Oh, no. We have a problem! My troubled eyes spoke what lips could not as I gazed at the smiling child beside me, looking up expectantly.
Adventure! Her sparkling eyes indicated.
Trouble! My throbbing heart registered. Would we be arrested?
Our wedding had been so grand, so beautiful, and so much fun. Reginald (my husband) and I had begun our honeymoon in St. Kitts on December 20, planning to travel to our first home in St. Croix the following day, December 21. Mighty waves crashed on the beach outside our honeymoon cottage, and the salty spray flushed our faces as we walked barefoot on the crusty sand. Miles of coconut trees were our only neighbors, or so it seemed, but we were soon to have company. We were about to spend our honeymoon with a total stranger.
At the airport in St. Kitts on December 21, as we prepared to leave for St. Croix, a young woman approached us with an urgent question:
“Are you going to St. Croix?”
“Yes,” we replied.
She pleaded, “Please take my daughter with you. Her father will meet her at the airport, but the airline won’t let her travel unless she is accompanied by an adult. Please. She will be so excited to spend Christmas with her father.” Dazzled by the stars in our eyes from our just-completed wedding, we were obviously not thinking. We nodded “yes” without even getting her name. What better way to begin our new lives together than by doing a good deed? As our 16-seater neared St. Croix, we peered through the telescopic lens of the airplane’s window, looking for familiar shorelines, beaches, roads, and buildings. We were almost home!
In Bethlehem, with its fields of wild, tall sugarcane, we stopped to pray.
What could possibly go wrong?
Everything. After scanning every face at the airport, we faced the truth: no father eagerly awaited his child’s arrival. In that pre-cell phone era, how could we find him? We had a post office number for him and his name, but no telephone number or address. Had we really just inherited a stranger on our honeymoon? Could we board the return flight to St. Kitts to take her back? To whom? We did not even have the name of her mother. Now face to face with this huge problem, we drove home.
The first meal I prepared for my brand-new husband was a meal for three. Little stranger quickly finished her food and looked around for seconds, unperturbed by our plight. She was already having fun. We were the ones left to figure it out. What should we do? This dilemma did not fit our honeymoon plans. We should be unpacking suitcases, opening wedding gifts, reading greeting cards, but we were doing none of this.
After lunch we piled into our Toyota, little stranger in tow, and began our search for her father in the 82 square miles of St. Croix with its 40,000 residents. It shouldn’t be too difficult, should it? We drove though Upper Love, asking everyone we saw if they recognized the name we showed them. No one did. We tried Mon Bijou. Kept asking. Nothing. Colquhoun? Same response. Hours passed. Night was now approaching. The days are short in December, even in the Caribbean. We were becoming desperate.
Then we remembered to pray.
In Bethlehem, with its fields of wild, tall sugarcane, we stopped to pray, stopped to pray . . . in Bethlehem! I can now reflect on the significance of the location. Ancient Bethlehem was the place where the Christ child was born, the miracle of Christmas. Could we hope for another miracle in this warm, Caribbean Bethlehem? At the side of the bumpy road where we had pulled over, we pleaded with the God of miracles to help us find the child’s father. Then we continued our quest. Within 10 minutes we noticed a small social gathering outside a house in Bethlehem where loud music and the smell of food suggested a party. Interrupting the board games, we queried, “Do you know ———?”
“Of course,” the nearest man responded, still maintaining his place in the game. “You brought the child? Her father has been going to the airport every day to meet her. He couldn’t go today, so he will be delighted that you brought her. He lives in Sion Farm.” The speaker quickly gave directions to the father’s house, about 10 miles away. Was this real? Had we finally located him?
The first stars had already begun to twinkle in the evening sky when we pulled up at the house in Sion Farm. What a reunion as little stranger embraced her family! She could not stop hugging her delighted father, who explained that he had gone to the airport for several days to meet his daughter, but he had missed today. We described our odyssey, including the hours of searching for him and of the answered prayer. “Thank you. Thank you so much,” he kept repeating as he took the child’s suitcase from our car.
We said little on our drive home, still reflecting on the fact that, without divine leading, we could have “inherited” that child or been arrested for “kidnapping.” That night we thanked the God of miracles who had intervened so we could still have a honeymoon and, going forward, a life of ministry.
The “Star of our hope” had indeed appeared on that “silent night.” We could lustily sing, “Joy to the world.” Now you can understand why the carols of Christmas have special significance for me. Each year I am reminded of the first miracle of Christmas, of the Child born in a lowly manger in Bethlehem, born to save the world. But I also think of that other miracle for another young couple (with a child) on a little Caribbean island in another Bethlehem, at another time.
May the “angels we have heard on high” sing, “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” as you too experience whatever miracle you need this Christmas.
Annette Walwyn Michael, retired English teacher, is a member of the Central Seventh-day Adventist Church in St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands.