I know Christmas is over and that we have all moved on. But here is one last Christmas story as much for the introduction as for the story itself.
At the end of our Christmas pageant last week, I took the baby “Mary” had been holding and showed him to the children. I asked, “Can anyone tell me anything they feel when they see this baby?”
There was an awkward pause. Then one of the small angels from the back of the stage, said one word, quite distinctly and without fear or self-consciousness. She said simply, “Soft”.
Last year, in the children’s story I wrote for Christmas day, I was trying to help children connect with that place within themselves where they experience “Soft”. That is the place of wisdom, truth, and light. “Soft” is the place we find strength. Here is last year’s Christmas story that tried to help children open to “Soft”.
Ting the Mouse
Once upon a time a long time ago there was a mouse. She lived with her mother and her father in a cozy nest in a hole in the wall of a barn. The barn was beside an inn in a town called Bethlehem.
This mouse’s name was Ting. Maybe you think Ting is a funny name for a mouse. So, let me tell you how Ting got her unusual name.
Ting got her name because when she was born her mother and father heard a tiny sound that seemed to come out of nowhere. It was like a little silver bell ringing. When Ting’s parents talked about it, they said it sounded like a little “ting.” And so, they began to call their new baby “Ting.”
Some of the mice said a bell calling for a servant must have rung in the inn near where Ting lived with her parents. But Ting’s grandmother said that the sound they heard at the time of Ting’s birth was a sound that happens whenever anyone was born. She said, in the old days, everyone heard that little “ting” sound when a baby was born. But now most of the time no one really listens anymore and so the “ting” seems to have gone silent.
Ting lived happily in her little nest with her mother and father behind the wall in the barn.
The entrance to their nest was by the door down on the floor in the wall of the barn.
During the day Ting and her family stayed inside their nest; but at night, Ting and her mother and father would sneak out into the open to find bits of grain the animals had missed during the day.
When Ting was six years old, it was an unusually cold winter. Ting and her Mummy and Daddy stayed in their snug nest as much as they could cuddled together to keep warm. But, sometimes they had to venture out into the cold barn to find food.
Throughout this freezing winter Ting and her parents would take turns going to hunt for food. Two of them would stay behind in the nest to keep their little home as warm as possible while the third member of the family went in search of food.
One night, it was Ting’s turn to go hunting for the family meal. She crept quietly out of the nest and made her way across the floor of the barn. The water trough for the cows was covered with a thin film of ice. Little Ting’s paws made a faint crunch as she walked over the frozen straw.
Suddenly Ting heard a sound that made her stop. It was the familiar sound of the door to the barn swinging open. Ting saw at once that there was not time to get back to her nest, before the door would be open all the way.
No one ever came into the barn so late at night. Ting scurried into a corner so she would not be seen. She watched to see who could be out on this dark winter night.
Ting saw a man leading a donkey on which a woman was sitting. The woman looked tired as the man helped her down to the ground. When the woman was standing beside the donkey Ting noticed she had a huge tummy. Ting had never seen a woman who was expecting a baby so she did not understand what this meant. Slowly the man helped the woman lie down in the straw on the floor; then he went back and closed the barn door.
The man and the woman were blocking the way to Ting’s nest. She was trapped in the corner behind them.
Ting sat watching hoping the man and woman would soon go to sleep so she could scurry back to her mother and father, even though she did not have any food to bring. But the man and the woman did not go to sleep. Instead the woman became terribly restless. Ting forgot about being afraid and began to feel worried for the woman who seemed to be in pain.
Then suddenly, everything was quiet and still. And in the silence what do you think Ting heard? Far off in the distance, she heard a tiny sound. It was like a little silver bell ringing. It rang louder and louder. Ting recognized the sound. It sounded like her name.
As she listened Ting heard more and more little bells ringing. “Ting, ting,ting”, they went until a whole choir seemed to be ringing in the little barn, like a heavenly chorus.
Ting could not stay in her corner any longer. She had to move closer to this woman and the man who was kneeling beside her. When Ting got closer, she saw that the woman was holding a tiny bundle in her arms. Ting couldn’t quite see what it was. She moved closer then stopped. The woman looked down and saw Ting sitting perfectly still in the straw. The woman said in a gentle voice, “Hello little one. What brings you out of your cozy nest on this cold winter night?”
Then the woman leaned forward and held out towards Ting the bundle she was holding. The woman pulled back the blanket and what do you think Ting saw? She saw the crinkled face of a newborn baby. He had dark hair and damp olive skin.
Then Ting remembered the story of how she got her name. She remembered that her mother and father had heard a little silver bell ring when she was born. And Ting thought this baby must be a special baby, because there was not just one bell ringing but a whole choir of bells lighting up the night with their beautiful chorus at his birth.
Ting felt warm inside, in spite of the cold weather. Then the woman reached down and held out a plump head of grain towards Ting who took it in her mouth and turned to take it to her mother and father in their nest.
From that day on, Ting always listened for the sound of the silver bells. And the more she listened, the more often she heard their music ringing. And when Ting heard the bells she never felt afraid. She always knew that the love of a baby was with her and that she had a strong peaceful presence in her heart.