By Juanita Morris Hawkins - 2006

As everyone knows, Christmas Eve is very special to children, birds and animals. At our house, it was a quiet, cozy Christmas Eve and the flock of five were snuggling with me in our favorite chair with Mommy's bad knee propped up on her footrest. I am sure all of you have heard the story of how the animals can talk at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Well, it came a little early to our house this Christmas Eve. My shy and reticent little Cinni who owns such a huge part of my heart, came up to my chin and said "Mommy, Cara said if I would ask, you would tell us the Christmas story."

I glanced at Cara and saw that superior little look in her eyes and the grin on her face, and I turned to my Cinni and said, "If all of you will be very quiet, I will tell you."

Five little birds negotiated for their favorite spot on their Mommy and settled down and stared at me in anticipation. My heart melted as I saw the innocence in their eyes and the Christmas lights reflected there. I adjusted the pillow beneath my knee and began.

"Once, a long, long time ago in a land torn by wars and territorial fights, there was a small group of people to whom God Himself made a promise, a promise that one day He would send the world a prince, a Prince of Peace. He would come according to the promises He had made to these people. He would bring love to the world if they would accept it."

I glanced down and five sets of little eyes were glued to mine and Cara asked "Did He come, Mommy?" "Yes, I told her, but the people had to wait a very long time. Then one ordinary night with no celebrations, no announcements and no warnings, a young woman was led to a stable filled with animals to give birth to this Prince.

You see, the great Emperor of the world at that time, had decreed that all the people must be taxed, and each family had to go to the city of their birth in order to register and to pay their taxes. The little town of Bethlehem, in which the young woman and her husband had been born, was overflowing with citizens forced to come and pay their allotted taxes.

By the time this couple arrived there were no rooms left in any of the inns. The innkeeper of one of the inns, having compassion on the young woman, led them to the stable behind his inn, and told them they could stay there out of the weather for the night."

"As the night deepened, so did the birth pangs of the young woman." I looked at my four boys and said "It is very painful for females to give birth or lay eggs." Little Sunni nodded her head toward her mate, Michael, and said "Mommy is right, it hurts."

I returned to the story and told them how the young woman, named Mary, finally gave birth to the young Prince, and according to the instructions of the angel God had sent to her, she named her son, Jesus. Having no bed, she wrapped her newborn son in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, which the animals so willingly shared with Him. Later that night some shepherds came to the stable and told Joseph, the husband, that an angel had told them of the birth of a Savior, and that they would find Him in a stable, in Bethlehem.

When they saw the baby they fell down and worshiped Him. In the weeks that followed, wise men came from far away. They told the young couple that they had followed a great star that had stopped over the place where the baby lay. They also fell down and worshiped the young Prince.

When they were ready to leave for their homeland, they left gifts with the couple for the baby. In the meantime, wicked King Herod, had heard the stories of the birth of a king, and fearing he might somehow be usurped from his throne, for he was truly hated, he demanded that the child be hunted down and killed. He put out a royal command that all male babies under the age of two years should be killed in Bethlehem. Unknown to King Herod, God had warned Joseph in a dream to flee into Egypt as Herod sought to kill the baby.

Cody came rushing up my leg and said "Mommy, he didn't kill the little Prince did he?" "No, sweet Cody", I replied, "he didn't kill the little Prince. They made it safely into Egypt and stayed there until God told them it was safe to return home."

Years passed and Jesus grew into a young man the same as all the other young men around Him. He worked in Joseph's carpentry shop helping him earn their living. When He was thirty years of age, the great mission for which He had been sent began, as He journeyed along the dusty roads of Israel, beginning the greatest story ever told. I will save that story for you babies until another time, it's getting late." Five little faces stared up at me and Cinni said, "Mommy, does God love little birds?"

"Oh yes, Cinni", I replied, "He loves them very much and He provides food for them every day out in the wild. Some of them eat seed, some grains and some green, growing things. and some eat fruit. Yes, Cinni, God loves litle birds. He has told us that not one little sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge."

Little Sunni leaned down and nibbled on my gold chain, as always, and said, "Mommy, you always ask us to say a birdie prayer when you leave us, does God hear our birdie prayers?" "Oh, Sunni", I replied, "God hears birdie prayers immediately and that is why Mommy asks you to say them for her, so I will always come home safely to you babies."

Sunni gently leaned forward and gave me the sweetest little birdie kiss and said, "Mommy, I will always say my birdie prayers, as I always want you to come home to us." Cara, never to be left out, came rushing to me and also gave me a kiss. I looked down at Cody and Michael and they just gave me that sweet grin and said, "Aw, Mommy, you know we always say our prayers."

Then to my great amazement, my shy little Cinni whose heart is so full of love for me, came up to me and gave me the sweetest kiss I have ever had, and said, "Thank you, Mommy, for telling us the Christmas Story."

As I put my babies to bed this Christmas Eve, I looked up and said a "Mommy prayer" for these special gifts, these little feathered angels I have been given. I then walked outside to look for the Star.

- Dedicated to my beloved Cody and Cara who are flying in the beautiful skies of heaven, waiting for the rest of their family to come home.