A young girl is confused about the ways Christmas is celebrated by everyone, including her friends, schoolmates and parents. Her daring quest to find real meaning in the season of giving and sharing may challenge you to take a deeper look at Christmas for yourself. An original Christmas story written by L.L.Hamilton, Jr, for the reading and listening pleasure of children of all ages. Recommended for all ages and for sharing!
Was there a secret to be learned?
She really wanted to understand what the time of year called ‘Christmas’ was supposed to be about. Everyone, even her mom and dad and her friends at school, believed it was a special time of the year. But different people liked Christmas for different reasons and it was confusing her more than ever before.
Television and radio were full of things about the season; some of them happy, carefree and loaded with Santa Claus, and some of them full of wonder about the birth of a baby in a place called Bethlehem. When she thought hard about it, the two just didn’t seem to work together.
Stories about Santa never mentioned a baby named Jesus, and stories about the birth of a Christ child never included flying reindeer and presents for good little girls and boys.
But, it seemed to her that most people just put the two different symbols of Christmas together as if it were quite natural and they all enjoyed themselves. She wondered if there was some mystery about it all that no one had ever told her. She wondered again, was there a secret to be learned?
Not yet to the point where her age would have two digits instead of just one, Mary was beginning to realize that the world was a lot more complicated than it had ever seemed before. She found herself doubting whether she would ever understand what it all meant. Christmas was something that had always thrilled her, with thoughts of parties and Santa bringing lots of gifts and presents but deep inside she was beginning to feel there had to be more to it.
As the radio often played, “Oh, he’s making a list and checking it twice...” she felt annoyed but wondered if the song could be true.
In that moment, she knew what she would do. Her family had a young donkey that was sometimes used to pull a small cart for carrying things around their modest farm. The quiet, docile creature stayed in the barn at night, near a few bales of hay and the big metal cans where her mother kept scratch feed for their chickens.
It was raining, so she ran quickly out to the barn and gathered a few items she would need for her project. A small box, some loose hay, a couple of cups of scratch feed and some short boards were soon gathered together in the middle of the old building. She put the hay into the box and sprinkled the feed around, then used the boards to make up a bench where she would sit when nighttime came.
Her parents slept on the second floor above her bedroom. When they were asleep she would quietly come back out and try to see what a manger looked like at night. Her baby doll would be the Babe asleep on the hay. She would take the donkey out of his stall and tie him to the barn door. She’d leave the chickens in their pen, though; she didn’t want to make a big fuss trying to get them all back in again.
It was supposed to rain most of the night, and she thought that would help keep everything quiet. She would just sit on the bench made of mismatched boards and try to imagine what it was like on the night that Jesus was born.
She went back into the house and explained to her mom that she had wanted to play in the barn, but it wasn’t much fun with the rain and chilly air. Mom took her wet coat and hung it by the back door to dry. Mary was pleased that everything seemed to be in place.
Hours later, when she felt that her parents were asleep – her dad was snoring and mom wasn’t telling him to stop – she got her coat and slipped out the back door. The rain had stopped for the moment and the air felt warmer, but she still shook a bit when she finally sat on the bench. She was anxious to see Christmas like it was in the story about the Nativity, and her shivers now were more from the anticipation than any discomfort.
The small doors to the loft always stayed open and although the moon was hidden by the thinning clouds, enough light came through to show them moving across its face. She thought of all the animals that had been at the manger when Jesus was born, wandering around and feeding quietly on whatever they found there.
She tried to think of how Jesus’ parents had looked and what they might have felt. She pretended there were simple shepherds coming across the barnyard, headed straight for the big doors where she had tied the donkey. She imagined there was a bright star way up in the sky, shining down on the scene below. An hour soon passed.
She sat on the hard dirt floor in front of her bench, and rested her head on it while her half-dreams continued. The rain had gently started again but the air was still warmer that it had been that afternoon, and she felt peaceful and happy.
A funny chattering noise startled her awake. Several raccoons were walking quickly around, eating the scratch feed and she was afraid if she moved it would scare them away. A possum was there too, eating grain that had been accidentally dropped in the corner near the feed cans.
The donkey was still standing where it had been tied, sleeping. A sense of wonder crept into her heart as she gazed across the doll baby Jesus in its makeshift cradle. There was a feeling of something wonderful happening.
Just then, the clouds parted a litle more and the moon shone full and bright. Two pigeons were sitting together (like angels, it seemed) on the open barn door but she hadn’t seen them before. One of the birds cooed softly as she slowly got to her feet, and the raccoons didn’t even seem to notice her.
She almost laughed out loud at the sight of the raccoon babies playing as they ate, chittering and chattering along the sides of the dusty barn. They rolled and tumbled like little masked acrobats.
Mary twisted around to see what else was there and found a big moonbeam shining right in her eyes. Coming through the open loft doors, it was shining mostly in the middle of the barn floor. She was awe struck to realize the box cradle was right in the center of the light.
The pretend Babe was lighted by the soft, cool moon's glow, and yellow straw that straggled over the box sides almost looked like rays of luminescent gold. It was all so beautiful she gasped in wonder!
Every year after that night, she would tell her story of the first Christmas and what a marvelous thing it was. She talked about the gentle animals and people who were there at the Savior’s birth. She explained about so many beautiful angels singing of glory, and especially the soft but brilliant light that shone on the scene from above. It all helped everyone who heard her to understand this was God’s greatest gift of love to all mankind.
“And there really is nothing else like it,” she would tell anyone of any age, who wanted to know the truth about Christmas.
Mary's Christmas / © L.L. Hamilton, Jr.
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