The windshield wipers made a ‘slip-slop’ sound as they worked hard to clear the slushy snow that occluded my vision of the road ahead. It was Christmas Eve and I was returning home from a ‘call-back’ in the Operating Room. The snow storm was much worse than had been predicted, with the visibility very poor.
I had been called back to work for an emergency Caesarian Section. The baby was in distress, and we had to work fast. The whole surgical team worked together and was delighted to be there for the birth of a beautiful healthy eight pound baby boy. Christmas could be felt in the Operating Room when the newborn baby boy made his first cry.
When I arrived home, I found my daughter waiting for me to help her do the last minute things for Christmas. I told her about the new baby boy, and commented on how his Christmas and Birthday were so close together. My daughter lit the candles she loved, and we packaged our last minute gifts. She wanted to know more about the baby that had just been welcomed into the world.
"Mary only had a barn didn’t she Mom?", she asked, which started a conversation about the Christmas story.
I loved those special times with my daughter, who was at an age that was putting her at the end of childhood, but not yet an adult. Heather loved Christmas. Sitting in front of the crackling wood fire, warm, safe and comfortable, and being with my family was just tremendous. With a son home from college, it was one of the few times we were all together.
"No, he isn’t here! What will I do?", I asked him, filled with anxiety.
The caller lived just across the street from the church on the corner with the well lit Nativity Scene displayed at the front. He had seen something moving in the manger, and through his binoculars he and his wife saw what they thought was my beige cat, cuddled up in the manger with the figurine of the Baby Jesus.
I left my house quickly and ran to the church. There indeed was my cat, protected from the wind with the walls of the display, his fur warm from the heat of the floodlights, as he slept near the baby figurine in the manger. I carried him home where the children and my husband took turns holding and purring him, something that was a special gift to me, a scene that stays with me still.
How or why my cat crossed that intersection that night is a mystery. He was safe and warm, and quite content to be in the manger, much to the delight of the Christmas Eve church goers. My young cat became known as ‘The Christmas Cat’, because many people had seen him as they attended the church service that evening.
The events of this Christmas Eve were so unlike any Christmas Eve I had ever experienced.
I had heard a newborn baby’s cries, and I had experienced the behavior of my much loved cat, behavior that drew me to the Nativity Scene where a figure of a newborn baby lay on a bed of hay. Standing and viewing the nativity scene made me think of Mary and Joseph, of the birth of their baby boy, and how the birth I had seen earlier was so very different from the birth of the Baby Jesus.
As I stood in the snow and wind, gazing at the scene before me, I reflected on the true meaning of Christmas. I had been so busy with buying, making, doing, working, wrapping gifts and cooking, that I had not taken the time to consider that at all. It was a rude awakening, and all because a tiny creature, such as a much loved cat , drew me to a scene that reminded me of just what Christmas meant. I had not paid enough attention to it for a long time.
That Christmas Eve I had witnessed a birth, and experienced a rebirth because of the two incidents, and was reminded of the ‘Reason for the Season’. I still remember the feeling that washed over me as I stood in the snow thinking of all the frivolity surrounding the Christmas season. Do we really remember that it is a season of spiritual rebirth and renewal? When, in actual fact, the humble birth of a baby who was placed on a bed of hay, demonstrates to us what Christmas really means. I decided I should concentrate more on the meaning of Christmas and spend less time standing in lineups at large retail outlets.
The marvelous Christmas birth of a baby, and the actions of a special little pet, took me back to a simpler time of Sunday School and Christmas Concerts. I was reminded of the meaning of the Season, and from then on was not so frenzied with the commercialism that accompanies it.
I saw two babies that Christmas Eve. One baby born in an environment of cleanliness, with a good home in which to blossom and grow, the other a figurine of a baby, born in the worst of conditions. Both babies touched my heart and I recalled the lines of a Christmas song by Boney M., whose music I love.
‘All across the land dawns a brand-new morn,
This comes to pass when a child is born’
Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe, RN. Rtd.
Clarenville, NL, Canada