Sunday, December 6, 2015 

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” Matthew 1:23 

The year was 1977. Our family had been stationed in Germany for 4 years; now we were back in the United States, living in Virginia. Because we had lived overseas, our young children had never yet had a pet, and Don and I decided that this Christmas was the time to change that. We scoured newspaper ads for free kittens. We had finally decided that December was not a birth month for kittens when we found one. Don rushed to the house in time to claim the last one…a small white 6 week old that looked like a snowball. Don talked the people into keeping it for us until Christmas Eve. That night, after the kids were in bed, he brought it home, and it slept in the laundry room, cozy in a blanket-lined box.

The next morning, Christmas Day, the kids woke us, asking permission to go down to open gifts. We had them wait upstairs while Don hurried down, took the kitten into the rec room, and put it in the bottom of a large wide-mouthed pitcher sitting on the hearth. That kitten knew exactly what to do: just as the children entered the room, it stuck its head up out of the pitcher, looked around and yelled, “Meow!” It was a magical moment. They named her “Merry.” None of us can remember anything else they received that year: the kitten eclipsed everything. She was not an inanimate toy, but a living, breathing gift. Merry lived with us through their entire childhoods, she gave them so much joy, and they never ceased to love her nor she them.

I, like my children, have received many Christmas gifts over the years, most of which I can no longer remember; I know there must have been clothes, toys, games, appliances, jewelry. But the best Christmas gift I have ever received, the unforgettable one, is the living one: a living, breathing baby, Emmanuel, God With Us.

-Pat MacNicoll 

Prayer: Lord, It is amazing to me that you love us so much that you come bearing the best gift all: yourself. Help me to love you with my whole heart. Amen