“When, Lord?  Since ancient times the prophets have proclaimed the promise; and the people keep asking:  When will we see it?”

“When are you going to stop ignoring me, Dee?  You are awake, I saw those eyes open and quickly close again.”

“(Yawn)  When are you going to stop bothering me?”  (stretch)

“But it’s time, Dee, it’s that time again…”

“It’s time you left me alone to my spot of sun here… hey!  If any of the humans saw that chair rocking by itself…!”  Dee landed on the floor in ruffled annoyance.

“They would just think you’d fallen off in your sleep.”

“I?  They know that cats are much too graceful for that!”  She indignantly licked her fur as if to underscore this.  The invisible Speaker was thankful that his feline counterpart could not see his gentle smirk.  He continued in his patient, persistent tone.

“It’s that time of year when…”  But Dee just walked nonchalantly towards the kitchen, stopping to gaze at a pile of fresh pine brances near the front door.

“Yes, I know,” she sniffed, “the time of year when people do silly things.”

“Dee, you’re avoiding the issue.”

“Just look at all this waste!  Do you know how many years it took for those pine trees to grow?”

“You are not going to change this subject!”

“Can I ask you something?”  Dee didn’t wait for an answer as she padded towards her food dish, “I’m a Messenger, right?  So how come this Messenger needs another Messenger to tell her its time for the Message?”

“That’s rather obvious, isn’t it?  Would you do your job of pointing out the Message, if I didn’t come along to give you the push?”

Dee muttered disgruntled phrases between bites of her food.  “I did the Message thing last year… wrote those stories… did it do any good?  Not one of the Family said anything about it.  They just read the stories, and then–no comment.”

“But Dee, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t get the Message.”

“Ach!”  Dee gave a flick of her head, as if to shake off an unpleasant duty.  “They’ve heard it before–they’re tired of hearing it!”

“You don’t know that.  You must remember that just because people don’t respond exactly the way you expect them to, does not mean that the Message isn’t getting through.”

At this point, the Mom of the family in question came into the kitchen with the armful of branches, and her cat spurted away with its nose in the air.

Dee continued her grumble: “Yeah, so–if they’re getting the Message, or if they’re not–they’ve had it so many times, why do they need it again?”

“Number one:  everyone needs reminding; number two: we must never ever stop or give up.”

“But why?”  Of course, she knew the answer even as she asked the question.

“You know why, Dee.”  But the feline’s mood change was reluctant.  She sighed.

“Yeah, I know.  The Boss.”  She looked around for her invisible companion, even knowing she couldn’t see him anyway, and realized that he was gone.  Her spirit had finally relented; he’d sensed it almost before she did–his job was done.

Yes, The Boss.  That One never stopped, never gave up–no matter how long He had to wait for His Message to get through.  And it wasn’t for Dee to decide, after all, whether or not it was getting through. 

She sighed again as the Mom placed vases of pine branches around.  Being reminded of the long years of growing for the trees, made Dee think of feeling like she was a pine tree herself, with a long, hard job ahead of her.

She began to wander around to each of the vases, sniffing the branches.  Each time she sniffed longer, trying to draw into herself the very outdoors that the fresh aroma hinted of.  Gradually, she felt her spirit lifting.  Her sigh now became one of pleasure.

“Well, after all,” she thought, “these are only branches, it’s not as if the whole tree has been knocked down.  Ahh!  Yes, it is definitely getting to be that time of year again!  That time of year when–”  she sniffed some more, “when Messengers have to remind people.”  Dee finally walked away from the branches, and sat down by the back door.  She stared outside, and some of her excitement began to drain away again, as her mind began to work.  “But,” she groaned inwardly, “but… how?”

2. HOW
Where is it?  Let’s see, it bounced off of that corner, then it hit that chair leg over there… it must be under this cabinet.  Hmm, lots of dark shadows under here… don’t think I smell it here, though.  Uh-oh, did I see something move?

Whattsat!!  Sheesh!  I wish those humans wouldn’t sneak up and make me jump like that.  Ha, ha, very funny.  Glad to have made you so happy.

Now, where did that thing get to, that I was batting around?  Not under the couch, not on top of the couch… Yuck!  No wonder my nose can’t pick up any other smells–these clementines are overpowering!

Now, what was it that I was looking for?  Oh, I believe I got mixed up about that.  What I meant to be looking for was an idea.  It’s that time of year again, for the Message (again), but there seems to be a shortage of ideas around here, for the ‘how’ part.  It’s been done so many times before, the ideas are getting all used up.  Should have thought to plant some new ones last Spring.  (Just kidding–I’m not as crazy as I think I am!)

Ideas. (sigh!) Just look at that cold wind blowing out there.  How’s a cat supposed to get any ideas without a warm spot of sun to curl up in?  And with nothing to smell but these confound little oranges everywhere? 

Look at that, even the trees are shivering–someone stripped them naked!  And could the leaves be left alone to give some life to the wind?  No way!  Gone–every last one of them, and I think they’ve raked up all my cat toys with them!

Well, I suppose the latter have all been chased under cabinets and couches, etc.  They’re afraid of me now, all those puff-balls and dust bunnies, and they won’t come out again.

Yes, everything’s cold and lifeless (and stinky).  Dark.  Not even any cat treats around lately.  How’s a Messenger like me supposed to get any ideas in that sort of environment?  How?

Humph.  Maybe my food will hold some kind of hope.  Catnip could help the brain waves.  If I just sit here beside my dish patiently and quietly waiting, sometimes they get the hint.  Don’t you recognize the look of hope in a cat’s face when you see it, Lady?

Ah, well.  Its warm in the kitchen, at least.  Oh, very warm by the stove!  Aha–sweet things are being baked!  Well, there is hope for those poor clementine-lovers after all.  And now, here comes ‘hope’ out of the oven, mmm!  Some kind of coffee cake… Yuck!! Spots of blood on it!! Ech!  Oh… no, thats cranberries, I guess.

Oh, there’s Sis home from school.

“Hey Mom!  Mmmm, Cranberry Bread!  Can I have some?”

“After you have your fruit: at least two clementines.  This needs to cool off anyway.”

“Aww,” Sis whined, “I’m not that crazy about oranges, you know.”  But the Mom was insistent.

“The Cranberry Bread will taste that much better then, AFTER you’ve eaten the fruit.”  Sis grudgingly picked out a couple of the smallest ones from the bowl on the table, and began to peel.  Dee sprinted away (I’m outta here!)

“It does make it smell like Christmas,” admitted the teenager, as the pungent odour spurted forth at her fingertips.  The Mom grinned at her.

“See, the sacrifice is worth it!”  The girl became thoughtful as she snacked.

“There’s a lot of sacrificing around Christmas-time,” she said, “it gets dark so early, it’s so cold outside…”

“Yes, but of course, you couldn’t have the outside scenery decorated with snow if it wasn’t cold enough; and the cold makes the fireplace that much more delightful.”

“And hot chocolate!”  added her daughter enthusiastically.

“And these candles would not be so charming if the sun was still shining.”

“Plus all the other Christmas lights.”

They paused as Sis peeled the other clementine, and then the Mom began a subtle change in subject, as Dee listened from around the corner.

“We’ve been talking more about contrasts, but if you think of the first Christmas, there was indeed quite a lot of sacrifice going on.”  She could see that Sis was disinterested with this direction, but continued anyway.  “Mary had to sacrifice her reputation and a proper wedding, a bunch of people had to make the sacrifice of travelling a long way to be counted for taxes, and of course–God’s Son sacrificed all the delights of Heaven to come down into this mess!”

“Thats *your* faith, Mom.  I’m still researching the matter, remember?”  The Mom seemed a little saddened as she responded to this.

“All the fact-finding in the world isn’t going to give you your faith, you know.  You’ll just have to experience it for yourself.”  She gave her daughter’s shoulder a loving squeeze as she finished off, “I’m afraid you may feel no need for God right now, but someday something will happen and you’ll be in dire need of Him.” 

But Sis was glad to see that she moved to slice some Cranberry bread, and Dee padded thoughtfully over to one of the candles on the coffee table, returning to her own quest, for an idea.

Maybe if I stare at this candle flame long enough, some of its light will break into the darkness of my mind… (or, I might fall asleep).  Hmm… sacrifice… giving up something … giving…

Hey!!  I’ve found it!!

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows–
light! sunbursts of light!
(Isaiah 9:2–The Message)

   “No eye has seen,
       no ear has heard,
   no mind has conceived
   what God has prepared for those who love him”
(1 Corinthians 2:9)

Shh!!  Keep very, very still and quiet.  Believe it or not, that squirrel out there was just, yes, *TALKING* to me!

“Lay your hair back down again, Cat.  Is a talking squirrel any worse than a talking cat?”

“Oh!  So you must be…”

“Yes, I’ve been sent to check up on you.”

“Humph.  Aren’t you supposed to be hibernating by now?”

“All in good time.  The last Messenger that was sent here reported some reluctance, so I’m here to see how things are going.”

“Wait!!”  As the squirrel scampered over to the garden, Dee left the back door, and shot over to the living room window, trying to keep the little animal in view.  “Phew!” she puffed, “I think you’ve been sent to give me some exercise!”

“Thought I saw something edible over here, tha’ts all,” she then peered past Dee into the house.  “Isn’t that a bowl full of nuts I see in there?”

“Those are mine,” said Dee quickly, “very useful for practising my chasing skills.  Mind you,” she added ruefully, “they make so much noise that the Family always catches me at it.”

“Family… yes, well–so how is it going?”

“What?  How is what going?”  Dee pretended ignorance, but jumped when the squirrel screeched back.

“Your Messenger Mission!”

“Oh that!” she said.  “Well!  I was searching and searching for an idea,” she worked to convey an air of excitement, and the squirrel tensed in anticipation.  “Couldn’t find it anywhere, and then…” she allowed for a pregnant pause, which did its work nicely:

“Yes?  Then what?”  asked the squirrel, highly expectant.

“I found it!!”  the cat exclaimed in glee, which had the affect of making the little animal outside run around in circles in its expression of joy.

“Yay!! You found it!” she chattered.  When she finally settled down, Dee continued in her dramatic manner.

“Yes, my idea is:  to give the Family… a gift!”

“Wonderful!!” chattered the squirrel.  “A gift!  Perfect!”  Dee licked herself proudly, until the next question came. “So… what are you going to give them?”

“Well,” Dee answered between licks, “I don’t know!”

“You don’t know what to give them?”  The squirrel seemed a little stunned. “So, we’re back to looking for an idea,” she said, her excitement evaporating like a puff of smoke.

“That’s what you’re here for, isn’t it?” was Dee’s smug reply.  The poor squirrel began to eye the nuts again longingly, but tried to concentrate.

“Let’s see,” she said, “you could give them your services!”

“I do that all the time,” answered Dee, “I’m always crawling into their lap, or purring them to sleep.  Don’t I keep their bed warm for them, and save them a chair…” 

“They don’t need a chair saved in their own house, silly.” 

Dee ignored her and continued.  “You know, they always need reminding that it’s time to take a break, so sometimes I just have to walk right on top of the book they’re reading, or the keyboard they’re using. Then too, I’m always reminding them of the schedule:  when it’s time to get up, when it’s time to go to bed, when it’s time to feed me, and so on.  Actually, I’m a gift myself, and they get reminded of that when I curl up under the Christmas tree.  Don’t I often roll over on to my back in complete surrendur to them?”

The squirrel looked at Dee in distaste.  “You may be a Messenger,” she said, “but you’re definitely a cat!”  But Dee caught the other’s eyes drifting towards the nuts again.

“And you’re not a squirrel?” she snorted. 

The squirrel changed the subject.  “Yes, well, it looks like you’ve got things under control.  I’m sure you’ll think of something!  It is getting rather cold out here!” she chattered as she hurried away.

“Wait!!” Dee ran back to the door to watch her disappear, then stalked away in slight disgust.  “Thanks for the help,” she muttered sarcastically.  She was now back to wandering around the room, looking for ideas.

What shall I give?  It smells like a barn in here.  Oh–it is a barn.  Of course, it’s the manger scene.  Guess I could knock over some of the figures to remind them of the first Christmas (course, they’re the ones that put them there).  Look at all these shepherds.  Talk about simplicity… to be born in a manger, to let shepherds be the ones to run around telling everyone about it.

Oh well, these things tend to knock themselves over anyway.  They don’t roll as well as nuts, though.  This hay is almost tasty, and definitely cozy.  If there was enough of it here, I could get comfortable.  Course, I’d fill up the whole barn.

Oh yeah–gift.  What shall I give?  If I want to mirror the first Gift, mine must be something that’s both simple, and sacrificial.  That could mean giving something that I want myself.

What’s that noise?  Yes!  Treats!  Well… that would be a sacrifice…  Okay!  Mouth-watering cat-treats–you have them, Lady.  I give them to you!

(I’ll just sniff out some hay, or something).

“How often I’ve ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn’t let me.”
(Matthew 23:37, Message)

4. WHO
That just so amazes me, that humans do not enjoy these delicious cat treats!  After all, I enjoy the odd human thing; not many human treats, but… peppermint, for example.  Ahh!!  Get a nose-ful of that rich peppermint smell!  Now, why don’t they make peppermint cat treats?  I suppose then the humans would eat them on us.  Then, when I decided to give them a gift of my cat treats, I wouldn’t get the amazement of them being thrown down on the floor, for me to enjoy after all.

Amazement, surprise.  Now that is one of the best parts of any gift.  Mind you, it’s supposed to be the one who is receiving the gift that gets surprised, not the one who is giving!

That first Christmas was quite the surprise–all those angels filling the sky.  There are a lot of people today (including certain teenagers) who would be quite surprised if they could go way back in time, and discover that it actually did happen.

Uh-oh, who’s that at the door!?  On Guard!!  Oh, its Big Bro, home from University!  Hugs all around, don’t forget the cat!

“Hey Sis!  We’ve got time to chat while Mom & Dad get ready for church.  You are coming to church, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I guess.  It is Christmas after all.  Hardly know anyone at church anymore though.”  They sat down together on the couch to wait, where they could both reach the container of peppermint bark.

“But they know you.  As Mom would say, a lot of those folks have been praying for you since before you were born.”  Sis seemed just a little surprised at his tone.

“You’re one to talk,” she said, “you never used to go to church much.”  Her brother reflected for a moment as he finished another piece of the chocolate.

“No.  But someone suggested to me that it was beneficial for a doubter like me to be involved with the church.  A benefit to the church, that is.”  His sister raised an eyebrow.  “They said it was good to make the Christians think about their faith.” 

After another pause, Big Bro’s face lit up as he turned to the girl beside him, and said quietly, “But Sis, I am now a believer.”  He had expected the stare she gave him, and was intense as he continued.  “When I went off to University, something seemed terribly missing in my life.  It was more than just being homesick.  All that time I’d been searching for God, not realizing He’d been there all the time–until He was missing.”  She looked away, but he felt he had to finish.  “It would be so much easier for you, Sis, if you’d realize it now–that God is here–just waiting for you…”

They were interrupted as their parents came down the stairs.  The Dad checked his watch and went over to the stereo to turn up the volume of the Christmas music that had been playing.

“We have time to listen to this one song before we leave,” he said.  Dee gave up trying to sit on someone’s lap, they were all concerned about getting their dress clothes covered in cat hairs.

Ah, church at Christmas time!  Wish cats were allowed to go… speaking of surprises…!  That is part of my mission, after all, to get people to drop their mouths open a bit; and I don’t mean for stuffing it with turkey and pumpkin and… peppermint.

If they only knew they had an angel looking after them, that would certainly ‘drop their mouths open’.  But that would distract from the Main Message.  They’ve heard it so often, it’s easy to forget how amazing it is.  I mean, what could be more awesome than power and might being constrained in weakness?  Would you make billions of stars and then decide to become something that can’t even feed itself? Would you?

And would you do it knowing that some people would turn their noses up at you?  Even knowing that many would not even believe you?

Listen to that song–better yet, sing it: 

“Fall on your knees!  Oh hear the angel voices!
Oh Night Divine…”

A human mouth does have to open wide for that one. 

Mission Accomplished.

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