew what he was actually doing here. Yet, curious to see why they had left their flock, he ran after them.
Despite his short legs, he found that he could keep up with them easily. They came to the walled town that he had seen earlier, and he wondered if this was the "City of David." They entered the town and went from stable to stable, scouring the whole town. Frodo realized that they were searching for the manger – the manger with the baby.
At last, they heard the wails of a small child and ran toward the noise. They came upon a stable carved out of a cave and slowed to a respectful pace as they entered. Past the knot of shepherds, Frodo could make out a girl and a young man…
And a manger. A manger whence came the wailing.
The girl, obviously the baby's mother, was trying to quiet her child, singing a soothing song in the same strange tongue of the shepherds. The young man – the father – stood from his kneeling position at his wife's side and addressed the shepherds.
The shepherds seemed to explain the situation to the father, about the otherworldly beings in the sky, about their glorious message and song. The mother stopped singing and looked up with attentive dark eyes, noticeably absorbing the information. Then her gaze wandered to study the shepherds and came to rest upon Frodo.
The girl tilted her head to the side and stared at him quizzically. She had obviously never seen a hobbit before. But something on Frodo's face must have endeared him to her because she smiled softly at him. She beckoned to him and said something.
Frodo shook his head and shrugged helplessly, indicating that he had no idea what she was saying.
She sighed and beckoned again.
Frodo took a timid step forward, then walked up to her. She smiled again and nodded in the direction of the manger.
Frodo came to the edge of the feed trough and looked in. There lay the Baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, just as the first voice had said.
Despite being an only child and a bachelor, Frodo had certainly seen babies before. And at first glance, there seemed to be nothing significant about this One – no ethereal glow, no breathtaking beauty. But such had he first deemed Strider, and look at how wrong he had been there. Strider was truly Aragorn, the hidden heir to the throne of Gondor.
Was this newborn Child special in the same way? Hidden?
As Frodo gazed longer upon the Babe, something stirred in his heart, like a remnant of the wondrous song. No, something greater. Ancient and yet new, frightening and yet comforting, earth-shattering and yet joyful. Love and peace washed over him in waves as he continued to take in the sight before him. The Child looked no different now than he had a minute before, but Frodo now looked through the eyes of love.
And even the glorious appearance out on the hills could not compare to the beauty of the little Child.
"Christ," Frodo murmured. "The Lord."
The mother gazed at him until their eyes locked, and she nodded softly. "Christ," she repeated.
Frodo still did not know what he was seeing, exactly, but he knew that it was important. Important beyond all belief. The voice had said so. Tidings of great joy for all people… a Saviour…
Would this little Child save the world from some great evil? From the Dark Lord?
No, that did not sound right. To stop the Dark Lord was his Quest – his and the Fellowship's. For good or for evil, the coming war would be over long before the Child ever reached manhood.
Perhaps… perhaps there was something else… something deeper…
Tidings of great joy for all people… a Saviour…
This Child was the Saviour. Of this, Frodo was certain now. A Child who would grow into a Man, who would triumph over a powerful foe, perhaps more powerful than the Dark Lord himself.
The mother seemed to see comprehension dawning in Frodo's face. She nodded once more, her eyes seeming to say, "You understand now." She smiled sweetly at him and bent down to lift her Child from His "cradle." The Child had since ceased his cries and was quiet now. The mother raised her Son toward Frodo, who realized that she meant for him to take Him.
Frodo stepped back, shaking his head. "Oh no, I couldn't," he said aloud.
A determined look appeared in the mother's dark eyes, and she held her Child in the air between them. Taking a deep breath, Frodo complied, the warm bundle passing into his arms. The bundle was large for a hobbit to hold but not too large to be uncomfortable.
Frodo's heart pounded wildly against his ribs as he was struck with a sudden feeling of unworthiness. For the first time, he looked – really looked – into the Baby's eyes. What he saw startled and captivated him. For one moment – one long moment – they were ancient, deep with memory, wisdom, and power that no Elf or Wizard could ever match. Eternity lay in those dark blue depths.
Then the moment was gone, and the Child was a baby once more. And, though Frodo still felt unworthy, he leaned in to the Baby's face and gently brushed his lips against the smooth, sweet-smelling forehead.
Frodo knew that babies usually did not smile until they were a couple of months old. Even so, ever after he could have sworn that the Child smiled at him. That smile made his heart soar with joy, and he smiled back. Fully, as he had not done for many years since perhaps his own childhood.
At last, he reluctantly passed the Child back to His mother. "Thank you," he told her.
And though he did not know her language, he knew that she said, "You are welcome."
Frodo continued to gaze upon the Child, letting the sight fill all conscious thought…
"Mr. Frodo, sir? Mr. Frodo?"
Someone was gently shaking him, as if to wake him up. No, to wake him up, period. He had fallen asleep.
Frodo opened his eyes to see a familiar face. "Sam!" He bolted upright, and looked around. "Where is the stable?"
"Stable, sir?" echoed Sam, frowning in confusion.
Frodo nodded. "I was in a stable, with a Baby and His parents…"
"Oh, I expect you were dreaming, sir," Sam suggested.
Frodo frowned. "But it was so real…"
"What was real?" asked another familiar voice. Frodo turned to see Strider – Aragorn – watching them.
"The stable. The stable where there was a small family: a father, a mother, and a newborn Baby."
"It must have been a dream, Frodo," Aragorn told him, coming up to him and laying a large hand on his shoulder. "But do not let it discourage you. Some dreams can be very real, and they are given to us for a purpose."
Frodo pushed himself onto his feet. "Then what was the purpose of mine?"
Aragorn gave him a small smile. "When the time comes, I am certain that you will know."
Frodo nodded, half-expecting an answer like that. Already, the details began to blur in his mind, but the wonder lingered on in his heart. No matter how much of the dream he forgot, he knew he could never forget one thing.
The Child. Christ the Lord, the Saviour.
Frodo knew then that they had to succeed in their Quest, or the Child would never live.
For, someday, the Child would save the world.
J. R. R. Tolkien holds spiritual significance to dreams in his legendarium. For example, the hobbits' dreams in the house of Bombadil, the surreal state of the hall in Rivendell when the songs are sung, and the land of Lothlorien, the Dream-Flower. Frodo himself seems to dream the most often, and there is often great significance attached to his dreams. In one dream, he sees Gandalf on the pinnacle of Orthanc. In another dream, he hears a song that is like a light that turns a rain-curtain to glass and silver and rolls it back, so that he can see "a far green country… under a swift sunrise." At the end of The Return of the King, this is revealed to be Valinor, when Frodo sails to the Undying Lands. For more on this topic, I recommend the book A Question of Time by Verlyn Flinger.
According to Tolkien's timeline, the Fellowship of the Ring leaves Rivendell on December the 25th.
God bless you and give you a Merry Christmas!