by Diana Duncan-Fletcher, Carrying Place
My family moved to Port Dalhousie (now in St. Catharines) in 1978.
Our children were all toddlers at the time. We lived in the big old rectory a block away from our church, St. John’s. With three children under the age of three, life was pretty busy. The first year was a blur of activity and getting to know the parishioners.
The following year, as Christmas approached, the children were old enough to introduce the idea of Advent. We had an Advent wreath on our dining room table and each Sunday we lit the candles.
In the church there was a beautiful nativity crèche. It had in it a variety of animals surrounding the Virgin Mary and Joseph. The sheep were on a bed of straw further out, and in the distance were the three Magi.
The manger was, of course, empty waiting for the birth of the Christ Child. Our children all knew this as a very important part of the Christmas story.
There was an active Sunday school at St. John’s, managed by a much-loved superintendent, Mrs. Thompson. She owned and operated a little shop right in the middle of Main Street. Every child knew her well. She loved all children and freely gave out penny candies to them when they came to see her.
In 1979 she took time to talk to all the children about the importance of Christmas. I remember my son telling me how she emphasized the fact that the manger remained empty because we were waiting for Jesus to be born.
There was to be a ceremony and one of the little girls was to put baby Jesus into the manger at the early service on Christmas Eve. Mrs. Thompson had asked the children themselves to decide which child should have this honour. It had apparently been unanimous that a child with some learning disabilities be given this opportunity.
On Christmas Eve disaster struck.
Baby Jesus was nowhere to be found!
Each child in the Sunday school looked everywhere. The usually unflappable Mrs. Thompson was distraught.
Then, at the very last possible moment, a little boy who had been visiting his grandparents for a couple of weeks, arrived. He went to see what all the fuss was about, and then looked at Mrs. Thompson and told her that if she looked in the pocket of her coat she would find the missing baby. Apparently, she had stressed the importance of keeping the Christ Child safe until Christmas Eve.
What safer place than in the pocket of the kindest Sunday school teacher he had ever encountered!
Mrs. Thompson dug deep into her pocket—sure enough the Christ Child was there!
Everyone gave a sigh of relief, and the service began with a sweet little girl placing the baby reverently into his manger.
Thirty-eight years have passed since that incident. Our children are grown up and there are now grandchildren to teach the Christmas Story. Gordon Kinkley, the Rector of St. John’s at that time, has retired, and life has moved on happily for us all.
Mrs. Thompson died a few years ago, but is certainly remembered by many—especially at this time of the year —for that special night.