Long ago in the country of Judea there was a town called Bethlehem. Many people had traveled to Bethlehem to pay their taxes. All the inns were full of travelers and there was not one room left to rent for the night.
Mary and Joseph had also traveled to Bethlehem. It had been a very long journey from their home town of Nazareth and they were both so tired.
“Look, Mary, the stars are extra bright tonight. There's one star so big and bright that it seems like you could reach up and touch it!” Joseph said as he and his wife Mary watched the night sky from a hillside just outside of Bethlehem.
“Oh, Joseph, the stars, the night, are so beautiful. I think it may be the night the baby will be born. Please hurry and find us a place to stay. I need to lie down. I believe the baby will be born before morning.”
”Don't worry Mary, I'll take care of you,” Joseph said as he tenderly squeezed her hand.
They traveled down the hillside into town. Even the little donkey Mary was riding was tired. He brayed and wanted to stop to rest but Joseph coaxed him on.
There was no one who could give them a room. The town was filled with travelers and it was late. Joseph stopped at every inn and they were all full. The last inn he stopped at a woman came to the door. She looked as if she had been sleeping and Joseph's knock had wakened her.
“Please, can you give us a room? Anything will do, just a place to shelter for the night. My wife is going to have a baby and she has to have a place to rest.”
The woman looked out the doorway and saw Mary who was so weary that she was slumped over on the little donkey's back. The woman was also a mother and took pity on Mary and Joseph.
“All my rooms are taken,” she said, “but there is a stable in a cave out back. It's not the best place but there is fresh drawn water and clean hay for your donkey and for you to rest on. There will be no charge. Please take this lantern and go rest. God be with you and if you need my help later, knock on the door again.”
“May God bless you,” Joseph said as he took the lantern from her hand then walked the donkey carrying Mary into the shallow cave.
“I'm so sorry Mary, this was the best I could do but I'll try to make you comfortable here.”
“This is fine Joseph, a good place to rest. A quiet place to have the baby.”
Joseph gathered clean hay and made a bed for Mary to lie down on. He fed and watered the donkey. In the middle of the cave was a wooden manger, where the livestock ate their hay. He emptied it and then filled it again with fresh hay. It made a perfect cradle. Mary smiled and nodded her approval.
The cow and sheep seemed to understand that the hay was for the child that was coming and none of them tried to eat it. They stood in the shadows, their bodies close enough to bring warmth to the night air. In the corner, on a pile of straw, rested the stable cat. Her coat was smooth and shiny. She was a beautiful, calico cat, decorated with ragged patches of gray and orange. She had lived her whole life in Bethlehem and spent every night there in the stable. Instinctively she knew that a new baby was about to come into the world. She herself was a mother had just raised four kittens of her own, born there in the stable. As her gold eyes watched Mary and waited for the new baby's cry, her kittens played with her ears and jumped on top of her back. She patiently let them play for she was a good mother.
The hours went by and at last a baby boy's cries were heard in the cave. All the animals gathered around to admire him. Mary wrapped him in the blankets she had brought with her from Nazareth and Joseph laid him in the soft hay of the manger. He was a beautiful baby and a white light seemed to surround him.
The stable cat crept quietly from her resting place where her kittens were all fast asleep. She placed her front paws on the edge of the manger and looked down at the baby Jesus who was sleeping there. There was a chill that night and she wanted to do what she could to take care of the Holy Child. She gracefully jumped up into the cradle and curled up against the top of the baby's head. A soft noise came from her throat that had never been there before. It was a gentle purr that lulled him to sleep like a lullaby.
“Mary, the cat's in the cradle!” Joseph exclaimed, “Will she hurt Jesus? Should I get her out?”
“Oh no Joseph, look at her. She's keeping him warm. No don't move her, let her stay. She's a very special cat and I'm grateful for her help,” Mary replied.
That night was a night the stable cat would never forget. The feeling of peace and joy in the stable, the songs of angels and the visit of shepherds who knelt down and worshiped the baby Jesus.
When the time came much later for Mary and Joseph to take the baby and leave, the stable cat was sad to see them go. Mary reached down and picked up the cat. She stroked her soft calico fur and whispered in her ear,
“Thank you Dear Cat, may God bless you for your kindness.”
God did bless the stable cat, she and all her descendents from that day forward all had a wonderful purr in their throats. They could see in the dark, they could land on their feet if they jumped or were dropped and most importantly of all they were blessed with nine lives
(c) 2010 La Belle Rouge