It's almost Christmas.

So often, the real reason for Christmas is overlooked as we go about our myriad chores getting ready for it. I think you all know by now that I like to use plants, pets, family situations - anything we encounter to highlight the importance of faith when I write this.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, a miracle of birth.

This time of year brought a miracle of birth in my family shortly after Christmas, and that January event was a miracle of survival, one which I will never forget, and one that illustrates the importance of faith.

It was 10 p.m. on a night in January 1988. I had a little more than an hour left of my shift at Rochester Psychiatric Center when the phone rang.

My daughterhad gone into labor and was hemorrhaging uncontrollably. An emergency C-section was under way.

She was only 7 months pregnant.

A phone call to the nurse who was to relieve me brought her in early so I could leave - Strong Memorial Hospital was just down the street.

They were still working on her when I arrived, but I was allowed to scrub in the NICU and see the baby. And it was a sight that broke my heart. As a nurse, seeing that tiny chest retract with each attempt to breathe told me that his chance of survival was almost nil. And they didn't let you stick around in those days.

I drove the 40 miles home with a heavy heart and blinding tears. I knew that hard as it was for me, for my daughter it was the worst thing possible. I prayed while I drove, and I asked God to take whatever strength he needed to survive from me and give it to him.

My phone rang again at 5 a.m. - three words - "Mom, he's dying."

"I'm on my way"... and I flew back to the hospital so fast I'm surprised I didn't become airborne.

She was calmer when I got there, but questioning her actions in signing papers for an experimental treatment that the resident had told her would give him a 50/50 chance.

Like the Kennedy baby who did not survive, his lungs were immature and had no surfactant.

But we were at Strong - a big teaching hospital in a big city with "all the bells and whistles," people and special permissions to do experimental things. Over the next five days, via the ventilator, purified surfactant from calves' lungs was sprayed into his lungs. And he survived! He lost awhole pound, but we took him home just a week later.

If he had been born in almost any other hospital, he would not have made it. At that time, there were only three hospitals in the whole country able to do this.

And my prayers that night? I really have to consider them, because this young man is very like me in many ways - I have to believe that God really did answer those prayers.

As we celebrate the holidays this coming week, these are the services planned:

andbull; St. Joseph's Catholic Church Christmas Eve services: 5 p.m. Children's Mass;8 p.m. "Midnight Mass" in Spanish; 11 p.m. Christmas carols; and at 12 o'clock, traditional Midnight Mass in English. Christmas Day, 10 a.m. Mass.

andbull; Grace Lutheran: Christmas Eve candlelight service at 7 p.m.; Christmas Day worship at 11 a.m.; New Year's Eve service with the Lord's Supper.

andbull; Foursquare Church: Today and Sunday at 6 p.m., theSinging Christmas Tree; Saturday service 6 and 7:15 p.m.; Sunday service 10 and 11:15 a.m.; special one-hour Christmas Eve service, 6-7 p.m.

andbull; The Crescent City Church of the Nazarene'sChildren's Christmas party is Sunday at 10 a.m. - kids will be decorating pancakes. Worship service at 11 a.m. Christmas Eve candlelight service at 6 p.m. with Steve and Tina Anderson.

andbull; Temple Beth Shalom will have the last class on the 613 laws of the Halakah, led by Rabbi Les Scharnberg.

andbull; New Life Community Church will hold a Christmas potluck at 5 p.m. Sunday.

To reach Martha Williams, call 460-3000 or e-mail