Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tender Christmas Tales

The story below is included in Tender Christmas Tales which is available as a Kindle book on Amazon for only 99 cents.
Baby’s First Gift

It’s dark in the cabin and passengers lie sprawled across the seats. The monotonous thrum of jet engines sedates them as miles surge past. Christmas flights are often quiet like this; frequented by those who book too late and loners with no family back home.

It’s gloomy outside but a tinge of apricot rims the horizon. I didn’t sleep during my break, trying to fool my body into thinking it’s still afternoon. I dread the mornings with their nausea and weakness, both reminders of my guilt. I leave the window and go and find Lucy in the galley. She touches me on the shoulder, concern creasing her brow. “Feeling alright?”

I nod as I help her with breakfast preparations. The airline has supplied a gift for each passenger; a small box wrapped in red with curls of gold ribbon. I wonder idly what’s inside them. Fruit, nuts, a novelty?

Lucy is the only one who knows my secret. “It happens all the time,” she said. “Long haul flights, exotic destinations, pilots looking for some entertainment, a moment of weakness. It’s not as though you owe the father anything. Just get rid of it.” I’ve walked into an abortion clinic three times but haven’t had the courage to sign the papers. I have a sense that what seems like a solution may actually add to the problem.

I’m laying out gifts on food trays when a bell pings softly. “You go,” Lucy says. “I’ll manage here.”

A young mom looks up at me, exhaustion etched in weary features. “My baby hasn’t slept all night. I wondered if someone could hold her while I go and freshen up quickly?”

My heart sinks but I curve my lips into a smile. “Of course. Take your time.” She hands me a tiny wrapped bundle and I slip into a vacant seat by a window. The rim is thicker now, a deep red circle embracing the world. It looks like a heavenly Christmas wreath. I adjust the blanket and peer down at the child. What would my friends at church say if they knew I was pregnant? What would my parents say?

The baby snuffles gently and I watch tiny lips sucking and rooting, trying to latch on to the blanket. She’s tiny, can’t be more than a couple of weeks old. I try and imagine how it would feel if this was my child. Words like tenderness, love and hope swirl through my mind. The mother returns and I motion her to sit. “She’s going to sleep,” I whisper. Outside, Christmas dawns properly as red suffuses into pink and smoky gray lightens to dusky yellow.

Another baby comes to mind as I rock this child; Jesus, the one whom Christmas is all about. I wonder if He looked like this little bundle, perfect, innocent, content in arms that offer love and safety. A flush of shame warms my cheeks as I realise my double-mindedness. How can I cradle a child on the outside while contemplating murder for the one inside?

I stand and gently place the infant in her sky cot before tears spill and splash. Locked inside the toilet, I sob as streams of repentance overflow and cleanse my heart. “I’m sorry, God. I wanted to fix one mistake by making another. I’ve been so concerned with people’s reactions that I forgot to ask what You thought.”

A while later, I’m serving breakfast and smiling as I hand out Christmas gifts. My heart is raw and soft but the pain is tempered with peace. Peace that I can handle the consequences of my sin. Peace that I can face my family and friends and confess what I have done. Peace that there will be those who will draw close and extend grace and mercy over the next few months.

Today, however, I will celebrate Christmas in all its fullness and majesty. I can do nothing less for this is an extra special day. It is the day I gave my unborn child his first gift. The gift of life.

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