Each day during December, we’re featuring a chapter from our Christmas short story collection, Christmas Jelly. If you enjoy today’s story, share it with your friends.
New Birth in New Orleans
It’s Christmas in New Orleans, but we’re not here to see the bright city lights.
We’ve brought supplies for Katrina victims. It’s been three months since the hurricane-devastated New Orleans. The pulse of life and recovery is beating slowly. It’s evident our state’s largest city will not be the same.
There’s a second reason our Dry Creek crew has driven to the city—we’ve brought Carly back to the city where she was born.
Carly has spent most of her life in New England. When she opens her mouth, there is no doubt she’s from Boston. She talks funny and thinks I’m the one that sounds odd. In New Orleans, they think we both talk funny. For “Who Dats” to make fun of someone’s speech is definitely “the pot calling the kettle black.”
Carly and her husband Stan are volunteers at Dry Creek Camp. Once she told me her story, I knew we must take her to New Orleans.
“I was born in New Orleans sixty-three years ago. My father, a Marine, was being shipped out to the War. My mother, eight months pregnant, came from Massachusetts to see my dad.
“She did this against everyone’s advice, including her doctor’s. She felt she must see him one last time.
On the day after my father’s ship steamed out of New Orleans, my mom went into labor and I was born.
Mother was a young teenager alone with a newborn and only eight dollars in her pocket. My mom and I spent three months in the care of a hospitable New Orleans family before finally returning north.
“I’ve never been back, but it is a life wish to walk in the city where I was born.”
That’s why we’re here today. Carly doesn’t know the name of the hospital, the family who helped them, or anything else of her three months as a citizen of the Big Easy.
But today, she’s come home.
As we ride the St. Charles streetcar, I think of Carly’s mother must have felt having a baby far from home.
# # #
Another brand new scared mother comes to mind. Her name was Mary. Although she was with her new husband Joseph, they were alone in a strange city. I’m sure Bethlehem in the midst of the census seemed as busy as wartime New Orleans.
Strangers surrounded Mary when she gave birth to her first child. Just like Carly’s mother, she was reliant on the kindness of strangers. The scriptures don’t elaborate, but I’d like to think there were those in Bethlehem who helped in the days and weeks after Jesus’ birth.
I wish there was a way to locate the family who helped Carly’s mom. The original family members are dead, but wouldn’t it be neat to find someone from this family that had taken in the New England girl with the new beautiful baby?
Knowing how most things come full circle, I’d like to think that this generous New Orleans family has been the recipient of returned kindness in the generations since 1942. Knowing how family roots run deep in this city, it’s a safe bet their descendants are in the Crescent City.
I hope and pray this kind family received the same kindness of stranger hospitality in the days and weeks after Katrina. I hope they were taken in and cared for by folks who unknowingly brought the circle of kindness full circle.
# # #
Our day in New Orleans is full, tiring, and unforgettable. We see so much that both saddens and gladdens our hearts. It’s obvious the new New Orleans will be different, but it will be good.
I’m reminded that only the real new birth that can rebuild a “new New Orleans.” It won’t occur through federal mandates, financial stipends, or good-hearted benevolence. Real progress takes place life by life as people are changed from the inside.
…In the heart.
…In the place where all real change begins.
The new birth that comes from a relationship with Jesus.
Let me close this story with a challenge: That each of us will pull back the zoom lens of focus on Christmas and not leave Jesus as the baby in the manger. Please see the big picture: Jesus is much, much, much more than a child who gets attention yearly in the midst of the presents, trees, and festivities.
He is the Creator.
He is the perfect God-man who lived a sinless life.
He went to the Cross, where he willingly without complaint, paid for our sins to redeem you and satisfy His Father.
Just as we shouldn’t leave him in the manger, don’t leave Him on the Cross. Because what makes Him stand above all others is that He is alive. He rose from the grave by the power of God. He is alive today.
You can’t really understand the manger without also seeing the cross and the empty tomb.
The words of the Apostle Paul ring true today as ever before,
“That if you confess with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
If you’ve never done it before, why don’t you give God a great Christmas present this year? Right now announce that Jesus is Lord by inviting Him into your heart to be “Boss and Savior” and telling Him that you believe He rose from the dead and is alive today.
It’s a “decision of new birth” and you don’t have to come to New Orleans to experience.