avatarKen Van Camp

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Christmas Peace

Keke’s Christmas Wish

In that day, the wolf and the lamb will live together

Keke by the Christmas tree and manger (photo by author)

Mousey and I played with a fluff ball one morning in the living room. We had less space than usual because the “Christmas tree corner” had grown. Each day this week, Mommy and Daddy added more presents, cutting off more play space and enticing me with questions.

Who were all the gifts for? Would there be any for me, even though I had been bad? Would I make the “nice list”?

Keke’s new Christmas dress speaks everyone’s mind: “Too cute for the naughty list” (photo by author)

The tree towered over me, its long branches decorated with dazzling lights, delicate ornaments, and tinsel. I steered clear of it, careful not to break anything and ruin my history of seven “accident-free” days.

But this morning, the little fluff ball bounced close to the tree, and I trotted after it, not noticing where I was. The ball stopped short of a small wooden building I had not seen before. It was open on three sides and held delicate figurines of a man and a woman with sheep standing nearby. Everyone seemed to be looking at the baby in the woman’s arms.

Mousey interrupted my reverie. “Hey, it’s your turn. Hit the ball back.”

“What’s this?” I asked, indicating the wooden hut.

“I don’t know, I think they call it a ‘manger.’ Hey, that reminds me,” Mousey said, excited. “He’s coming tonight!”

“Who’s coming?” I asked. My tail wagged at the prospect of a visitor.

“Santa!”

“Oh, him.” Last week, I learned about the naughty and nice lists. “I don’t think I’m getting any presents.”

“Cheer up!” my friend said. “You heard what the cat said about extenuating circumstances. And you’ve been really good since then!”

Zoey was the wise old cat who had recently taken up residence in the back room of our house. My best friend, Mousey, was scared of her but reluctantly agreed to enter her lair with me last week to get the inside scoop on Santa’s lists.

“I don’t know about Christmas,” I said. “Something seems kind of ‘off’ about it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, take Santa. If I’m good, he’s supposed to bring me presents. But what did I get him? It doesn’t seem fair.”

The question hung in the air like the ornaments on the tree. Just then, a cold wind blew through the house, and I watched the tinsel float momentarily on the breeze. It took a moment to realize someone had entered the front door.

Daddy! I barked as I ran to the door to greet him, and he picked me up and asked, “How’s my good girl Keke?”

He called me his good girl!

I wagged my tail and kissed him hello. I looked at the tree in the far corner and the tiny manger resting below. The tree was so large and festive, and the manger so small.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind of activity as delicious smells wafted from the kitchen, visitors came and left, and more boxes appeared beneath the crowded tree. After dark, Mommy and I took our last walk of the evening, and I noticed one of our neighbors had a large manger display on their front lawn. Humans, donkeys, and sheep were life-size and illuminated with a bright spotlight. An angel stood in the middle, and in front of him was an empty burlap-lined cot, but the cot was empty.

I slept uneasily that night. I dreamed of the angel and the animals in the outdoor manger. Then suddenly, a bright light shone, and a baby appeared in the cot.

The bright light awoke me, and I realized it was morning.

Mommy got up first. “Merry Christmas, Keke!” she said. “Let’s go for a walk, and then we can open presents.”

As we walked past our neighbor’s house, Mommy said, “Look, Keke. The baby Jesus is in the manger now. It’s the Christmas miracle.”

Photo by Mágson Alves on Unsplash

I looked at the manger. A statue of a baby lay in the burlap cot, just like in my dream. I wondered where it came from and why it was there.

As if reading my thoughts, Mommy said, “That’s baby Jesus, and today is His birthday.” And then she told me a story:

“In that day, the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.” -Isaiah 11:6

I didn’t see any wolves in the manger, but there were lambs, and I wondered how a little child could lead them.

A little later, we all gathered by the tree to open presents. Mousey was hopping from gift to gift and reading all the tags. “You got one from Santa!” he said. “And so did I! C’mon, open your present!”

As he started to bite the wrapping on his little present, I said, “Wait! What about Zoey?”

Mousey stopped mid-chew, a tiny piece of paper clinging to the side of his mouth. “What about her?”

“Well, she’s part of the family too. She should be here.”

Mousey looked from side to side, whiskers twitching. “B-but what if she steals my present?”

I laughed. “Zoey won’t take your present. But it’s her Christmas too, and she shouldn’t be alone.”

Daddy watched me as I walked to the back bedroom. “Where are you off to?” he asked.

When I returned, Zoey trotted beside me, and Daddy raised his eyebrows, looking from dog to cat. “So you two are friends now, eh?” He smiled. “Well, c’mere, Zoey, and join the Christmas party.”

Zoey looked around the room, first at Mommy and Daddy, then at Mousey, who was trembling at the sight of the large Tabby approaching. Ignoring the mouse, Zoey jumped on the couch and sat beside Mommy. Her purring grew louder as Mommy rubbed behind her ears.

Hearing the cat’s purrs, Mousey relaxed and resumed chewing the paper on his gift.

I savored the wrapping on my present and did not notice Zoey jumping down from the couch and quietly unwrapping her gift.

Neither did Mousey until his present was freed from the paper. It was a small plastic lattice ball with a bell in the middle. The bell jingled as the ball moved, and when Mousey turned to look, he discovered Zoey observing him closely.

Photo created using Bing Image Creator

“Um, no problem,” said the mouse. “You can have it.” Trembling, he shoved the ball and watched it roll to the cat, the little bell jingling inside as it moved.

Zoey extended her paw and tapped the ball, which rolled back. The mouse stood transfixed as the ball slowly rolled across the floor and stopped with a tap on his nose.

“It’s okay,” the cat said. “Just give it a push.”

The mouse nudged the ball harder this time, and the cat watched it roll before trapping it with her paw. This time, she rolled it to me. I put my present aside and joined the game, hitting the jingling ball back to Mousey. Mousey giggled and tapped it with her nose, which went off course and rolled toward the little wooden manger under the tree.

“Oh, sorry, sorry!” squeaked the mouse.

“No big deal,” assured Zoey, catching the ball.

I watched my friends play. If a wolf and lamb could live together, maybe a mouse and cat could too. Was this part of the Christmas miracle?

“I think Jesus wants everyone to play together,” I said.

Mommy got down on the floor and addressed the woman holding the baby in our manger. “What do you think, Mary? Can you help the rest of the world learn to play together too? That’s all I want for Christmas.”

I looked at the smiling mother holding the baby in the manger. As I turned away, I thought I heard someone say, “peace.”

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