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The Gift of the Magi
From the story by O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it.

When Della finished her cry, she attended to her cheeks with a powder puff. She stood by the window and looked out dully. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling – something just a bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the looking glass. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let if fall into its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Young’s’ in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim’s gold watch that had been his father’s and grandfather’s. The other was Della’s hair.

So now Della’s beautiful hair fell about her, rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. She did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet. On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: “Mme. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds.” One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting.

“Will you buy my hair?” asked Della.

“I buy hair,” said Madame. “Take yer hat off and let’s have a sight of it.”

Down rippled the brown cascade.

“Twenty dollars,” said Madame, lifting the mass with a practiced hand.

“Give it to me quick,” said Della.

Oh, the next two hours were rosy as she ransacked the stores for Jim’s present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum watch-chain, simple in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by ornamentation – as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim’s. Quietness and value – the description applied to both.

Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the eighty-seven cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at in on the sly on account of the old leather strap he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home, she got out her curling irons and went to work. Within forty minutes her head was covered with tine close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a school-boy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

“If Jim doesn’t kill me,” she said to herself, “before he takes a second look at me – But what could I do with a dollar and eighty-seven cents?”

Jim was never late. Della held the watch chain in her hand. She heard his step on the stair and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit of saying little silent prayers about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: “Please, God, make him think I am still pretty.”

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two – and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim’s eyes were fixed on Della, and there was an expression in them that could not read. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her.

“Jim darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold it because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It’ll grow out again – you won’t mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say ‘Merry Christmas!’ Jim and let’s be happy. You don’t know what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve got for you.”

“You’ve cut off your hair?” asked Jim, as if he had not arrived at that fact yet.

“Cut it off and sold it,” said Della. “Don’t you like me just as well anyhow? I’m me without my hair, aren’t I?”

Jim looked about the room curiously.

“You say your hair is gone?”

“You needn’t look for it,” said Della. “It’s sold and gone, I tell you. Be good to me, for it went for you.”

Out of his trance Jim seemed to quickly wake. He enfolded his Della in his arms.

Jim then drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”

White fingers tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! A quick feminine change to tears and wails, necessitating all of Jim’s comforting powers.

For there lay The Combs – the set of combs that Della had wanted for so long. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell with jeweled rims – just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had yearned for them without the least hope of possession. And now they were hers -- but the hair was gone.

She hugged them to her, and at length was able to look up with a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”

And then Della leaped up and cried, “Oh, oh!”

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her own bright spirit.

“Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.”

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

“Dell,” he said, “Let’s put our Christmas present away and keep ’em awhile. They’re too nice to use just now. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now, suppose you put dinner on.”

Eight dollars a week or a million a year – What is the difference?

The Magi, as you know, were wise men – who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi.

Christmas is for Sharing
By Richard Warner


I knew that Homer had wanted canyon boots for as long as I could remember. He was eleven and I ten, and we had spent many nights under the blue quilts at the cabin talking about how great it would be to have some real boots – boots that would climb through thorny bushes, that would ward off rattlesnakes, that would nudge the ribs of the pony; we had planned the kind of leather they should be and what kind of decoration they should be and what kind of decoration they should have. But we both knew it was just talk. The Depression had been hard on Father’s business, and even shoes for school were usually half-soled hand-me-downs.

Christmas that year had promised as always to be exciting, though mainly because of the handmade things we’d worked on in school for our parents. We never had money to spend on each other, but we had caught early in our lives a sort of contagion from our mother. She loved to give, and her anticipation of the joy that a just right gift would bring to someone, infected our whole household. We were swept up in breathless waiting to see how others would like what we had to give. Secrecy ruled – open exaggerated secrecy, as we made and hid our gifts. The only one whose hiding place we never discovered was my Grandmother’s. Her gifts seemed to materialize by magic on Christmas morning and were always more expensive than they should have been.

That Christmas I was glowing because Mother had been so happy with the parchment lampshade I’d made in the fourth grade, and Father had raved over the clay jewelry case I had molded and baked for him. Gill and Emma Lou had been pleased with the figures I’d whittled out of clothespins, and Homer had liked the Scout pin I’d bargained for with my flint. Then Grandma started to pass out her presents.

Mine was heavy and square. I’d been in the hospital that year and then on crutches, and I’d wondered how it would be to have an erector set to build with. Grandma had a knack at reading boy’s minds, and I was sure that’s what it was. But it wasn’t. It was a pair of boots, brown tangy-smelling leather boots.

I looked quickly to Homer’s package. His was a sweater. He’d needed one all fall. I wanted to cover my box before he saw what it was. I didn’t want the boots; they should have been his. He came toward me, asking to see, and I started to say, “I’m sorry, bruv.” But he was grinning, and he shouted, “Hey everybody – look what Richard’s got.” He swooped the boots out of the box, fondled them like treasure, and then sat on the floor at my feet to take off my half-soled shoes and put on the brand new boots.

I don’t remember how the boots felt, nor even how they looked. But Christmas rang in my soul because my brother was glad for me.

A Different Kind of Christmas


Martha had tried to ignore the approach of Christmas. She would have kept it almost entirely out of her thoughts if Jed had not come eagerly into the cabin one day, stomping the snow from his cold feet as he said in an excited voice, “Martha, we’re going to have a Christmas tree this year, anyway. I spotted a cedar on that rise out south of the wheat field, over near the Norton’s place. It’s a scrubby thing, but it will do since we can’t get a pine. Maybe Christmas will be a little different here, but it will still be the kind of Christmas we used to have.”

As she shook her head, Martha noticed that Daniel glanced quickly up from the corner where he was playing, patiently tying together some sticks with bits of string left over from the quilt she had tied a few days earlier. She drew Jed as far away from the boy as possible.

“I don’t want a tree,” she said. “We won’t be celebrating Christmas. Even a tree couldn’t make it the kind of Christmas we used to have.”

“Martha, we’ve got to do something for the boy at least. Children set such store by Christmas.”

“Don’t you think I know? All those years of fixing things for Maybelle and Stellie. I know all about the kids and Christmas.” She stopped and drew a deep breath, glancing over to see that Daniel was occupied and not listening. “But I can’t do those things for him. It would be like a knife in the heart, fixing a tree and baking cookies and making things for another woman’s child when my own girls are back there on that prairie.”

“Martha, Martha,” Jed said softly. “It’s been almost a year and a half. That’s over, and Danny needs you. He needs a Christmas like he remembers.

She turned her back to his pleading face. “I can’t,” she said.

Jed touched her shoulder gently, “I know how hard it is for you, Martha. But think of the boy.” He turned and went back out into the snowy weather.

Think of the boy. Why should she think of him, when her own children, her two blue-eyes, golden-curled daughters, had been left beside the trail back there on that endless, empty prairie? The boy came to her not because she wanted him, but because she couldn’t say “no” to the bishop back in Salt Lake City last April before they came to settle in this valley.

Bishop Clay had brought Daniel to her and Jed one day and said, “I want you to care for this lad. His mother dies on the trek last summer and his pa passed away last week. He needs a good home.”

Jed had gripped the bishop’s hand and with tears in his eyes, thanked him, but Martha had turned away from the sight of the thin, ragged, six-year old boy who stood before them, not fast enough, however, to miss the sudden brief smile he flashed at her. A smile that should have caught her heart and opened it wide. Her heart was closed, though, locked tightly around the memory of her two gentle little girls. She didn't want a noisy, rowdy boy handing around, disturbing those memories, filling the cabin with a boy’s loud games.

Yet she had taken him, because she felt she had no choice. Faced with the bishop’s request – more of an order, really – and Jed’s obvious joy, she couldn’t refuse.

He came with them out to this new valley west of the Salt Lake settlement and had proved himself a great help to Jed, despite his young age. Sometimes Martha felt pity for him, but she didn’t love him. With Jed it was different. He had accepted Daniel immediately as his own son and enjoyed having a boy with him. They had a special relationship.

Daniel mentioned Christmas only once. One day it was too cold and snowy to play outside and he had been humming softly to himself as he played in his corner. Suddenly, he looked up at Martha and asked, “Can you sing, Aunt Martha?”

Martha paused and straightened up from the table where she was kneading bread. She used to sing for her girls all the time. “No, I can’t, Daniel,” she said. “Not any more.”

“My mother used to sing a pretty song at Christmas,” he said. “I wish I could remember it.”

On the day before Christmas, Jed went through the deep snow to do some chores for Brother Norton, who was ill. Daniel was alone outside most of the day, although he made several rather furtive trips in and out of the cabin. On one trip, he took the sticks he had been tying together.

Toward evening, Martha went out to the stable to milk Rosie, since Jed had not yet returned. As she approached, she saw there was light inside. Opening the door softly, she peered within. Daniel had lit the barn lantern, and with its glow, he knelt in the straw by Rosie’s stall. In front of him were the sticks he had tied together, which Martha recognized now as a crude cradle. It held Stellie’s rag doll, all wrapped up in the white shawl Martha kept in her trunk. Her first impulse was to rush in and snatch it, but she stopped because the scene was strangely beautiful in the soft light from the lantern. Rosie and the two sheep stood close by, watching Daniel. He seemed to be addressing them when he spoke.

“The shepherds came following the star,” he was saying. “And they found the baby Jesus who had been born in a stable.” He paused for a moment, then went on. “And his mother loved him.”

Martha felt suddenly that she couldn’t breathe. Another mother another day, had lover her boy, and had told him the beautiful story of the Christ Child with such love that he hadn’t forgot it, young as he was. And she, Martha, had failed that mother.

In the silence she began to sing. “Silent night,” she sang. “Holy night.”

Daniel didn’t move until the song was finished. Then he turned with that quick hear-melting smile.

“That’s the one,” he whispered. “That’s the song that my mother used to sing to me.”

Martha ran forward and gathered the boy into her arms. He responded immediately, clasping his arms tightly around her.

“Danny,” she said, sitting on the edge of Rosie’s manger, “let’s go in and get the cabin ready for Christmas. Maybe it isn’t too late for Jed – for Pa to get that tree. It might be a little different kind of Christmas, but it will still be a little like the Christmases we used to know.”

“Do you mind it being different?” Danny asked. “I mean a boy instead of your girls?”

Martha wondered how long it would take her to make up to him for the hurt she had inflicted these many months. “No,” she said. “After all, the Baby Jesus was a boy.”

“That’s right,” he said wonderingly.

She set him down on the floor and put her arm around his shoulders.

“Merry Christmas,” she said. “Merry Christmas, Danny.”

He looked up at her with a smile that did not fade quickly away this time, a sweet smile full of love had been waiting to give her.

“Merry Christmas,” he said, and then added softly, “Mother.”

The Cobbler and His Guest
A Yuletide Legend, by Anne MuCollum Boyles


There once lived in the city of Marseilles and old shoemaker, loved and honored by his neighbors, who affectionately called him Father Martin. One Christmas Eve as he sat alone in his little shop reading of the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus, and of the gifts they brought. He said to himself, “If tomorrow were the first Christmas, and if this Jesus were to be born in Marseilles this night, I know what I would give him!” He rose from his stool and took from a shelf overhead two tiny shoes of softest snow white leather with bright silver buckles. “I would give him these, my finest work.” Then he paused and reflected. “But I am a foolish old man,” he continued… “The Master has no need of my poor gifts.”

Replacing the shoes, he blew out the candle and retired to rest. Hardly had he closed his eyes it seemed, when he heard a voice call his name…”Martin! Martin!” Intuitively he felt a presence. Then the voice spoke again…”Martin, you have wished to see me. Tomorrow I shall pass by your window. If you see me, and bid me enter, I shall be your guest at your table.”

Father Martin did not sleep that night for joy. And before it was yet dawn he rose and swept and tidied up his little shop. He spread fresh sand upon the floor, and wreathed green boughs of fir along the rafters. On the spotless linen-covered table he placed a loaf of white bread, a jar of honey, and a pitcher of milk.

When all was in readiness, he took up his patient vigil at the window.

Presently he saw an old street-sweeper by, blowing upon his thin, gnarled hands to warm them. “Poor fellow, he must be half frozen,” thought Martin. Opening the door he called out to him, “Come in my friend and warm yourself, and drink something hot.” And the man gratefully accepted the invitation.

An hour passed, and Martin saw a young, miserably clothed woman, carrying a baby. She paused wearily to rest in the shelter of his doorway. The heart of the old cobbler was touched. Quickly he flung open the door. “Come in and warm while you rest,” he said to her. “You do not look well,” he remarked.

“I am going to the hospital. I hope they will take me in, and my baby boy,” she explained. “My husband is at sea, and I am ill, without a soup.”

“Poor child,” cried Father Martin. “You must eat something while you are getting warm. No? Then let me give a cup of milk to the little one. Ah! What a bright, pretty little fellow he is! … Why, you have put no shoes on him!”

“I have no shoes for him,” sighed the mother.

“Then he shall have this lovely pair I finished yesterday.”

And Father Martin took down from the shelf the soft little snow-white shoes he had admired the evening before. He slipped them on the child’s feet…they fit perfectly. And shortly the poor young mother went on her way, two shoes in her hand and tearful with gratitude.

And Father Martin resumed his post at the window. Hour after hour went by, and although many people passed his window, and although many people shared the hospitality of the old cobbler, the expected guest did not appear.

“It was only a dream,” he signed, with a heavy heart. “I did hope and believe, but he has not come.”

Suddenly, so it seemed to his weary eyes, the room was flooded with a strange light. And to the cobbler’s astonished vision, there appeared before him, one by one, the poor street sweeper, the sick mother and her child, and all the people whom he had aided during the day. And each smiled at him and said: “Have you not seen me? Did I not sit at your table?” Then they vanished from his view.

At last, out of the silence, Father Martin heard again the gentle voice repeating the old familiar words: “Whosoever shall receive one such in my name, receiveth me… for I was a stranger, and ye took me in… Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Christmas Day in the Morning
By Pearl S. Buck


He woke suddenly, and completely. It was four o’clock, the hour at which his father had always called him to get up and help with the milking. Strange how the habits of his youth clung to him still! Fifty years ago, and his father had been dead for thirty years, and yet he waked at four o’clock in the morning. He had trained himself to turn over and go to sleep. But this morning it was Christmas; he did not try to sleep.

Why did he feel so awake tonight? He slipped back in time, as he did so easily nowadays. He was fifteen years old and still on his father’s farm. He loved his father. He had not know it until one day a few days before Christmas when he had overheard what his father was saying to his mother.

“Mary, I hate to call Rob in the mornings. He’s growing so fast and he needs his sleep. If you could see how he sleeps when I go in to wake him up! I wish I could manage alone.”

“Well, you can’t Adam.” His mother’s voice was brisk, “Besides, he isn’t a child anymore. It’s time he took his turn.”

“Yes,” his father said slowly. “But I sure to hate to wake him.”

When he heard these words, something in him woke; his father loved him! He had never thought of it before, taking for granted the tie of their blood. Neither his father nor his mother talked about loving their children – they had no time for such things. There was always so much to do on the farm.

Now that he knew his father loved him, there would be no more loitering in the mornings and having to be called again. He got up after that, stumbling blind with sleep, and pulled on his clothes, his eyes tight shut, but he got up.

And then on the night before Christmas, that year when he was fifteen, he lay for a few minutes thinking about the next day. They were poor and most of the excitement was in the turkey they had raised themselves and the mince pies his mother made. His sisters sewed presents and his mother and father always bought something he needed, not only a warm jacket, maybe but something more, such as a book. And he saved and bought them each something, too.

He wished, that Christmas he was fifteen, he had a better present for his father. As usual he had gone to the ten-cent store and bought a tie. It had seemed nice enough until he lay thinking the night before Christmas. He looked out of his attic window, the stars were bright.

“Dad,” he had once asked when he was a little boy, “What is a stable?”

“It’s just a barn,” his father had replied, “like ours.”

“Then Jesus had been born in a barn, and to a barn the shepherds had come…”

The thought stuck him like a silver dagger. Why should he not give his father a special gift too, out there in the barn? He cold get up early, earlier than four, and he could creep into the barn and get all the milking done. He’d do it alone, milk and clean up, and then when his father went to start the milking, he’d see it all done. And he would know who had done it. He laughed to himself as he gazed at the stars. It was what he would do and he mustn’t sleep too sound.

He must have waked twenty times, scratching a match each time to look at his old watch – midnight, and half past one, and then two o’clock.

At a quarter to three he got up and put on his clothes. He crept downstairs, careful of the creaky boards, and let himself out. The cows looked at him, sleepy and surprised. It was too early for them too.

He had never milked all alone before, but it seemed almost easy. He kept thinking about his father’s surprise. His father would come in and get him, saying he would get things started while Rob was getting dressed. He’d go to the barn; open the door, and then he’d go to get the two empty milk cans. But they wouldn’t be waiting or empty; they’d be standing in the milk house, filled.

“What the…,” he could hear his father exclaiming.

He smiled and milked steadily, two strong streams rushing into the pail, frothing and fragrant.

The task went more easily than he had ever known it to go before. Milking for once was not a chore. It was something else, a gift to his father, who loved him. He finished, the two milk cans were full, and he covered them and closed the milk house door carefully. Back in his room he had only a minute to pull off his clothes in the darkness and jump into bed, for he heard his father up. He put the covers over his head to silence his quick breathing. The door opened.

“Rob!” his father called. “We have to get up, son, even if it is Christmas.”

“Aw-right,” he said sleepily.

The door closed and he lay still, laughing to himself. In just a few minutes his father would know. His dancing heart was ready to jump from his body.

The minutes were endless – ten, fifteen, he did not know how many – and he heard his father’s footsteps again. The door opened and he lay still.

“Rob!”

“Yes, Dad –“

His father was laughing, a queer, sobbing sort of laugh.

“Thought you’d fool me, did you?” His father was standing beside his bed, feeling for him, pulling away the cover.

“It’s for Christmas, Dad!”

He found his father and clutched him in a great hug. He felt his father’s arms go around him. It was dark and they could not see each other’s faces.

“Rob, I thank you. Nobody ever did a nicer thing!”

“Oh, dad, I want you to know, I do want to be good!” The words broke from him of their own will. He did not know what to say. His heart was bursting with love.

He got up and pulled on his clothes again and they went down to the Christmas tree. Oh, what a Christmas, and how his heart had nearly burst again with shyness and pride as his father told his mother and made the three younger children listen about how, he Rob, had got up all by himself.

“The best Christmas gift I ever had, and I’ll remember it, son, every year on Christmas morning, so long as I live.”

They had both remembered it, and now that his father was dead, he remembered it alone; that blessed Christmas dawn when, alone with the cows in the barn, he had made his first gift of true love.

The Sixth Word
Especially for Mormons, Vol. 2


Just a week before Christmas, “I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I had just finished the household chores and was preparing to go to bed, when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door of the front room, and to my surprise, Santa Claus himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree. He placed his fingers over his mouth so I would not cry out.”

“What are you doing…?” I started to ask, but the words choked up in my throat as I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone – gone was the eager, boisterous soul we all know.

He then answered me with a simple statement of “Teach the children.” I was puzzled. What did he mean? He anticipated my question and with one quick movement brought forth a miniature toy bag from behind the tree. As I stood there bewildered, Santa said again, “Teach the children, teach them the old meaning of Christmas – the meanings that Christmas nowadays has forgotten.”

I started to say, “How can I…” when Santa reached into the toy bag and pulled out a brilliant shiny star.

“Teach the children that the star was the heavenly sign of promise long ages ago. God promised a Savior for the world and the star was a sign of the fulfillment of that promise. The countless shining stars at night – one for each man – now show the burning hope of all mankind.” Santa gently laid the star upon the fireplace mantle and drew forth from the bag a glittering red Christmas tree ornament.

“Teach the children red is the first color of Christmas. It was first used by the faithful people to remind them of the blood which was shed for all the people by the Savior. Christ gave His life and shed His blood that every man might have God’s gift of Eternal Life. Red is deep, intense, vivid – it is the greatest color of all. It is the symbol of the gift of God.”

“Teach the children,” he said as he dislodged a small Christmas tree from the depths of the toy bag. He placed it before the mantle and gently hung the red ornament on it. The deep green of the fir tree was a perfect background for the ornament. Here was the second color of Christmas.

“The pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round,” he said. “This depicts the everlasting hope of mankind. Green is the youthful, hopeful, abundant color of nature. All the needles point heavenward – symbols of Man’s returning thoughts toward heaven. The great green tree has been man’s best friend. It has sheltered him, warmed him, made beauty for him.” Suddenly, I heard a soft tinkling sound.

“Teach the children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it should ring for man to return to the fold -- it means guidance and return. It further signifies that all are precious in the eyes of the Lord. As the soft sound of the bell faded into the night, Santa drew forth a candle. He placed it on the mantle and the soft glow from its tiny flame cast a glow about the darkened room. Odd shapes in shadows slowly danced and weaved upon the walls.”

“Teach the children,” whispered Santa, “that the candle shows man’s thanks for the star of long ago. Its small light is the mirror of starlight. At first, candles were placed on the trees – they were like many glowing stars shining against the dark green. The colored lights have now taken over in remembrance.”

Santa turned the small Christmas tree lights on and picked up a gift from under the tree. He pointed to the large bow and said, “A bow is placed on a present to remind us of the spirit of the brotherhood of man. We should remember that the bow is tied as men should be tied, all of us together, with the bonds of good will toward each other. Good will forever is the message of the bow.”

Santa slung his bag over his shoulder and began to reach for the candy cane placed high on the tree. He unfastened it and reached out toward me with it.

“Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherd’s crook. The crook on the staff helps bring back the stray sheep to the flock. The candy cane represents the helping hand we should show at Christmas time. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brothers’ keepers.”

As Santa looked about the room, a feeling of satisfaction shone in his face. He read wonderment in my eyes, and I am sure he sensed admiration for this night.

He reached into his bag and brought forth a large holly wreath. He placed it on the door and said, “Please teach the children that the wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of love; it never ceases, stops or ends. It is the one continuous round of affection. The wreath does double duty. It is made of many things and in many colors. It should remind us of all the things of Christmas. Please teach the children.”

The Great Walled Country
By Raymond MacDonald Alden


Away at the North End of the World, farther than men have ever gone with their ships or their sleds is a land filled with children. It’s filled with children because nobody who lives there ever grows up. The king and queen, the princes and the courtiers, may be as old as you please, but they are children for all that. They play a great deal of the time with dolls and tin soldiers, and every night at seven o’clock have a bowl of bread and milk and go to bed.

There are all sorts of curious things about the way they live in the Great Walled Country, but this story is only of their Christmas season. One can imagine what a fine thing their Christmas must be so near the North Pole, with ice and snow everywhere; but this is not all. Grandfather Christmas lives just on the north side of the country, so that his house leans against the Great Wall and would tip over if it were not for its support. Grandfather Christmas is his name in the Great Walled Country; no doubt we would call him Santa Claus here. At any rate, he is the same person, and best of all the children in the world, he loves the children behind the great wall of ice.

One very pleasant thing about having Grandfather Christmas for a neighbor is that in the Great Walled Country they never have to buy their Christmas presents. Every year on the day before Christmas, before he makes up his bundles for the rest of the world, Grandfather Christmas goes into a great forest of Christmas trees that grows just back of the homes and fills the trees with candy and books and toys and all sorts of good things. So when night comes, all the children wrap up snugly, and they go into the forest to gather gifts for their friends. Each one goes by himself, so that none of this friends can see what he has gathered, and no one ever thinks of such a thing as taking a present for himself. The forest is so big that there is room for all the people and no one sees the secrets and presents, and there are always enough nice things to go around.

But there was once a time, so many years ago that they would have forgotten about it if the story were not written in the Big book and read to them every year, when the children in the Great Walled Country had a very strange Christmas. There came a visitor to the land. He was an old man, and was the first stranger, for very many years, who had succeeded in getting over the wall.

When this old man inquired about their Christmas celebration, and was told how they carried it out every year, he said to the king, “That is very well, but I should think that children who have Grandfather Christmas for a neighbor could find a better and easier way. You tell me you all go out on Christmas Eve to gather presents to give to one another the next morning. Why take so much trouble, and act in such a roundabout way? Why not go out together, and everyone get his own present? That would save the trouble of dividing them again, and everyone could pick out just what he wanted for himself!”

They decided it was a very practical idea and so the proclamation was made, and the plan seemed as wise to the children of the country as it had to the king and his counselors. Everyone at some time had been a little disappointed with his Christmas gifts, and now there would be no danger of that.

On Christmas Eve they always had a meeting at the palace, and sang carols until the time for going to the forest. When the clock struck ten, everyone said, “I wish you a Merry Christmas!” to the person nearest him, and then they separated to go on their way to the forest. On this particular night is seemed to the king that the music was not quite so merry as usual, and that when the children spoke to one another their eyes did not shine as gladly as he had notice them in other years; but there could be no reason for this, since everyone was expecting a better time than usual. So he thought no more of it.

There was only one other person at the palace that night who was not pleased with the new proclamation about the Christmas gifts. This was a little boy named Inge, who lived not far from the palace with his sister. Now this sister was a cripple, and had to sit all day looking out of the window from her chair; and Inge took care of her, and tried to make her life happy from morning to night. He had always gone to the forest on Christmas Eve and returned with his arms and pockets full of pretty things for his sister, which would keep her amused all the coming year. And although she was not able to go after presents for her brother, he did not mind at all, especially as he had other friends who never forgot to divide their good things with him.

But now, said Inge to himself, what would his sister do? For the king had ordered that no one should gather presents except for himself, or any more than he could carry away at once. All of Inge’s friends were busy planning what they would pick for themselves, but the poor crippled child could not go a step toward the forest. After thinking about it for a long time, Inge decided that it would not be wrong, if, instead of taking gifts for himself, he took them altogether for his sister. This he would be very glad to do; for what did a boy who could run about and play in the snow, care for presents, compared with a little girl who could only sit still and watch others having a good time? Inge did not ask the advice of anyone, for he was a little afraid others would tell him not to do it, but he silently made up his mind not to obey the proclamation.

And now the chimes had struck ten, and the children were making their way toward the forest, in starlight that was so bright that is almost showed their shadows on the sparkling snow. As soon as they came to the edge of the forest, they separated, each one going by himself in the old way, though now there was really no reason why they should have secrets from one another.

Ten minutes later, if you had been in the forest, you might have seen the children standing in dismay with tears on their faces, and exclaiming that they had never seen such a Christmas Eve before. For as they looked eagerly about them in the low-bending branches of the evergreen trees, they saw nothing hanging from them that they had seen other Christmas Eves. No presents. No one could guess whether Grandfather Christmas had forgotten them, or whether some dreadful accident had kept him away.

As the children were trooping out of the forest after hours of weary searching, some of them came upon little Inge, who carried over his shoulder a bag that seemed to be full to overflowing. When he saw them looking at him he cried; “Are they not beautiful things? I think Grandfather Christmas was never so good to us before.”

“Why, what do you mean?” cried the children. “There are no presents in the forest!”

“No presents!” Inge said. “I have a bag full of them.” But he did not offer to show them, because he did not want the children to see that they were really all for his sister, instead of him.

Then the children begged him to tell them in what part of the forest he had found his presents, and he turned back and pointed them to the place where he had been.

“I left many more behind than I brought away,” he said. “There they are! I can see some of the things shining on the trees even from here.”

But when the children followed his footsteps in the snow to the place where he had been, they still saw nothing on the trees, and thought that Inge must be walking in his sleep, and dreaming that he had found presents. Perhaps he had filled his bag with the cones from the evergreen trees.

On Christmas Day there was sadness through the Great Walled Country. But those who came to the house of Inge and his sister saw plenty of books and dolls and beautiful toys piled up about the little cripples chair, and when they asked where those things came from and were told, “Why, from the Christmas Tree forest.” And they shook their head, not knowing what it meant.

The king held a council and appointed a committee to go on a very hard journey to visit Grandfather Christmas and see if they could find out what was the matter.

They had to go down Father Christmas’ chimney and when they reached the bottom of it they found themselves in the very room where Grandfather Christmas lay sound asleep. It was very difficult to wake him, but when they finally did, the prince, who was in charge of the committee said, “Oh, sir! We have come from the king of the Great Walled Country, who has sent us to ask why you forgot us this Christmas, and left no presents in the forest?”

“No presents?” said Grandfather Christmas. “I never forgot anything. The presents were there. You did not see them, that’s all.”

The children told him they had searched long and hard and found nothing. “Indeed!” said Grandfather Christmas.

“And did little Inge, the boy with the crippled sister find none?” The committee had heard about that and didn’t know what to say.

“The presents were there, but they were not intended for children who were looking only for themselves. I am not surprised that you could not see them. Remember, that not everything that wise travelers tell you is wise.”

The Proclamation was made next year that everyone was to seek gifts for others!


A Brother Like That
Especially for Mormons, Vol. 2


A friend of mine named Paul received a new car from his brother as a pre-Christmas present. On Christmas Eve, when Paul came out of his office, a street urchin was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it.

“Is this your car, mister?” he asked.

Paul nodded. “My brother gave it to me for Christmas.”

The boy looked astounded. “You mean your brother gave it to you, and it didn’t cost you anything? Gosh, I wish…”

He hesitated, and Paul knew what he was going to wish. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the lad said jarred Paul all the way down to his heels.

“I wish,” the boy went on, “that I could be a brother like that.”

Paul looked at the boy in astonishment, then impulsively added, “Would you like a ride in my new car?”

“Oh, yes, I’d love that!”

After a short ride the urchin turned, and with his eyes aglow said, “Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?”

Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the lad wanted. He wanted to show his neighbors that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Paul was wrong again.

“Will you stop right where those steps are?” the boy asked. He ran up the steps. Then in a little while, Paul heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little polio-crippled brother. He sat down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed up right against him and pointed to the car.

“There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas, and it didn’t cost him a cent, and someday I’m gonna give you one just like it; then you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I’ve been trying to tell you about.”

Paul got out and lifted the little lad into the front seat of his car. The shining-eyed older brother climbed in beside him and the three of them began a memorable holiday ride.

That Christmas Eve, Paul learned what Jesus meant when He said, “It is more blessed to give...”

Why the Chimes Rang
By Raymond MacDonald Alden


There was once, in a far-away country where few people have ever traveled, a wonderful church. It stood on a high hill in the midst of a great city; and every Sunday, as well as on sacred days like Christmas, thousands of people climbed the hill to its great archways, looking like lines of ants all moving in the same direction.

When you came to the building itself, you found stone columns and dark passages, and a grand entrance leading to the main room of the church. This room was so long that one standing at the doorway could scarcely see to the other end, where the choir stood by the marble altar. In the farthest corner was the organ; and this organ was so loud, that sometimes when it played, the people for miles around would close their shutters and prepare for a great thunderstorm. Altogether, no such church as this was ever seen before, especially when it was lighted up for some festival, and crowded with people, young and old. But the strangest thing about the whole building was the wonderful chime of bells.

At one corner of the church was a great gray tower, with ivy growing over it as far up as one could see. I say as far as one could see, because the tower was quite great enough to fit the great church, and it rose so far into the sky that it was only in very fair weather that any one claimed to be able to see the top. Even then one could not be certain that it was in sight. Up, and up, and up climbed the stones and the ivy; and, as the men who built the church had been dead for hundreds of years, every one had forgotten how high the tower was supposed to be.

Now all the people knew that at the top of the tower was a chime of Christmas bells. They had hung there ever since the church had been build, and were the most beautiful bells in the world. Some thought it was because a great musician had cast them and arranged them in their place; others said it was because of the great height, which reached up where the air was clearest and purest; however that might be, no one who had ever heard the chimes denied that they were the sweetest in the world. Some described them as sounding like angels far up in the sky; others, as sounding like strange winds singing through the trees.

But the fact was that no one had heard them for years and years. There was an old man living not far from the church, who said that his mother had spoken of hearing them when she was a little girl, and he was the only one who was sure of as much as that. They were Christmas chimes, you see, and were not meant to be played by men or on common days. It was the custom on Christmas Eve for all the people to bring to the church their offerings to the Christ child; and when the greatest and best offering was laid on the altar, there used to come sounding through the music of the choir the Christmas chimes far up in the tower. Some said that the wind rang them, and others that they were so high that the angels could set them swinging. But for many long years they had never been heard. It was said that people had been growing less careful of their gifts for the Christ child, and that no offering was brought, great enough to deserve the music of the chimes.

Every Christmas Eve the rich people still crowded to the altar, each one trying to bring some better gift than any other, without giving anything that he wanted for himself, and the church was crowded with those who thought that perhaps the wonderful bells might be heard again. But although the service was splendid, and the offerings plenty, only the roar of the wind could be heard, far up in the stone tower.

Now, a number of miles from the city, in a little country village, where nothing could be seen of the great church but glimpses of the tower when the weather was fine, lived a boy name Pedro, and his little brother. They knew very little about the Christmas chimes, but they had heard of the service in the church on Christmas Eve, and had a secret plan, which they had often talked over when by themselves, to go to see the beautiful celebration.

“Nobody can guess, Little Brother,” Pedro would say, “all the fine things there are to see and hear; and I have even heard it said that the Christ child sometimes comes down to bless the service. What if we could see Him?”

The day before Christmas was bitterly cold, with a few lonely snowflakes flying in the air, and a hard white crust on the ground. Sure enough, Pedro and Little Brother were able to slip quietly away early in the afternoon; and although the walking was hard in the frosty air, before nightfall they had trudged so far, hand in hand, that they saw the lights of the big city just ahead of them. Indeed, they were about the enter one to the great gates in the wall that surrounded it, when they saw something dark on the snow near their path, and stepped aside to look at it.

It was a poor woman, who had fallen just outside the city, too sick and tired to get in where she might have found shelter. The soft snow made of a drift a sort of pillow for her, and she would soon be sound asleep, in the wintry air, that no one could ever waken her again. All this Pedro saw in a moment, and he knelt down beside her and tried to rouse her, even tugging at her arm a little, as thought he would have tried to carry her away. He turned her face toward him, so that he could rum some of the snow on it, an when he had looked at her silently a moment he stood up again and said:

“It’s no use, Little Brother. You will have to go on alone.”

“Alone?” cried Little Brother. “And you not see the Christmas festival?”

“No,” said Pedro, and he could not keep back a bit of a choking sound in his throat. “See this poor woman. Her face looks like the Madonna in the chapel window, and she will freeze to death if nobody cares for her. Every one has gone to the church now, but when you come back you can bring some one to help her. I will rub her to keep her from freezing, and perhaps get her to eat the bun that is left in my pocket.”

“But I can not bear to leave you, and go on alone,” said Little Brother.

“Both of us need not miss the service,” said Pedro, “and it had better be I than you. You can easily find your way to the church; and you must see and hear everything twice, Little Brother – once for you and once for me. I am sure the Christ child must know how I should love to come with you and worship Him; and oh! If you get a chance, Little Brother, to slip up to the altar without getting in any one’s way, take this little silver piece of mine, and lay it down for my offering, when no one is looking. Do not forget where you have left me, and forgive me for not going with you.”

In this way he hurried Little Brother off to the city, and winked hard to keep back the tears, as he heard the crunching footsteps sounding farther and farther away in the twilight. It was pretty hard to lose the music and splendor of the Christmas celebration that he had been planning for so long, and spend the time instead in that lonely place in the snow.

The great church was a wonderful place that night. Every one said that it had never looked so bright and beautiful before. When the organ played and the thousands of people sang, the walls shook with the sound, and little Pedro, away outside the city wall, felt the earth tremble around him.

At the close of the service came the procession with the offerings to be laid on the altar. Rich men and great men marched proudly up to lay down their gifts to the Christ child. Some brought wonderful jewels, some baskets of gold so heavy that they could scarcely carry them down the aisle. A great writer laid down a book that he had been making for years and years. And last of all walked the king of the country, hoping with all the rest to win for himself the chime of the Christmas bells. There went a great murmur through the church, as the people saw the king take from his head the royal crown, all set with precious stones, and lay it gleaming on the alter, as his offering tot the Holy Child. “Surely,” everyone said, “we shall never hear the bells now, for nothing like this has ever happened before.”

But still only the cold old wind was heard in the tower, and the people shook their heads; and some of them said, as they had before, that they never really believed the story of the chimes, and doubted if they ever rang at all.

The procession was over, and the choir began the closing hymn. Suddenly the organist stopped playing as though he had been shot, and every one looked at the old minister, who was standing by the altar, holding up his hand for silence. Not a sound could be heard from any one in the church, but as all the people strained their ears to listen, there came softly, but distinctly, swinging through the air, the sound of the chimes in the tower. So far away, and yet so clear the music seemed – so much sweeter were the notes than anything that had been heard before, rising and falling away up there in the sky, that the people in the church sat for a moment as still as though something held each of them by the shoulders. Then they all stood up together and stared straight at the altar, to see what great gift had awakened the long-silent bells.

But all that the nearest of them saw was the childish figure of Little Brother, who had crept softly down the aisle when no one was looking, and had laid Pedro’s little piece of silver on the altar.


Keeping Baby Warm
By Lynda H. Laughlin


It was an inexpensive dime-store Nativity set, and he was only three years old. His back was toward me, but I could see that his chubby little hands were busily working on something at the old table.

“What are you ding?” I asked him impatiently, annoyed at him for touching the decorations after he had been told not to.

As I started toward the scene of his latest mischief, he turned toward me with wide blue eyes filling and a single tear starting down his cherubic cheek. Then I saw it, a carefully folded tissue had been tenderly placed over the small ceramic infant.

“Baby Jesus was cold, Mommy,” he whispered.

Ten years have passed, and the tiny Nativity has been replaced by a much large one. But this year, as every year, I found a carefully folded tissue covering the baby Jesus. I think I know who did it, and I hope he never stops.


A Christmas Prayer
By Robert Louis Stevenson


Loving Father, help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.

Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.

Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Ancient America Views the First Christmas
From the Book of Mormon


I looked and beheld the…city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. And (the) angel…said unto me: Behold the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

And…I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time…I…beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea even the Son of the Eternal Father! (Nephi, about 600 B.C., 1 Nephi 11:13-21)

And the…angel…said unto me…Behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in the tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles…

And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.

And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name. (King Benjamin, about 124 B.C., Mosiah 3:3-9)

For behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people…And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God. (Alma, about 83 B.C., Alma 7:7, 10)

And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.

Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and…ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.

And behold, there shall a new star arise, such as one as ye never have beheld… (Samuel the Lamanite, about 6 B.C., Helaman 14:3-5)

And it came to pass that in the commencement of the ninety and second year, behold, the prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.

And they began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past, and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been in vain.

And it came to pass that they did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass.

But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been in vain.

Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.

Now it came to pass that he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the tradition of their fathers.

And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord, all the day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying: Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfill all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will both of the Father and of the Son – of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.

And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came.

And there were many, who had not believed the words of the prophets, who fell to the earth and became as if they were dead, for they knew that the great plan of destruction which they had laid for those who believed in the words of the prophets had been frustrated; for the signal which had been given was already at hand.

And they began to know that the Son of God must shortly appear; yea, in fine, all the people upon the face of the whole earth from the west to the east, both in the land north and in the land south, were so exceedingly astonished that they fell to the earth.

For they knew that the prophets had testified of these things for many years, and that the sign which had been given was already at hand; and they began to fear because of their iniquity and their unbelief.

And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was midday. And is came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given.

And it had come to pass, yea, all things, every whit, according to the words of the prophets.

And it came to pass also that a new star did appear, according to the word. (Nephi, at the time of Christ’s birth, 3 Nephi 1:4-21)


Someone Missing at the Manger
By Elizabeth Starr Hill


It was two days before Christmas, and Marcie was troubled. She sat on the floor in the glowing fan of warmth from the fire, a dozen books stacked by her, and flipped through one until she came to a manger scene. In the picture, shepherds had come to visit the Baby Jesus. The Kings were off in the distance, but plainly on the way. Even a cow and a donkey stood nearby in the stable.

It was just as she had thought. Marcie shut the book with a snap and picked up another. The manger scene in this one was a bit different. The Kings were kneeling in front of the crib. A boy goat herder stood behind them. A couple of cherubs hovered over the shepherds. But, except for some animals, there was no one else.

Marcie looked through every Christmas book she owned. She found tall and short shepherds, fat and thin Kings, black sheep and white lambs. She found boys with crutches and crooks, and even one dressed like a choirboy.

But, in each story, someone was missing from the manger. There was no little girl. Not one.

Marcie went into the kitchen where her mother was feeding Kevin, her baby brother. “Mom, when the Baby Jesus was born, how come no little girl went to the stable to see him?”

Her mother spooned some mashed potato carefully into Kevin’s mouth, and smiled up at Marcie. “Are you sure no one did?”

“Have you ever seen a picture of a little girl at the manger?” Marcie demanded.

“Why, I guess not,” her mother answered. “Unless you count angels. Some of them look as though they might be little girls.”

Marcie shook her head emphatically. “You can’t count angels. They’re too-too angelic. I mean plain ordinary girls like me.”

“I never though of it before,” her mother admitted, “but you are right. It is odd.”

Marcie’s older brother, Tod, came bursting in, bringing a rush of cold air with him. “I’m starving,” he announced, seizing an apple from a bowl on the kitchen table and crunching into it.

“I’ll start lunch. Marcie, will you finish feeding Kevin? And this afternoon,” her mother said, “you and I must finish up the pageant costumes.”

Marcie beamed, thrilled by the reminder of how soon the pageant was. She had been looking forward to it for days and days – in fact, for a year, because she had been sick with a bad cold last Christmas, so she and her mother had stayed home from church.

The pageant was going to be tomorrow, Christmas Eve. This year, Marcie’s mother had been chosen to play the Mother of Jesus. Her father was one of the Kings and Tod was a shepherd boy. Marcie’s name would be on the program, too, for helping with the costumes.

She could hardly wait to see how everybody looked. Probably the most beautiful costume of all was the Herald angel’s. It was white and so heavenly. Marcie had helped make it.

She wondered if she would ever get to be the Herald angel. This year, the part had gone to Dorothy Cooper. Dorothy was a senior. She had an irritating manner and crooked teeth, but she could play the trumpet, so she was ideal for the part. Her trumpet could lead the carol singing.

Marcie sighed. About the only thing I’d be ideal for she thought, is a plain, ordinary little girl. But, of course, there was no role like that.

As though reading her mind, her mother said, “Tod, Marcie and I were wondering why no little girls are ever shown at the manger in Christmas scenes. Why do you suppose that is?”

“Because it’s a man’s world, that’s why,” Tod said cheerfully. He tramped away, whistling.

Furious, Marcie wanted to yell after him, “It is not! It’s a girl’s world.” But underneath she had her doubts. Sometimes it seemed to her that boys had the best of everything – and not just at Christmas, either. Tod could run faster than she could, skate better, climb trees higher. He was allowed to stay out after dark and to play rough games. When he tore his clothes or got them dirty people said approvingly that he was a “real boy,” but when she acted wild, she was scolded for being “unladylike.”

Kevin couldn’t do much, of course, but he certainly got away with a lot. No one minded that he had terrible table manners. And everybody waited on him. And people thought he was so cute – adorable, they said – for no better reason than that he had red hair, only two teeth, and dimples.

In her heart, Marcie feared that she herself was not cute at all. She could see herself right now reflected in the pane of the kitchen window: Just a usual kind of little girl, with long brown pigtails and a freckled nose. She was in-between – nobody special.

She pushed the last of the potato into Kevin’s reluctant mouth, washed his plate and spoon, and went back to sit by the fire. She curled up on the rug, one arm under her head, and gazed into the warm orange and yellow flames.

She imagined it was nearly two thousand years ago, and that she lived in a little town called Bethlehem, near Judea. She was the daughter of a shepherd, and one night she went out with her father to help tend the sheep.

As they watched in the dark fields, a mysterious light appeared in the sky, and grew brighter, and brighter still. Then they saw it was an angel; a real, actual angel, coming to speak to them. They were terrified. They thought it might be the end of the world. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’ve come to tell you a Savior has been born. He is Christ, the Lord. You’ll find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Then the angel pointed the way to where the Christ Child was, and a brilliant Star shone in the East to guide anyone who wanted to visit him. Marcie cried out to her shepherd father, “Oh, please, I want to see the Baby!” Look, everybody’s going!”

It was true; following the glorious light the other shepherds took up their crooks and walked toward the Star, their faces full of wonder.

“Well, I don’t know,” her father said doubtfully. “It is His birthday and I’d like to take a present to the Child. I suppose I could take a baby lamb for Him to play with. But you, Marcie, what could you take?”

“I could make cookies,” Marcie suggested. “They’re always good to have when you’ve got company coming.”

So she and her father hurried home. Marcie baked cookies and wrapped them in gold paper. Then they set out to join the other shepherds, and follow the Star.

As they walked across the silvery, light-stuck fields, a sense of miracle was upon them all. The sound of the wind was like a rush of angels, the very trees seemed to whisper with the voices and the promises of angels.

Soon the Star led them to a stable. Marcie was about to step inside when –

“Marcie! Set the table!” her mother called from the kitchen. She jumped at the sound of her name and the daydream faded away.

Late that afternoon, the whole family went to the pageant’s last rehearsal. Marcie carried Kevin, and promised to mind him and to take him home if he fussed. She waited with the baby in the church while the rest of the family went off to change into their costumes.

She looked around the church, her brown eyes wide. It was covered with red and green poinsettias. Pine branches with red ribbons decorated the choir stalls, and everything smelled like pine, like candles – like Christmas. For some reason she could not understand, Marcie’s throat closed up, and she felt like crying.

Kevin complained, squirming in her lap. She just hummed “Jingle Bells” to soothe him and he quieted down a little.

Across the aisle, not far from where Marcie was sitting, a Nativity scene had been set up. Marcie looked at the small wooden figures with a familiar annoyance. No little girl anywhere. There was plenty of room for one more. And cookies might have come in very handy.

Kevin began to whimper again. Marcie wished everybody would hurry up and get their costumes on. The baby was getting fussier by the moment. “Hey, cheer up,” she urged him. But he whimpered all the more and finally he began to cry.

She realized she would have to take him home. Once he got in a bad mood, he didn’t come out of it too easily. She told herself: Oh, well, there’s always tomorrow. Anyway, it might be better to see the pageant all at once, when it was perfect. The baby was staying with a neighbor tomorrow.

She skipped home, jogging Kevin and singing lustily, “Dashing through the snow…in a one-horse open sleigh…” Overhead, the first starts of evening blazed down.

Next morning, Marcie woke up early, bursting with anticipation. It was Christmas Eve. She ran to the window. The day was brilliantly clear, and all the town seemed decorated for Christmas: the giant fir tree out front glittered with its burden of snow; glowing icicles hung from every roof and sill of every house; whitened streets reflected the sun with a magical brightness.

The hours of the day seemed to fly by. There were last-minute presents to wrap, popcorn balls to make, celery and onions to be chopped for stuffing the turkey.

In the afternoon, Marcie and her mother wrapped one of Marcie’s favorite dolls in swaddling clothes. The doll was to be the Baby Jesus in the pageant. Marcie felt very proud that her beloved doll was to be used. She washed the doll’s face carefully after it was dressed, to be sure it looked its best.

Everyone’s eyes were bright with excitement, but Marcie’s most of all. She raced upstairs and changed into her red velvet dress, and tied red ribbons on her pigtails. Then she went to Kevin’s crib to dress him in his snowsuit, but suddenly noticed he looked strange. He had some bumpy spots on his face, and he was unusually hot to the touch.

Alarmed, Marcie called her parents. Her mother took one look at he baby and groaned, “Chicken pox!”

“I’m afraid so,” Marcie’s father agreed after a moment. Marcie remembered when she and Tod had had chicken pox. Yes, they had looked just the way Kevin did now.

Her mother phoned Mrs. Carter, the neighbor who had planned to take care of Kevin. She explained about the chicken pox, and asked if Mrs. Carter’s three small children had had it. The answer was no; Mrs. Carter was awfully sorry, but of course she couldn’t, under the circumstances take Kevin.

Her mother called two more neighbors to baby-sit, but without success.

“We’ve got to get somebody,” Tod said. “We’re late already. And what are they going to do if we don’t show up? What good is a Christmas pageant without the Baby Jesus? And His mother? And one King and one shepherd?

Marcie swallowed hard. It was true that the whole pageant would be ruined without her mother and father and brother. But, she thought, there was one person who would not be missed – who, in fact, was always missing – a plain ordinary little girl with no place at the manger.

Still it was hard to say the words. Marcie’s voice sounded husky as she volunteered. “I’ll stay with Kevin.”

Her mother protested, “No, I know how much you’ve been looking forward to the pageant. There must be something else we can do.”

But they all knew that time had run out.

Marcie held back tears until after her family had hurried off to the pageant. But then she flung herself across her bed and sobbed. She had imagined just how it would be: her mother, so beautiful in a blue robe; her father, every inch a King in scarlet and gold; and Tod, the handsomest of the shepherd. She pictured the angels, her doll as baby Jesus…

And she wouldn’t see any of it. She was going to miss it all…

There was to be a short procession first, around the outside of the church, with everyone singing and Dorothy playing. Marcie heard the music start. She ran to the window. She could not see the church, but she could hear the singing better with the window open: “Silent Night, Holy Night…”

Even from this distance, Dorothy’s trumpet sounded strong and fine. So did the voices: “All is calm, all is bright…”

Through the ache of her disappointment, the words touched Marcie’s heard. It was a calm and bright night. She loved carols and she hummed along, as verse after verse followed.

Then the trumpet took on a summoning note. The tune changed to Marcie’s favorite: “Oh, come all ye faithful…”

“I wanted to,” Marcie whispered to herself. “I couldn’t, that’s all.”

Something seemed to answer: a memory, right at the edge of her mind. At first she couldn’t quite catch hold of it. Then she remembered: it was what the leader of their church had said to their mother last year when they had had to stay home.

All at once she heard his words, as clearly as though he were speaking now, to her: “When you want to see the Christ child and duty keeps you home, wait in peace and faith for he will surely come to you.”

“Sing choirs of angels…sing in exaltation…” the voices chorused. Church bells began to peal. The procession was nearly over. Marcie shut the window. She could still hear the singing, and the triumphant notes of the trumpet. And for today, and for always, the words.

For suddenly she knew, in a crystal moment of understanding, why there were never any little girls at the manger. Girls were needed at home. They could not be spared.

Kevin cried faintly. Marcie hurried to his crib. An in the frosty Christmas air, the bells rang joy to all the little girls in the world.

Trouble at the Inn
By Dina Donahue


For many years now, whenever Christmas pageants are talked about in a certain little town in the Mid-west, someone is sure to mention the name of Wallace Purling. Wally’s performance in one annual production of the nativity play has slipped into the realm of legend. But the old-timers who were in the audience that night never tire of recalling exactly what happened.

Wally was nine that year and in the second grade, though he should have been in the forth. Most people in town knew that he had difficulty in keeping up. He was big and clumsy, slow in movement and mind. Still, Wally was well liked by the other children in his class, all of whom were smaller than he, though the boys had trouble hiding their irritation when Wally would ask to play ball with them, or any game, for that matter, in which winning was important.

Most often they’d find a way to keep him out, but Wally would hang around anyway – not sulking, just hoping. He was always a helpful boy, a willing and smiling one, and the natural protector of the underdog. Sometimes if the older boys chased the younger ones away, it would always be Wally who’d say, “Can’t they stay? They’re no bother.”

Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd with a flute in the Christmas pageant that year, but the play’s director, Miss Lumbard, assigned him to a more important role. After all, she reasoned, the Innkeeper did not have too many lines and Wally’s size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.

And so it happened that the usual large, partisan audience gathered for the town’s yearly extravaganza of beards, crowns, halos and a whole stage full of squeaky voices. No one on stage or off was more caught up in the magic of the night than Wallace Purling. They said later that he stood in the wings and watched the performance with such fascination that from time to time Miss Lumbard had to mare sure he didn’t wander on stage before his cue.

Then the time came when Joseph appeared, slowly, tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked hard on the wooden door set into the painted backdrop. Wally the innkeeper was there, waiting.

“What do you want?” Wally said, swinging the door open with a brusque gesture.

“We seek lodging.”

“See it elsewhere.” Wally looked straight ahead but spoke vigorously. “The inn is filled.”

“Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled far and are very weary.”

“There is no room in this inn for you.” Wally looked properly stern.

“Please, good innkeeper, this is my wife, Mary. She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her. She is so tired.”

Now, for the first time, the Innkeeper relaxed his still stance and looked down at Mary. With that, there was a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment.

“No! Be gone!” the prompter whispered from the wings.

“No!” Wally repeated automatically. “Be gone!”

Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary and Mary laid her head upon her husband’s shoulder and the two of them started to move away. The Innkeeper did not return inside his inn, however. Wally stood there in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple. This mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling unmistakably with tears.

And suddenly this Christmas pageant became different from all the others.

“Don’t go, Joseph,” Wally called out. “Bring Mary back.” And Wallace Purling’s face grew into a bright smile. “You can have my room.”

Some people in town thought that the pageant had been ruined. Yet there were others – many, many others – who considered it the most Christmas of all Christmas pageants they had ever seen.



The Christmas I Remember Best
By Rheuama A. West


It should have been the worst, the bleakest Christmas of Christmases. It turned out to be the loveliest of all my life. I was nine years old, one of seven children, and we lived in a little farming town in Utah. It had been a tragic year for all of us. But we still had our father, and that made all the difference.

Every year in our town a Christmas Eve Social was held at the church. How well I remember dad buttoning our coats, placing us all on our long, homemade sleigh and pulling us to the church about a mile away. It was snowing. How cold and good it felt on our faces. We held tight to one another, and above the crunch of snow beneath dad’s feet we could hear him softly whistling “Silent Night.”

Mama had died that previous summer. She had been confined to bed for three years, so Dad had assumed all mother and father responsibilities. I remember him standing me on a stool by our big round kitchen table and teaching me to mix bread. But my main task was being Mama's hands and feet until that day in June, her own birthday, when she died.

Two months later came the big fire. Our barns, sheds, haystacks and livestock were destroyed. It was a calamity, but dad stood between us and the disaster. We weren’t even aware of how poor we were. We had no money at all.

I don’t remember much about the Christmas Eve Social. I just remember dad pulling us there and pulling us back. Later, in the front room around our pot-bellied stove, he served us our warm milk and bread. Our Christmas tree, topped by a little worn cardboard angel, had been brought from the nearby hills. Strings of our homegrown popcorn made it the most beautiful tree I had ever seen – or smelled.

After supper, dad made all seven of us sit in a half circle by the tree. I remember I wore a long flannel nightgown. He sat on the floor facing us and told us that he was ready to give us our Christmas gift. We waited, puzzled because we thought Christmas presents were for Christmas morning. Dad looked at our expectant faces. “Long ago,” he said, “on a night like this, some poor shepherds were watching their sheep on a lonely hillside, when all of a sudden…”

His quiet voice went on and on, telling the story of the Christ Child in his own simple words, and I’ll never forget how love and gratitude seemed to fill the room. There was light from the oil lamp and warmth from the stove, but somehow it was more than that. We felt mama’s presence.

We learned that loving someone was far more important than having something. We were filled with peace and happiness and joy. When the story was ended dad had us all kneel for a family prayer. Then he said, “Try to remember, when everything else seems to be lost, the greatest thing of all remains: God’s love for us. That’s what Christmas means. That’s the gift that can never be taken away.”
The next morning we found that dad had whittled little presents for each of us and hung them on the tree, dolls for the girls, whistles for the boys. But he was right; he had given us our real gift the night before.

All this happened long ago, but to this day it all comes back to me whenever I hear “Silent Night” or feel snowflakes on my face, or – best of all – when I get an occasional glimpse of Christ shining in my 90-year-old father’s face.



The Man Who Missed Christmas
By J. Edgar Park


It was Christmas Eve; and, as usual, George Mason was the last to leave the office. He walked over to a massive safe, spun the dials, swung the heavy door open. Making sure the door would not close behind him, he stepped inside.

A square of white cardboard was taped just above the topmost row of strongboxes. On the card a few words were written. George Mason stared at those words, remembering…

Exactly one year ago he had entered this self-same vault. And then, behind his back, slowly, noiselessly, the ponderous door swung shut. He was trapped – entombed in the sudden and terrifying dark.

He hurled himself at the unyielding door, his hoarse cry sounding like an explosion. Through his mind flashed all the storied he had heard of men found suffocated in time vaults. No time clock controlled this mechanism; the safe would remain locked until it was opened from the outside. Tomorrow morning.

Then realization hit him. No one would come tomorrow – tomorrow was Christmas.

Once more he flung himself at the door, shouting wildly, until he sank on his knees exhausted. Silence came, high-pitched, singing silence that seemed deafening. More than thirty-six hours would pass before anyone came – thirty-six hours in a steel box three feet wide, eight feet long, seven feet high. Would the oxygen last? Perspiring and breathing heavily, he felt his way around the floor. Then, in the far right-hand corner, just above that floor, he found a small, circular opening. Quickly he thrust his finger into it and felt, faint but unmistakable, a cool current of air.

The tension release was so sudden that he burst into tears. But at last he sat up. Surely he would not have to stay trapped for the full thirty-six hours. Somebody would miss him. But who? He was unmarried and lived alone. The maid who cleaned his apartment was just a servant; he had always treated her as such. He had been invited to spend Christmas Eve with his brother’s family; but children got on his nerves and expected presents.

A friend had asked him to go to a home for elderly people on Christmas Day and play the piano – George Mason was a good musician. But he had made some excuse or other; he had intended to sit at home, listening to some new recordings he was giving himself.

George Mason dug his nails into the palms of his hands until the pain balance the misery in his mind. Nobody would come and let him out, nobody, nobody, nobody…

Miserably the whole of Christmas Day went by, and the succeeding night.

On the morning after Christmas the head clerk came into the office at the usual time, opened the save, then went on into his private office.

No one saw George Mason stagger out into the corridor, run to the water cooler, and drink great gulps of water. No one paid any attention to him as he left and took a taxi home.

Then he shaved, changed his wrinkled clothes, ate breakfast and returned to his office where his employees greeted him casually.

That day he met several acquaintances and talked to his own brother. Grimly, the truth closed in on George Mason. He had vanished from human society during the great festival of brotherhood; no one had missed him at all.

Reluctantly, George Mason began to think about the true meaning of Christmas. Was it possible that he had been blind all these years with selfishness, indifference, pride? Was not giving, after all, the essence of Christmas because it marked the time God gave His son to the world?

All through the year that followed, with little hesitant deeds of kindness with small, unnoticed acts of unselfishness, George Mason tried to prepare himself…

Now, once more, it was Christmas Eve.

Slowly he backed out of the safe, closed it. He touched its grim steel face lightly, almost affectionately, and left the office.

There he goes now in his black overcoat and hat, the same George Mason as a year ago. Or is it? He walks a few blocks, then flags a taxi, anxious not to be late. His nephews are expecting him to help them trim the tree. Afterwards, he is taking his brother and his sister-in-law to a Christmas play. Why is he so happy? Why does this jostling against others, laden as he is with bundles, exhilarate and delight him?

Perhaps the card has something to do with it, the card he taped inside his office safe last New Year’s Day. On the card is written, in George Mason’s own hand:

“To love people, to be indispensable somewhere, that is the purpose of life. That is the secret of happiness.”


The Most Beautiful Thing


The sides of the path were covered with rugs of white snow. But, in the center, its whiteness was crushed and churned into a foaming brown by the tramp, tramp of hundreds of hurrying feet. It was the day before Christmas.

People rushed up and down the path carrying armloads of bundles. They laughed and called to each other as they pushed their way through the crowds.

Above the path, the long arms of an ancient tree reached upward to the sky. It swayed and moaned as a strong wind grasped its branches, and bent them toward the earth. Down below a haughty laugh sounded, and a lovely fir tree stretched and preened its thick green branches, sending a fine spray of snow shimmering downward to the ground.

“I should think,” said the fir, in a high smug voice, “that you’d try a little harder to stand still. Goodness knows you’re ugly enough with the leaves you’ve already lost. If you move around any more, you’ll soon be quite bare.”

“I know,” answered the old tree. “Everything has put on its most beautiful clothes for the celebration of the birth of Christ. Even from here I can see the decorations shining from each street corner. And yesterday some men came and put the brightest, loveliest lights on every tree along the path – except me, of course.” He sighed softly, and a flake of snow melted in the form of a teardrop and ran down his gnarled trunk.

“Oh, indeed! And did you expect they’d put lights upon you so your ugliness would stand out even more?” smirked the fir.

“I guess you’re right,” replied the old tree in a sad voice. “If there were only somewhere I could hide until after the celebrations are over, but here I stand…the only ugly thing among all this beauty. If they would only come and chop me down,” and he signed sorrowfully.

“Well, I don’t wish you any ill will,” replied the fir, “but you are an eyesore. Perhaps it would be better for us all if they came and chopped you down.” Once again he stretched his lovely thick branches. “You might try to hold onto those three small leaves you still have. At least you wouldn’t be completely bare.”

“Oh, I’ve tried so hard,” cried the old tree. “Each fall I say to myself, ‘this year I won’t give up a single leaf, no matter what the cause’, but someone always comes along who seems to need them more than I,” and he signed once again.

“I told you not to give away so many to that dirty little paper boy,” said the fir. “Why you even lowered your branches a little, so that he could reach them. You can’t say I didn’t warn you then.”

“Yes, you did that,” the old tree replied. “But they made him so happy. I heard him say he would pick some for his invalid mother.”

“Oh they all have good causes,” mocked the fir. “That young girl, for instance, colored leaves for her party, indeed! They were your leaves!”

“She took a lot, didn’t she?” said the old tree, and he seemed to smile.

Just then a cold wind blew down the path and a tiny brown bird fell to the ground at the foot of the old tree and lay there shivering, too cold to lift its wings. The old tree looked down in pity, and then quickly he let go of his last three leaves. The golden leaves fluttered down and settled softly over the shivering little bird, and it lay there quietly under the warmth of them.

“Now you’ve done it!” shrieked the fir. “You’ve given away every single leaf! Christmas morning you’ll make our path the ugliest sight in the whole city!”

The old tree said nothing. Instead, he stretched out his branches to gather what snowflakes he could that they might not fall on the tiny bird.

The young fir turned away in anger, and it was then he noticed a painter sitting quietly a few feet from the path, intent upon his long brushes and his canvas. His clothes were old and tattered, and his face wore a sad expression. He was thinking of his loved ones and the empty, cheerless Christmas morning they would face for he had sold not a single painting in the last few months.

But the little tree didn’t see this. Instead, he turned back to the old tree and said in a haughty voice, “at least keep those bare branches as far away from me as possible. I’m being painted and your hideousness will mar the background.”

“I’ll try,” replied the old tree. And he raised his branches as high as possible.

It was almost dark when the painter picked up his easel and left. And the little fir was tired and cross from all his preening and posing.

Christmas morning he awoke late, and as he proudly shook away the snow from his lovely branches, he was amazed to see a huge crowd of people surrounding the old tree, ah-ing and oh-ing as they stood back and gazed upward. And even those hurrying along the path had to stop for a moment to sign before they went on.

“Whatever could it be?” thought the haughty fir, and he too looked up to see if perhaps the top of the old tree had been broken off during the night.

Just then a paper blew away from the hands of an enraptured newsboy and sailed straight into the young fir. The fir gasped in amazement, for there on the front page was a picture of the painter holding his painting of a great white tree whose leafless branches, laden with snow, stretched upward into the sky. While below lay a tiny brown bird almost covered by three golden leaves. And beneath the picture were the words, “The Most Beautiful Thing Is That Which Hath Given All.”

The young fir quietly bowed its head beneath the great beauty of the humble old tree.

Pattern of Love
By Jack Smith


I didn’t question Timmy, age nine, or his seven-year old brother Billy about the brown wrapping paper they passed back and forth between them as we visited each store.

Every year at Christmas time, our Service Club takes the children from poor families in our town on a personally conducted shopping tour. I was assigned Timmy and Billy, whose father was out of work. After giving them the allotted $4 each, we began our trip. At different store I made suggestions, but always their answer was a solemn shake of the head, no. Finally I asked, “Where would you suggest we look?”

“Could we go to a shoe store, Sir?” answered Timmy. “We’d like a pair of shoes for our Daddy so he can go to work.”

In the shoe store the clerk asked what the boys wanted. Out came the brown paper. “We want of pair of work shoes to fit this foot,” they said.

Billy explained that it was a pattern of their Daddy’s foot. They had drawn it while he was asleep in a chair.

The clerk held the paper against a measuring stick, then walked away. Soon he came with an open box. “Will these do?” he asked.

Timmy and Billy handled the shoes with great eagerness. “How much do they cost?” said Billy.

Then Timmy saw the price on the box. “They’re $16.95,” he said in dismay. “We only have $8.”

I looked at the clerk and he cleared his throat. “That’s the regular price,” he said, “but they’re on sale; $3.98, today only.”

Then with shoes happily in hand the boys bought gifts for their mother and two little sisters. Not once did they think of themselves.

The day after Christmas the boy’s father stopped me on the street. The new shoes were on his feet, gratitude was in his eyes. “I just thank Jesus for people who care,” he said.

“And I thank Jesus for your two sons,” I replied. “They taught me more about Christmas in one evening than I learned in a lifetime.”


The Littlest Angel
From the story by Charles Tidwell


Once upon a time – many, many years ago as time is calculated by men, but only Yesterday in the Celestial Calendar of Heaven – there was, in Paradise, a thoroughly unhappy, and dejected cherub who was know throughout Heaven as the Littlest Angel.

He was exactly four years, six months, five days, seven hours and forty-two minutes of age when he presented himself to the Gatekeeper and waited for admittance to the Glorious Kingdom of God.

Standing defiantly, he tired to pretend that he wasn’t at all afraid. But his lower lip trembled, and a tear disgraced him by making a new furrow down his already tear-streaked face.

But that wasn’t all. While the kindly Gatekeeper was entering the name in his great Book, the Littlest Angel, having left home as usual, without a handkerchief, tried to hide the telltale evidence of sniffing. A most unangelic sound, which so startled the good Gatekeeper that he did something he had never done before in all Eternity. He blotted the page!

From that moment on, the Heavenly Peace was never quite the same. The shrill, ear-splitting whistle of the Littlest Angel could be heard at all hours through the golden streets. It startled the Patriarch Prophets and disturbed their meditations. Yes, and on top of that, he sang off-key at the singing practice of the Heavenly Choir, spoiling its ethereal effect.

And, being so small that it seemed to take him just twice as long as anyone else to get to nightly prayers, the Littlest Angel always arrived late, and knocked everyone’s wings askew as he darted into his place.

Although his behavior might have been overlooked, his appearance was even worse. It was first whispered among the Seraphim and Cherubim, and then said aloud among the Angels and Archangels, that he didn't even look like an angel!

And they were all quite correct. He didn’t. His halo was permanently tarnished where he held onto it with one hot little hand when he ran, and he was always running. Even when he stood very still, it never behaved as a halo should. It was always slipping down over his right eye. Or over his left eye. Or else, just for pure meanness, slipping of the back of his head and rolling away down some golden street just so he’d have to chase after it!

Yes, and his wings were neither useful nor ornamental. All Paradise held its breath when the Littlest Angel perched himself like a sparrow on the very edge of a cloud and prepared to take off. He would teeter this way – and that way – but, after much coaxing and a few false starts, he would shut both of his eyes, hold his freckled nose, count up to three hundred and three and then hurl himself slowly into space!

However, owing to the fact that he forgot to move his wings, the Littlest Angel always fell head over halo!

It was also reported that whenever he was nervous, which was most of the time, he bit his wing tips!

Now anyone can easily understand why the Littlest Angel would sooner or later have to be disciplined. And so, on an Eternal Day of an Eternal Month in the Year Eternal, he was directed to present his small self before and Angel of the Peace.

The Littlest Angel combed his hair, dusted his wings and donned an almost clean garment, and then, with a heavy heart, trudged his way to the place of judgment.

He tried to postpone the ordeal by pausing a few moments to read the long list of new arrivals, although all Heaven knew he couldn’t read a word. But at last he slowly approached a doorway on which was mounted a pair of golden scales, signifying that Heavenly Justice was dispensed within. To the Littlest Angel’s great surprise, he heard a merry voice inside – singing!

The Littlest Angel removed his halo and breathed upon it heavily; then polished it upon his garment, which added nothing to his already untidy appearance, and then tip-toed in!

The singer, who was known as the Understanding Angel, looked down at the small culprit, and the Littlest Angel instantly tried to make himself invisible by the ingenious process of pulling his head into the collar of his garment, very much like a snapping turtle.

At that, the singer laughed, a jolly, heartwarming sound, and said “Oh! So you’re the one who’s been making Heaven so unheavenly! Come here, Cherub, and tell me all about it!”

The Littlest Angel ventured a look. First one eye. And then the other eye. Suddenly, almost before he knew it, he was perched on the lap of the Understanding Angel, and was explaining how very difficult it was for a boy who suddenly finds himself transformed into an angel. Yes, and no matter what the Archangels said, he’d only swung once. Well, twice. Oh, all right then, he’d swung three times on the Golden Gates. But that was just for something to do!

That was the whole trouble. There wasn’t anything for a small angel to do. And he was very homesick. Oh, not that Paradise wasn’t beautiful! But the Earth was beautiful, too! Wasn’t it created by God, Himself? Why, there were trees to climb, and brooks to fish, and caves to play a pirate chief, the swimming hold, and sun, and rain, and dark, and dawn, and thick brown dust, so soft and warm beneath your feet!

The Understanding Angel smiled, and in his eyes shown a memory of another small boy from long ago. Then he asked the Littlest Angel what would make him most happy in Paradise. The cherub thought for a moment, and whispered in his ear.

“There’s a box. I left it under my bed back home. If only I could have that?”

The Understanding Angel nodded his head. “You shall have it,” he promised. And a fleet-winged Heavenly Messenger was instantly dispatched to bring the box to Paradise.

And then, in all those timeless days that followed, everyone wondered at the great change in the Littlest Angel, for, among all the cherubs in God’s Kingdom, he was the most happy. His conduct and appearance was all that any angel could wish for. And it could be said, and truly said, that he flew like an angel.

Then it came to pass that Jesus, the Son of God, was to be born of Mary, of Bethlehem, of Judea. And as the Glorious tidings spread through Paradise, all the angels rejoiced and their voices were lifted to herald the Miracle of Miracles, the coming of the Christ Child.

The Angels and Archangels, the Seraphim and Cherubim, the Gatekeeper, the Wing-Maker, yes, and even the Halo-smith put aside their usual tasks to prepare their gifts for the Blessed Infant. All but the Littlest Angel. He sat himself down on the top-most step of Paradise and thought.

What could he give that would be most acceptable to the Son of God? At one time, he dreamed of composing a hymn of adoration. But the Littlest Angel was lacking in musical talent.

Then he grew excited over writing a prayer! A prayer that would live forever in the hearts of men, because it would be the first prayer ever to be heard by the Christ Child. But the Littlest Angel was too small to read or write. “What, oh what, could a small angel give that would please the Holy Infant?”

The time of the Miracle was very close at hand when the Littlest Angel at last decided on his gift. Then, on the Day of Days, he proudly brought it from its hiding place behind a cloud, and humbly placed it before the Throne of God. It was only a small, rough, unsightly box, but inside were all those wonderful things that even a Child of God would treasure!

A small, rough, unsightly box, lying among all those other glorious gifts from all the Angels of Paradise! Gifts of such radiant splendor and beauty that Heaven and all the Universe were lighted by their glory. And when the Littlest Angel saw this, he suddenly wished he might reclaim his shabby gift. It was ugly. It was worthless. If only he could hide it away from the sight of God before it was even noticed!

But it was too late! The Hand of God moved slowly over all that bright array of shining gifts, then paused, then dropped, then came to rest on the lowly gift of the Littlest Angel!

The Littlest Angel trembled as the box was opened, and there, before the Eyes of God and all His Heavenly Host, was what he offered to the Christ Child. And what was his gift to the Blessed Infant? Well, there was a butterfly with golden wings, captured one bright summer day on the hills above Jerusalem, and a sky-blue egg from a bird’s nest in the olive tree that stood to shade his mother’s kitchen door. Yes, and two white stones, found on a muddy river bank, where he and his friends had played like small brown beavers, and, at the bottom of the box, a limp, tooth-marked leather strap, once worn as a collar by his mongrel dog, who had died as he had lived, in absolute love and infinite devotion.

The Littlest Angel wept. Why had he ever thought the box was so wonderful?

Why had he dreamed that such utterly useless things would be loved by the Blessed Infant?

He turned to run and hide, but he stumbled and fell, and with a cry and clatter of halo, rolled in a ball to the very foot of the Heavenly Throne!

There was an ominous silence in the Celestial City, a silence complete and undisturbed save for the sobbing of the Littlest Angel.

Then, suddenly, the Voice of God, live divine music, rose and swelled through Paradise!

And the Voice of God spoke, saying, ”Of all the gifts of all the angels, I find that this small box pleases Me most. Its contents are of the Earth and of men, and My Son is born to be King of both. These are the things My Son, too, will know and love and cherish and then, regretful, will leave behind Him when His task is done. I accept this gift in the Name of the Child, Jesus, born of Mary this night in Bethlehem.”

There was a breathless pause, and then the rough box of the Littlest Angel began to glow with a bright, unearthly light, then the light became a lustrous flame, and the flame became a radiant brilliance that blinded the eyes of all the angels!

None but the Littlest Angel saw it rise from its place before the Throne of God. And he and only he, watched it arch the firmament to stand and shed its clear, white, beckoning light over a stable where a Child was born.

There it shone on that Night of Miracles, and its light was reflected down the centuries deep in the heart of all mankind. Yet, earthly eyes, blinded, too, by its splendor, could never know that the lowly gift of the Littlest Angel was what men would call forever “The shining star of Bethlehem!”


Davey and the First Christmas
By Beth Vardon


Let’s pretend there was a boy, and Davey was his name.
Whose family lived in Bethlehem when Christmastime first came.
Davey had a special pet – a donkey small and gray,
And what the two of them did best was getting in the way!

Davey named the donkey Tim. He never rode him though.
Either Tim was built too high or Davey was too low!
Davey’s father had an inn where people came to stay;
And lots and lots and lots of them were coming there one day.

His father was as busy as six or seven bees!
So Davey said, “I want to help, can’t I do something, please?
Tim would like to help you, too. Find a job for us to do!”

“Listen, son,” his father said, “Last week you broke three jugs.
You scared my two best customers with your pet lightening bugs!
You tracked in mud on my clean floor, you tripped and dropped the bread.
And though I loved the fish you caught – why leave them on my bed?

I’ve put up with your helpfulness as long as I am able.
So do me one big favor now, get out – and clean the stable!”

Davey sadly went and stood beside the stable door.
It hardly seemed that anyone could clean that dirty floor.
He and Tim both felt so bad they started in to cry—
But then (thought Davey), “Yes, we can! Well, anyhow – let’s try.

First, let’s chase those chickens out. That’s what we’ve go to do.
So Tim began to flap his ears while Davey shouted, “Shooooo!”
The chickens clucked and flew and ducked, they fluttered wild and scary,
Until their feathers filled the air like snow in January.

Yes, Davey chased those chickens out, He and Tim together.
But now he had to get a sack and pick up every feather!

You should have seen how hard they worked! They stacked up all the wheat,
They straightened up the harnesses till they were nice and neat.
They fought with spiders bravely till they chased out every bug.
And since we must admit the truth -- they broke another jug!

The very biggest job of all was stacking up the hay.
Davey climbed up to the loft and put it all away.
“Look, Tim. You see how high it is? I’ll make just one more trip.”
Then clear up by the stable roof his feet began to slip!

Down came the hay and Davey, too. They stable looked so queer –
All you could see was piles of hay – one sandal, and one ear!
Slowly they came out on top, and Davey didn’t whine,
Though hay stuck out all over him just like a porcupine!

He put the hay all back again and stacked it up with care –
But left one armload down below to fill the manger there.

So Davey’s work was done at last, and when it all looked neat
He picked some flowers to trim the barn, and some for Tim to eat.
“I hope it’s clean enough,” he thought. “At least I did my best.”
And feeling very, very tired, he curled up for a rest…

Who woke up Davey from his sleep? Just guess them if you can.
Mary was the woman’s name, Joseph was the man.

Mary said, “Oh Joseph, look!” This is a lovely place!”
Then, seeing Davey there, se said, with such a shining face,
“Your father’s inn had no more rooms, tonight we’re staying here.
So tell me now, are you the boy who cleaned the stable, dear?
And did your donkey help you work? We want to thank him, too.”
Though Davey was still half asleep, his heart was glad clear through.

So that is how a little boy, two thousand years ago,
Stayed on to hear the angels sing, and see the Star aglow.

As soon as Baby Jesus came to use the manger bed,
Then Davey’s sack of feathers made a pillow for His head.
No one told Davey anymore that he was in the way.
His work had helped get ready for the world’s first Christmas Day!


A Boy Learns a Lesson
By Thomas S. Monson


In about my tenth year, as Christmas approached, I longed for an electric train. The times were those of economic depression, yet Mother and Dad purchased for me a lovely electric train.

Christmas morning bright and early, I thrilled when I noticed my train. The next few hours were devoted to operating the transformer and watching the engine pull its cars forward – then backward around the track.

Mother said that she had purchases a wind-up train for Widow Hansen’s boy, Mark, who lived down the lane at Gale Street. As I looked at his train, I noted a tanker car, which I much admired. I put up such a fuss that my mother succumbed to my pleadings and gave me tanker car. I put it with my train set and felt pleased.

Mother and I took the remaining cars and the engine down to Mark Hansen. The young boy was a year or two older than I. He had never anticipated such a gift. He was thrilled beyond words. He wound the key in his engine, it not being electric nor expensive like mine, and was overjoyed as the engine and three cars, plus a caboose, went around the track.

I felt a horrible sense of guilt as I returned home. The tanker car no longer appealed to me. Suddenly, I took the tank car in my hand, plus and additional car of my own, and ran all the way down to Gale Street and proudly announced to Mark, “We forgot to bring two card which belong to your train.”

I don’t know when a deed had made me feel any better than that experience as a ten-year old boy.

The Other Wise Man
from the story by Henry Van Dyke


The other wise man’s name was Artaban. He was one of the Magi and he lived in Persia. He was a man of great wealth, great learning and great faith. With his learned companions he had searched the scriptures as to the time that the Savior should be born. They knew that a new star would appear and it was agreed between them that Artaban would watch from Persia and the others would observe the sky from Babylon.

On the night he believed the sign was to be given, Artaban went out on his roof to watch the night sky. “If the star appears, they will wait for me ten days, then we will all set out together for Jerusalem. I have made ready for the journey be selling all of my possessions and have bought three jewels -–a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl. I intent to present them as my tribute to the King.”

As he watched, an azure spark was born out of the darkness, rounding itself with splendor into a crimson sphere. Artaban bowed his head. “It is the sign”, he said. “The King is coming, and I will go to meet him.”

The swiftest of Artaban’s horses had been waiting saddled and bridled in her stall, pawing the ground impatiently. She shared the eagerness of her master’s purpose.

As Artaban placed himself upon her back, he said, “God bless us both from failing and our souls from death.”

They began their journey. Each day his faithful horse measured off the allotted proportion of the distance, and at nightfall on the tenth day, they approached the outskirts of Babylon. In a little island of desert palm trees, Artaban’s horse scented difficulty and slackened her pace. Then she stood still, quivering in every muscle.

Artaban dismounted. The dim starlight revealed the form of a man lying in the roadway. His skin bore the mark of a deadly fever. The chill of death was in his lean hand. As Artaban turned to go, a sigh came from the sick man’s lips.

Artaban felt sorry that he could not stay to minister to this dying stranger, but this was the hour toward which his entire life had been directed. He could not forfeit the reward of his years of study and faith to do a single deed of human mercy. But then, how could he leave his fellow man alone to die?

“God of truth and mercy”, prayed Artaban, “direct me in the path of wisdom which only thou knowest.” Then he knew that he could not go on. The Magi were physicians as well as astronomers. He took off his robe and began his work of healing. Several hours later the patient regained consciousness. Artaban gave him all that was left of his bread and wine. He left a potion of healing herbs and instructions for his care.

Though Artaban rode with the greatest haste the rest of the way, it was after dawn that he arrived at the designated meeting place. His friends were nowhere to be seen. Finally his eyes caught a piece of parchment arranged to attract his attention. It said, “We have waited till past midnight, and can delay no longer. We go to find the King. Follow us across the desert.”

Artaban sat down in despair and covered his face with his hands. “How can I cross the desert with no food and with a spent horse? I must return to Babylon, sell my sapphire and buy camels and provisions for the journey. I may never overtake my friends. Only the merciful god knows whether or not I shall lose my purpose because I tarried to show mercy.”

Several days later when Artaban arrived at Bethlehem, the streets were deserted. It was rumored that Herod was sending soldiers, presumable to enforce some new tax, and the men of the city had taken their flocks into the hills beyond his reach.

The door of one dwelling was open, and Artaban could hear a mother singing a lullaby to her child. He entered and introduced himself. The woman told him that is was now the third day since the three wise men had appeared in Bethlehem. They had found Joseph and Mary and the young child, and had laid their gifts at His feet. Then they had gone as mysteriously as they had come. Joseph had taken his wife and babe that same night and had secretly fled. It was whispered that they were going far away into Egypt.

As Artaban listened, the baby reached up its dimpled hand and touched his cheek and smiled. His heart warmed at the touch. Then suddenly, outside there arose a wild confusion of sounds. Women were shrieking. Then a desperate cry was heard, “The soldiers of Herod are killing the children.”

Artaban went to the doorway. A ban of soldiers came hurrying down the street. The captain approached the door to thrust Artaban aside but Artaban did not stir. His face was calm as though he were still watching the stars. Finally his out-stretched hand revealed the giant ruby. He said, “I am waiting to give this jewel to the prudent captain who will go on his way and leave this house alone.”

The captain, amazed at the splendor of the gem, took it and said to his men, “March on, there are no children here.”

Then Artaban prayed, “Oh, God, forgive me my sin, I have spent for men that which was meant for God. Shall I every be worthy to see the face of the King?”

But the voice of the woman, weeping of joy in the shadows behind him said softly, “Thou hast saved the life of my little one. May the Lord bless thee and keep thee and give thee peace.”

Artaban, still following the King went on into Egypt seeking everywhere for traces of the little family that had fled before him. For many years we follow Artaban in his search. We see him at the pyramids. We see him in Alexandria taking counsel with a Hebrew rabbi who told him to seek the King not among the rich but among the poor.

He passed through countries where famine lay heavy upon the land, and the poor were crying for bread. He made his dwelling in plague-stricken cities. He visited the oppressed and the afflicted in prisons. He searched the crowded slave-markets. Tough he found no one to worship, he found many to serve. As the years passed he fed the hungry, clothed the naked, healed the sick and comforted the captive.

Thirty-three years had now passed away since Artaban began his search. His hair was white as snow. He knew his life’s end was near, but he was still desperate with hope that he would find the King. He had come for the last time to Jerusalem.

It was the season of the Passover and the city was thronged with strangers. Artaban inquired where they were going. One answered, “We are going to the execution on Golgotha outside the city walls. Two robbers are to be crucified, and with them another called Jesus of Nazareth, a man who had done many wonderful works among the people. He claims to be the Son of God and the priests and elders have said that he must die. Pilate sent him to the cross.

How strangely these familiar words fell upon the tired heart of Artaban. They had led him for a lifetime over land and sea. And now they came to him like a message of despair. The King had been denied and cast out. Perhaps he was already dying. Could he be the same one for whom the star had appeared thirty-three long years ago?

Artaban’s heart beat loudly within him. He thought, “It may be that I shall yet find the King and be able to ransom him from death by giving my treasure to his enemies.”

But as Artaban started toward Calvary, he saw a troop of soldiers coming down the street, dragging a sobbing young woman. As Artaban paused, she broke away from her tormentors and threw herself at his feet, her arms clasped around his knees.

“Have pity on me,” she cried. “And save me. My father was also of the Magi, but he is dead. I am to be sold as a slave to pay his debts.”

Artaban trembled as he again felt the conflict arising in his soul. It was the same that he had experienced in the palm grove of Babylon and in the cottage at Bethlehem. Twice the gift which he had consecrated to the King had been drawn from his hand to the service of humanity. Would he now fail again? One thing was clear, he must rescue this helpless child from evil.

He took the pearl and laid it in the hand of the girl and said “Daughter, this is the ransom. It is the last of my treasures which I had hoped to keep for the King.”

While he spoke, the darkness of the sky thickened and the shuddering tremors of an earthquake ran through the ground. The houses rocked. The soldiers fled in terror. Artaban sank beside a protecting wall. What had he to fear? What had he to hope for? He had given away the last of his tribute to the King. The quest was over and he had failed. What else mattered?

The earthquake quivered beneath him. A heavy tile, shaken from a roof, fell and struck him. He lay breathless and pale. Then there came a still small voice through the twilight. It was like distant music. The rescued girl leaned over him and heard him say, “Not so, my Lord; for when saw I thee hungered and fed thee? Or thirsty and gave thee drink? When saw I thee a stranger and took thee in? Or naked and clothed thee? When saw I thee sick or in prison and came unto thee? Thirty-three years have I looked for thee; but I have never seen thy face, nor ministered unto thee, my King.”

The sweet voice came again, “Verily I say unto thee, that inasmuch as thou had done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.”

A calm radiance of wonder and joy lighted the face of Artaban as one long, last breath exhaled gently from his lips. His journey was ended. His treasure accepted. The Other Wise Man had found the King.


Is There a Santa Claus?
By Francis P. Church
An editorial from the New York Sun
September 21, 1897



Dear Editor:
I am eight years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlan,
115 West 95th Street,
New York City


Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith, then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

No believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did no see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.


The Gift of Love
By Thomas S. Monson


When I was a very young bishop, in 1950, there was a tap at my door and a good German brother from Ogden, Utah, announced himself as Karl Guertler.

He said, “Are you Bishop Monson?”

I answered in the affirmative.

He said, “My brother and his wife and their family are coming from Germany. They are going to live in your ward. Will you come with me to see the apartment we have rented for them?” On the way to that apartment, he told me had not seen his brother for something like 30 years. Yet all through the Holocaust of World War II, his brother, Hans Guertler, had been faithful to the Church – an officer in the Hamburg branch.

I looked at that apartment. It was cold; it was dreary; the paint was peeling from the walls; the cupboards were bare. What an uninviting home for the Christmas season of the year! I worried about it and I prayed about it, and then in our ward welfare committee meeting, we did something about it.

The group leader of the high priests said, “I am an electrician. Let’s put good appliances in that apartment.”

The group leader of the seventies said, “I am in the floor covering business. Let’s install new floor coverings.”

The elder’s quorum president said, “I am a painter. Let’s paint that apartment.”

The Relief Society representative spoke up, “Did you say those cupboards were bare?” (They were not bare very long, with the Relief Society in action.)

Then the young people, represented through the Aaronic Priesthood general secretary said, “Let’s put a Christmas tree in the home and let’s go among our young people and gather gifts to place under the tree.”

You should have seen that Christmas scene, when the Guertler family arrived from Germany in clothing, which was tattered, and with faces which were drawn by the rigors of war and deprivation! As they went into their apartment they saw what had been in actual fact a transformation – a beautiful home. We spontaneously began singing, “Silent night! Holy night! All is calm; all is bright.” We sang in English; they sang in German. At the conclusion of that hymn, Hans Guertler threw his arms around my neck buried his face in my shoulder, and repeated over and over again those words which I shall never forget: “Mein brudder, mein brudder, mein brudder.”

As we walked down the stairs that night, all of us who had participated in making Christmas come alive in the lived of this German family, we reflected upon the words of the Master:

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40)

The Christmas Orange

In the very early 1800's, a young boy about 14 years old named John lived in an orphanage in Old England along with several other children. Orphanages were dreaded. Orphan meant unwanted and unloved. The orphanage was administered by a master and his wife who were results of meager backgrounds themselves and were short on love but high on discipline. No childlike play, no expression of compassion, no understanding.

Every day of the year was spent working. They worked in gardens, cleaned, sewed, and cooked sometimes for wealthy children. They were up at dawn and worked until dark and usually received only one meal a day. However, they were very grateful because they were taught to be hard workers. John had absolutely nothing to call his own. None of the children did.

Christmas was the one day of the year when the children did not work and received a gift. A gift for each child - something to call their own. This special gift was an orange. John had been in the orphanage long enough to look forward with delight and anticipation of this special day of Christmas and to the orange he would receive. In Old England, and to John and his orphan companions, an orange was a rare and special gift. It had an unusual aroma of something they smelled only at Christmas. The children prized it so much that they kept it for several days, weeks, and even months - protecting it, smelling it, touching it and loving it. Usually they tried to savor and preserve it for so long that it often rotted before they ever peeled it to enjoy the sweet juice.

Many thought were expressed this year as Christmas time approached. The children would say, "I will keep mine the longest." They always talked about how big their last orange was and how long they had kept it.

John usually slept with his next to his pillow. He would put it right by his nose and smell of its goodness, holding it tenderly and carefully as not to bruise it. He would dream of children all over the world smelling the sweet aroma of oranges. It gave him security and a sense of well being, hope and dreams of a future filled with good food and a life different from this meager existence.


A different version of the same story….
This year John was overjoyed by the Christmas season. He was becoming a man. He knew he was becoming stronger and soon he would be old enough to leave. He was excited by this anticipation and excited about Christmas. He would save his orange until his birthday in July. If he preserved it very carefully, kept it cool and did not drop it, he might be able to eat it on his birthday.

Christmas day finally came. The children were so excited as they entered the big dining hall. John could smell the unusual aroma of meat. In his excitement and because of his oversized feet, he tripped, causing a disturbance. Immediately the master roared, "John, leave the hall and there will be no orange for you this year." John's heart broke violently wide open. He began to cry. He turned and went swiftly back to the cold room and his corner so the small children would not see his anguish.

Then he heard the door open and each of the children entered. Little Elizabeth with her hair falling over her shoulders, a smile on her face, and tears in her eyes held out a piece of rag to John. "Here John," she said, "this in for you." John was touched by her youth and innocence as he reached for the bulge in her hand. As he lifted back the edges of the rag he saw a big juicy orange all peeled and quartered. . . and then he realized what they had done. Each had sacrificed their own orange by sharing a quarter and had created a big, beautiful orange for John.

John never forgot the sharing, love and personal sacrifice his friends had shown him that Christmas day. John's beginning was a meager existence, however, his growth to manhood was rewarded by wealth and success. In memory of that day every year he would send oranges all over the world to children everywhere. His desire was that no child would ever spend Christmas without a special Christmas fruit!


Missionary Christmas
by Sandra Bateman
It was but a few short days until Christmas in 1966. Two young elders of the Mormon church walked the streets of Laredo, Texas, knocking on doors in search of someone who would listen to their gospel message. No one, it seemed, in the entire city had time to hear the teachings of the Savior, so intent were they that the celebration of His birth should suit their own purposes.
Filled with discouragement, the two young men turned their backs to the approaching twilight and began the long walk home. Retracing their steps of the afternoon, they came upon a low, wind-swept riverbank. Jutting from its brow stood the barest means of a shelter, constructed of weathered wooden slats and large pieces of cardboard. Strangely, they felt moved to go to the door and knock.
A small, olive-skinned child with tangled black hair and large dark eyes answered. Her mother appeared behind her, a short, thin woman with a tired but warm smile. In her rich Spanish alto, she invited the young men to come in and rest awhile. They were made welcome and seated on the clean-swept floor. The little one-room shanty seemed to be filled with shy, smiling, dark-eyed children. The mother proudly introduced each of them--eight in all--and each in turn quickly bobbed his or her head.
The young men were deeply moved at the extreme poverty they saw. No one in the family had shoes, and their clothes were ill-fitting and in condition beyond mending. The walls of the little home showed daylight between the wooden slats, and eight little rolls of bedding were pressed tightly into the cracks to help keep out the draft until they were needed for sleeping. A small round fire pit dug in one corner marked the kitchen. An odd assortment of chipped dishes and pots were stacked beside an old ice chest, and a curtained-off section with a cracked porcelain tub served as the bathing area. Except for these the room was barren.
The mother told how her husband had gone north to find employment. He had written that he had found a job of manual labor and that it took most of his small wage to pay his board and room. But, she told the young men, he had managed to save fifty cents to send them for Christmas, with which she had purchased two boxes of fruit gelatin. It was one of the children's favorites and would make a special treat on Christmas day.
The next morning, as soon as the local shops opened, the young men hurried to the dime store and purchased as many crayons, cars, trucks and little inexpensive toys as they could afford. Each was carefully wrapped in brightly colored paper and all were put in a large grocery bag. That evening the two young men took their gifts to the shanty on the riverbank. When they knocked, the mother swung the door open wide and invited them in. They stepped inside and in halting Spanish explained to the children that they had seen Santa and he had been in such a hurry, he'd asked if they would deliver his gifts to the children for him.
With cries of delight the children scrambled for the bag, spilling its contents upon the floor and quickly dividing the treasured packages. Silently the mother's eyes filled with tears of gratitude. She stepped forward to clasp tightly one of each of the young men's hands in hers. For long moments she was unable to speak. Then, with tears still welling from her eyes, she smiled and said, "no one ever has been so kind. You have given us a special gift, the kind of love that lights Christmas in the heart. May we also give you a special gift?" From the corner of the room she drew out the two small boxes of fruit gelatin and handed them to the young men. Then all eyes were moist. All knew the true meaning of giving, and none would ever forget that at Christmas, the greatest gift of all was given.


MISTLETOE
I stood under the mistletoe. The green, leafy clusters speckled with waxy-white berries hung from the branches of every apple tree.

"That's the same stuff they sell in the stores for Christmas decorations!" I said to myself. "Why can't I sell mistletoe too?"

Christmas was three weeks away. Selling mistletoe would be a perfect way to earn money to buy a gift for my brother, Derek. I took a few steps back, ran, leaped, and reached as high as I could. But the lowest mistletoe cluster was too high. I missed it by a mile. So that was that.

I had started for home when something strange caught my eye. At the edge of the apple orchard, one tree stood bare. Of course I knew the leaves and apples fell off months ago. But the mistletoe, every sprig of it, had fallen off the branches also. It lay in a neat pile at the foot of the tree, as if put there just for me. Delighted, I carefully picked out the best sprigs and put them in my lunch box. When it was jam-packed, I sprinted across the flattened cornfield to the mobile home where I lived. I entered the side door, listening. Yes, a guitar was playing. I walked down the narrow hall to my bedroom door and pounded on the door.

"Derek, are you in there?" The guitar stopped.

"One sec," came a grumpy reply.

A moment later the door was flung open. My brother stood there wearing his brown leather jacket.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"None of your business," he muttered, sailing past me. It wasn't easy sharing that cramped bedroom with my older brother. We got on each other's nerves a lot. That whole trailer was too small for our family. With Derek out of the room, I emptied the contents of my lunch box onto my bed. I split the sprigs of mistletoe into smaller ones and carefully picked off every dead leaf and berry. In my mom's sewing box, I found a roll of red ribbon. I used it to tie bows around the sprigs, then put each one into a little plastic bag. As I looked for something to put the mistletoe in, I saw Derek's guitar on his bed, wrapped in an old towel. The guitar was the only beautiful thing Derek owned, and I knew what to buy with the mistletoe money: a case for that guitar. Even if Derek was grumpy sometimes, he was till my brother, and I loved him.

The next day I took my mistletoe packages -- ten in all -- to school. During lunch time, I sold every one. My pockets jingled with change as I walked home that day. But it was hardly enough money to buy a guitar case. After school, I cut through the apple orchard again. A surprise awaited me -- two more trees were bare, and under each one lay a pile of mistletoe! I loaded my lunch box, filled my pockets then raced for home. Derek was striding across the cornfield as I approached the trailer. His head was lowered. His hands were jammed into the pockets of his leather jacket.

"Derek! Derek!" I hollered as friendly as I could. But when he looked up and saw me, he stopped and turned in another direction. That night I made twice as many mistletoe packages. After school the next day, I walked to the shopping center office and got permission to sell my mistletoe there. Then I found a wooden box to use as a sales stand. I thumb-tacked a sign on it that read: "Christmas Mistletoe 25 cents!" Within the hour, the mistletoe was sold out. I hurried over to the music store. In the front display window, on cotton snow, lay a row of wooden recorders.

I had learned to play a plastic one at school, and more than anything, I wanted one of those wooden ones which sounded so much better. Each year that was at the top of my Christmas list. But each year there wasn't enough money.

I was calculating how much more money I'd need to buy a recorder when I saw the towers of guitar cases in the back of the store. As much as I wanted a recorder, I wanted to buy Derek a guitar case more. Even if he had been a grouch lately, he was a pretty neat brother.

Going inside the store, I found the perfect case for Derek, a brown one with gold buttons. It cost a bundle, though. Much more than I had. I hoped that there would be lots more mistletoe in the orchard when I got there.

I reached the orchard after the sun had just set, and the air was icy. The shadowy crooked branches of the apple trees appeared as grabbing fingers against the purple sky. Something rustled in a distant tree. Rotten apples squished under my feet as I tried to creep closer to see what it was. Then I tripped. My knees sunk into a pile of something scratchy. Mistletoe! Another big heap of it. It was a miracle! I was filling my lunch box, when a voice right behind me softly said, "Chilly night to be out, young man."

I spun around. "I'm collecting m-m-mistletoe," I stuttered, half from cold, half from fright.

"Sorry I scared you," the man said with a friendly smile. "The fact is, I'm paying a guy to cut all that mistletoe out of my trees."

"What!" I exclaimed, puzzled.

"My apple trees are loaded with mistletoe. That very plant people kiss under can do these old trees harm. It attaches itself to their branches and sucks out a lot of food and water. Eventually it could kill these trees. Anyway, you're welcome to take all you want."

The man wished me a merry Christmas, then walked on across the orchard. He stopped under a tree about thirty yards away and looked up. Out of that tree tumbled a big clump of mistletoe -- then another and another. An instant later two legs dangled down from the lowest branch. All of a sudden someone jumped down next to the man. It was Derek! He didn't see me in the shadows.

"A few more nights ought to do it," the man said.

"Yeah," Derek replied, brushing off his jeans.

"So what are you doing with all the money I'm paying you?" asked the man. "Are you going out and having a good time?"

"Nah," said Derek, shuffling his feet. "I'm saving up to buy my kid brother something for Christmas."

"Is that right?" said the man.

"Yeah, he's been wanting a wooden recorder for ages. He can play pretty well. And you know how it is -- he's my brother."

--Douglas W. Evans


A WEST SIDE CHRISTMAS STORY
~by Pat Sullivan

My husband, Chuck, and my sister, Lee, are partners in a heating company in Chicago. Lee is the buyer, hirer, firer, phone answerer, typist, bookkeeper, and office girl. She will bring hot soup and sandwiches to a crew in an icy basement at three o'clock in the morning, but she is Hard-Hearted Hannah when it comes to spending company money.

When she says "No" to an expense account item, or something she thinks is a luxury, her eyes shoot fire ... and Chuck, who is usually a very verbal man, starts to tiptoe around her desk.

One day about a week before Christmas, all the phones in the office seemed to start ringing at once. There were more broken boilers, burned-out fire-pots, and stuck stack switches than there had ever been before, and the men were working around the clock. I went into the office to help out on the phones, and it was all I could do just to write down the names and addresses of the people without heat. Worst of all, it seemed that everyone who called either had a new baby, an old grandmother, or had just gotten out of the hospital themselves.

One woman called in tears. She lived in a section of Chicago where rioting, looting, and burning had taken place a few months earlier. She had been phoning for several hours, one heating company after another, trying in vain to get a serviceman to work in a black neighborhood. I took the order and promised that a man would be there within the hour. Then she asked if she could pay a little money each week for the service call, and I looked at Lee and repeated the question. She nodded, "Okay," and when I told the customer, Mrs. Jenkins, not to worry, she said, "God bless you, miss," and hung up.

Lee turned the call over to Chuck, as all the other men were out. "Bump that other call I gave you; they only have a noisy burner. This one is a no-heat. Better get right on it." Chuck left and was gone for several hours.

When he came back, he told Lee, "Forget the billing on that one."

She looked at him, "Since when are we in the charity business?"

Then Chuck told us that Mrs. Jenkins was a widow with seven little children. Her house was clean and bare with very few furnishings. The children were thin and hungry-eyed, wearing worn and much patched clothes. After Chuck had gotten the heat going, one of the smaller boys had shyly come over to watch him pick up his tools, and Chuck patted him on the head and asked, "What did you tell Santa Claus you wanted for Christmas?"

The child looked him right in the eye and answered, "Ain't no more Santa Claus. Mama say he die, no use to ask him for any toys, cause he is dead, and we ain't gonna get nothing anyways.

Lee never said a word, but brusquely handed Chuck another call and told him to get going. We worked, all three of us, most of the night. The next morning Lee called in to tell us that she hadn't heard the alarm and would be in late. Chuck seemed strangely happy to hear this and asked one of the men to watch the phones for a while, then hustled me into my coat. "Can't spend a dime with that woman looking over my shoulder," he grumbled.

When we pulled up in front of a large toy store, I knew what he was up to. He hummed and whistled while he loaded the shopping cart with dolls, games, trucks, and space ships. Then we headed to the candy store for filled stockings, striped red-and-white peppermint canes, and sugar figures of pigs, soldiers, and ballerinas. We drove through thick snowflakes, bumper to bumper, all the way to the West Side, unloaded the piles of presents and rang Mrs. Jenkins' doorbell.

In we trotted, behind the whooping children, to find a red-cheeked Lee pinning a Christmas Star of Bethlehem on the top of a fragrant pine tree.

Nearby was Mrs. Jenkins, smiling through her tears, as she carefully unpacked a Nativity scene and reverently placed the figures of the Holy Family in the middle of her dining-room table.

"Well, don't just stand there ... get busy!" said Lee, handing a box of tinsel to my open-mouthed husband. "What took you so long?"


THE ANGEL'S SONG
by Alice E. Workman <wng@accces.com>

Christmas, to me, has always been a celebration of one of the holiest events in the history of the world. My rejoicings on this occasion often take the form of music -- the language of the gods. One year, in particular, brought me the realization of just how "near to the angels" the language of music really is.

I have always loved the song, O Holy Night, though my limited vocal range prevents me from being able to sing it either fully or well. So I did not hesitate to say yes when a dear friend asked me to accompany her on the piano while she sang this song during our Sunday services.

Of course, no good ever comes to pass without opposition. The night before the performance, she became ill, and was so hoarse that she could hardly sing a note. I, too, was having difficulty; I had injured my arm and the pain made it difficult for me to play the familiar song. As we practiced, it became all too clear that without divine intervention, this was not going to work.

So we prayed. Oh, how we prayed! We prayed together vocally that night, and continued praying both aloud and in our hearts from the time we separated until the time came for us to perform. We knew that music posessed the power to uplift the soul, and to draw hearts nearer to God, and we knew that only God's power could enable us to perform. Through prayer, we expressed our faith that God could grant us this miracle.

When it came time for the performance, I thought, "Well, we've done all we could. We've practice and we've prayed, and now it is in God's hands." So, with the swellings of a prayer still in my heart, I began to play. In the beginning, I could hear that her voice was slightly clearer than it had been, but still strained. Then suddenly her voice changed. It became clearer, and richer in tone. It was so beautiful, and so different than I had ever heard her sing before, that it startled me, and I had to fight to keep my concentration.

As the song continued, my pain grew. Halfway through the song, my muscles rebelled and I missed playing several measures before I could recover. I shook my head in frustration, thinking, "Here she is singing more beautifully than ever before, and I have to go and ruin it."

After the meeting, her husband approached me in the foyer. He commented on what a lovely performance it was, then asked me, "Why did you shake your head like that?"

"Why, because I couldn't keep playing -- I messed up."

"I didn't hear anything wrong," he said. No one had.

I marveled at this, and also that my friend had sang so well despite her illness. Why, I wondered, had she never sung like this before?

When I approached her about it, she tearfully (and in a voice that was, once again, hoarse) told me that she had never experienced anything like it in her life. "I felt like I was standing back watching someone else sing," she said.

God had granted our miracle, and infused us with the warmth of His love. I will always remember that feeling and stand as a witness that the angels, still, rejoice and sing of the birth of our Savior, as they did that night in Bethlehem, so many years ago.


THE TALE OF THREE TREES

Once upon a mountaintop, Three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.
The first little tree looked up at the stars twinkling like diamonds above him. "I want to hold treasure." he said. "I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I will be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!"
The second tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. "I want to be a strong sailing ship." he said, "I want to travel mighty waters and carry powerful kings. I will be the strongest ship in the world!"
The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and busy women worked in a busy town. "I don't want to leave this mountaintop at all," she said, "I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they will raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world!"
Years passed. The rains came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain.
The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. Its perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell.
"Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest," thought the first tree. "I shall hold wonderful treasure."
The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell.
"Now I shall sail the mighty waters," thought the second tree. "I shall be a strong ship fit for kings!"
The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed to heaven.
But the woodcutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me," he muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe the third tree fell.
The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought him to a carpenter's shop, but the busy carpenter was not thinking about treasure chests. Instead his work-worn hands fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals.
The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took him to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ships were being made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. Too small and too weak to sail any ocean or even a river. He was taken to a little lake. Every day he brought in loads of dead, smelly fish.
The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" the once tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted to do was to stay on the mountaintop and point to God."
Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box.
"I wish I could make a cradle for him," her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful," she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.
One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into an old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake, Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. He knew he did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain.
The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew that he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry, jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.
But on Sunday morning, when the sun arose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything.
It had made the first tree beautiful. It has made the second tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect
~ by Richard H. Schneider

They say that if you creep into an evergreen forest late at night you can hear the trees talking. If you listen very carefully to the whisper of the wind, you can hear the older pines telling the younger ones why they will never be perfect. They will always have a bent branch here, a gap there

But long, long ago all evergreen trees were perfect. Each one took special pride in branches that sloped smoothly down from pointed top to evenly shaped skirt. This was especially true in a small kingdom far beyond the Carpathian Mountains in Europe. Here the evergreen trees were the most beautiful of all. For here the sun shone just right, not too hot, not too dim. Here the rain fell just enough to keep the ground moist and soft so no tree went thirsty. And here the snow fell gently day after day to keep every branch fresh and green. Each year as Christmas approached, the Queen's woodsmen would search the royal evergreen forest for the most perfect, most beautiful tree. The one fortunate enough to be chosen would be cut on the first Saturday of Advent. It would then be carefully carried to the castle and set up in the center of the great hall. There it reigned in honor for all the Christmas celebrations. Out in the hushed forest every evergreen hoped for this honor. Each tree tried to grow its branches and needles to perfection. All of them strained to have the best form and appearance. One tree, Small Pine, grew near the edge of the forest and promised to be the most beautiful of all. As a seedling it had listened carefully to the older trees who knew what was best for young saplings. And it had tried so very hard to grow just right. As a result, everything about Small Pine, from its deep sea-green color to the curling tip of its evenly spaced branches, was perfect. It had, in fact, already overheard jealous whispers from the other trees. But is paid them no mind. Small Pine knew that if one did one's very best, what anyone else said didn't matter. One cold night, when a bright full moon glittered on the crusty snow, a little gray rabbit came hopping as fast as he could into the grove of evergreens. The rabbit's furry sides heaved in panic. From beyond the hill came the howling of wild dogs in the thrill of the hunt. The bunny, his eyes wide with fright, frantically searched for cover. But the dark, cold trees lifted their branches artfully from the snow and frowned. They did not like this interruption of their quiet evening when growing was at its best. Faster and faster the rabbit circled as the excited howling of the dogs sounded louder and louder. And then Small Pine's heart shuddered. When the terrified rabbit ran near, Small Pine dipped its lower branches down, down, down to the snow. And in that instant before the wild dogs broke into the grove, the rabbit slipped under Small Pine's evergreen screen. He huddled safely among the comforting branches while the dogs galloped by and disappeared into the forest. In the morning the rabbit went home to his burrow, and Small Pine tried to lift its lower branches back up to their proper height. It strained and struggled, long through the night. Oh well, Small Pine thought, no matter. Perhaps the woodsmen wouldn't notice a few uneven branches near the ground in a tree so beautiful. Several days later a terrible blizzard lashed the land. No one remembered ever having so much wind and snow. Villagers slammed their shutters tight while birds and animals huddled in their nests and dens. A brown mother wren had become lost in the storm. With feathers so wet she could barely fly, she went from one large evergreen to another looking for a shelter. But each tree she approached feared the wren would ruin its perfect shape and clenched its branches tight, like a fist. Finally, the exhausted wren fluttered toward Small Pine. Once more Small Pine's heart opened and so did its branches. The mother wren nestled on a branch near the top, secure at last. But when the storm ended and the bird had flown away, Small Pine could not move its top branches back into their perfect shape. In them would be a gap evermore. Days passed and winter deepened. The packed snow had frozen so hard that the deer in the forest could not reach the tender ground moss, which they ate to survive. Only the older, stronger deer could dig through the icy snow with their hooves. One little fawn had wandered away from his mother. Now he was starving. He inched into the pine grove and noticed the soft, tender evergreen tips. He tried to nibble on them, but every tree quickly withdrew its needles so the tiny deer teeth couldn't chew them. Thin and week, he staggered against Small Pine. Pity filled the tree's heart and it stretched out its soft needles for the starving fawn to eat. But alas, when the deer was strong enough to scamper away, Small Pine's branches looked very ragged. Small Pine wilted in sorrow. It could hear what the larger, still perfect trees were saying about how bad it looked. A tear of pine gum oozed from the tip of a branch. Small Pine knew it could never hope for the honor of being the Queen's Christmas tree. Lost in despair, Small Pine did not see the good Queen come with the woodsmen into the forest. It was the first Saturday of Advent, and she had come to choose the finest tree herself because this was a special celebration year in the history of her kingdom. As the royal sleigh, drawn by two white horses, slowly passed through the forest, her careful eye scanned the evergreens. Each one was hoping to be the royal choice. When the Queen saw Small Pine, a flush of anger filled her. How could such an ugly tree with so many drooping branches and gaps be allowed in the royal forest? She decided to have a woodsman cut it to throw away and nodded for the sleigh to drive on. But then she raised her hand for the sleigh to stop and glanced back at the forlorn little pine. She noticed the tracks of small animals under its uneven needles. She saw a wren's feather caught in its branches. And, as she studied the gaping hole in its side and its ragged shaped, understanding filled her heart.

"This is the one," she said, and pointed to Small Pine.

The woodsmen gasped, but they did as the Queen directed. To the astonishment of all the evergreens in the forest, Small Pine was carried away to the great hall in the castle. There it was decorated with shimmering, silver stars and golden angels, which sparkled and flashed in the light of thousands of glowing candles. On Christmas Day a huge Yule log blazed in the fireplace at the end of the great hall. While orange flames chuckled and crackled, the Queen's family and all the villagers danced and sang together around Small Pine. And everyone who danced and sang around it said that Small Pine was the finest Christmas tree yet. For in looking at its dropping, nibbled branches, they saw the protecting arm of their father or the comforting lap of a mother. And some, like the wise Queen, saw the love of Christ expressed on earth. So if you walk among evergreens today, you will find, along with rabbits, birds,
and other happy living things, many trees like Small Pine. You will see a dropping limb, which gives cover, a gap offering a warm resting place, or branches ragged from feeding hungry animals. For, as have many of us, the trees have learned that living for the sake of others makes us most beautiful in the eyes of God.


The Undelivered Letter
~ author unknown

Some years ago there lived in an English city a man whom I shall call Fred Armstrong. He worked in the local post office, where he was called 'dead-letter man' because he handled missives whose addresses were faulty or hard to read. He lived in an old house with his little wife and even smaller daughter and tiny son. After supper he liked to sit in his easy chair and tell his children of his latest exploits in delivering lost letters. He considered himself quite a detective. There was no cloud on his modest horizon. No cloud -- until one sunny morning when his little boy suddenly fell ill. Within 48 hours the child was dead.

In his sorrow, Fred Armstrong's soul seemed to die. The mother and their little daughter, Marian, struggled to control their grief, determined to make the best of it. Not so with the father. His life was now a dead letter with no direction. In the morning, Fred rose from his bed and went to work like a sleep walker. He never spoke unless spoken to and he ate his lunch alone. He sat like a statue at the supper table and went to bed early. Yet, his wife knew that he lay most of the night with his eyes open, staring at the ceiling.

As the months passed, his apathy seemed to deepen. His wife told him that such despair was unfair to their lost son and unfair to the living. But nothing that she said seemed to reach him. It was coming close upon Christmas.

One bleak afternoon at work Fred sat on his high stool and moved a new pile of letters under the electric lamp. On the top of the stack was an envelope that was clearly undeliverable. In crude block letters were penciled the words: SANTA CLAUS NORTH POLE. Fred started to throw it away, when some impulse made him pause. He opened the letter and read:
"Dear Santa Claus, We are very sad in our house this year, and I don't want you to bring me anything. My little brother went to heaven last spring. All I want you to do when you come to our house is to take Brother's toys to him. I'll leave them in the corner by the kitchen stove; his hobby horse and train and everything. I know he'll be lost up in heaven without them, most of all his horse. He always liked riding it so much. So you must take them to him, please. And, you needn't mind leaving me anything. But, if you could give Daddy something that would make him like he used to be, and make him tell me stories, I do wish you would. I heard him say to Mommy once that only Eternity could cure him. Could you bring him some of that and I will be your good little girl. Love, Marian."

That night Fred walked home at a faster gait. In the winter darkness he stood in the dooryard garden for just a moment. Then, he opened the kitchen door. He hugged his wife and asked his little daughter if she was ready to hear a story.


The Twenty-Eight Cent Christmas Tree
~LaVarr B. Webb <MOMOWEN@aol.com>

It was a cold day. A gray day, gray with the threat of snow, and gray with the threat of tears. There were children in our family, three of them, ages one, twelve, and fourteen. There were two children missing on that cold, gray day. They had died one Easter season some four years before. Scarlet Fever had wracked their bodies and blotched their skin.

But now the memory of that sad season was replaced by what could be a happier one. It was Christmas Eve 1935, a Depression year. My father was without a job, trying to get on WPA (Works Progress Administration). I don't know where he was that night, just that he wasn't home, but I remember my mother trying to create Christmas joy with nothing to work with.

I was fourteen. My older sister was twelve. I don't remember that we were too concerned about receiving Christmas presents, at least I wasn't. My sister probably wanted a doll. She always wanted a doll, a baby doll, a doll like my baby sister had been, with fat, pink cheeks, and chubby hands and arms.

But now, Christmas Eve, my baby sister was thin and listless. I remember my mother telling my father, "My baby isn't getting proper food."

I don't remember much about that Christmas of 1935 other than I wanted a Christmas Tree. I told my mother, "Christmas will not be Christmas if we do not have a Christmas tree."

My sister and I begged for a tree. My mother told us "Time, and time again," "We have no money and I cannot buy a Christmas Tree."

My sister and I would not be deterred. We took colored paper from catalogs, cut it into strips, curled the strips into circles, and using flour and water paste, pasted one link into another until we had long lengths of highly colored paper chains.

We looked for tin foil from discarded chewing gum wrappers and cigarette packs. Some of the foil we cut into thin strips for icicles. Our neighbor had an English Walnut tree. We took halves of walnut shells, wrapped them with foil, and had beautiful ornaments that would rival anything found in a store.

We popped pop corn and made chains. We found discarded cranberries and made cranberry chains, but we had no Christmas Tree for our lovely ornaments. Finally, as day was fading, and the dark was creeping across the valley, I asked my mother, "See how much money you have. Maybe someone will sell me a tree."

She went to her purse, and handed me twenty-eight cents. She was crying when she said, "That is all I have."

I jumped on my bike, and rode up to Twenty First South Street in Salt Lake City where all the Christmas Tree lots were located. I went from lot to lot, but no one would sell me a tree for twenty-eight cents.

About nine o'clock, up on Twenty First South and State Street, I found a man turning off his lights and shutting down for the day, shutting down for the season. I asked him, "Do you have a tree you will sell for twenty-eight cents?"

His exact words were, "What the heck! I can't sell anymore anyway. Take your pick."

I found one just a little taller than I was, gave him my twenty-eight cents, put the tree across my handle bars, and headed home. As I peddled out of the lot, I heard him cry, "Merry Christmas" -- and it was.


A Miracle During A Journey To Mexico
[Submitted By John Maclean]

Many years ago a group of saints were traveling on their way to the LDS colonies in Mexico. Deep in Arizona or northern Mexico they found themselves camped on Christmas Eve outside a small town. With little resources to use and only their wagons and tents, it promised to be a bleak Christmas for the little children. Little Siphronia Rosetta Norton (Scott) was only 4 years old at the time and had no toys to help pass the time on the long hard trail. As her mother listened to her prayers, her heart was broken, for the little girl was asking in her prayer for only one little doll for her Christmas. She had not money to buy anything and besides the lamps were glimmering in the town on Christmas eve. It was too late even if she did have the money. Off to bed to her sad and fitful sleep. In the town, a woman there was looking out the window of her home at the group of people camped out there on Christmas Eve. She went out to see what and who they were in such a lonely place on Christmas Eve. As she approached the nearest tent, she overheard little Siphronia's prayer. Filled with compassion, she hurried home and found a beautiful little doll and later returned to leave it on the little girl's bed. The faith generated in Siphronia that night helped carry her through an eventful life as one of the pioneers of the Mexican Colonies. Let us all remember that most prayers are answered by the promptings of the spirit to each of us. Let us always listen for that still small voice that we may assist in the answering of someone's prayer. I learned this tender story in the mid sixties when I delivered the eulogy of Sister Scott in Casper, Wyoming.

John P. MacLean, Stafford, Texas Christmas Louise


Agnes -- Angel Above

Agnes grew up in Detroit, one of 8 children. She sold newspapers on the corner to make money for her younger brothers and sisters. Her father lied about his life. He had another family across the Detroit River in Canada. She found this out while visiting him in the hospital. He had been hit by a streetcar. He introduced Agnes as the daughter of "a friend of his" to the woman and her daughter in his hospital room.

Agnes found it needful to collect coal that fell from the railcars so their home could be heated. Agnes was a survivor.

When she became a young woman she found the love of her life. They quickly began their family. When little Billy asked for a brother for Christmas he got his wish. By the time baby Clyde was born his father, Clyde was fading from this life.

Scarlet Fever had left Clyde with limited kidney function when a young boy. He had always known his stay on earth would be cut short. It was.

On June 3 Agnes watched her husband slip away and turned to the task of raising 4 children age 5 and under. In time she would marry again out of sheer necessity as an obligation to her four children.

The depression was cruel to all, but Agnes baked and sent Billy out to deliver cinnamon rolls and bread to neighborhood customers. As the years flew by she cooked and baked her way to local fame, feeding soldiers during the war out of her tiny home North of Detroit. The backyard was full of guests the house could never contain. The house was always full of food from wall to wall, but never more than at Christmas. No one went without at Agnes's house. The house rule was: "NO CANDY AND COOKIES UNTIL YOU EAT YOUR PIE AND CAKE". The children obeyed the rule.

Clyde's brother showed up at her door early one morning.

"Ag, I couldn't sleep, something kept telling me you and Shortie needed some money and not only that but the exact amount, is this it? Seventeen dollars and 15 cents."

Just hours before Agnes had risen from her knees in prayer. Their house was to be foreclosed upon at midnight. She sent her crying husband to bed and assured him they would not loose the home. The amount of the payment was $17.00 and the money order charge was 15 cents.

After many years in a nursing home Agnes developed pneumonia. She was on the mend when an attendant peeked into her room and found she was gone. Her children, now grandparents themselves noticed the date, a familiar one to the family. June 3. Their loving father who lost his own life at 27 years of age had come for his bride on June 3, the day he left this life 63 years before.

One year and a few days later Clyde and Agnes were united beyond the grave in the Chicago , Illinois Temple. I was pleased to kneel at the alter for and in behalf of Agnes Lenore Ferland, my Grandmother. Finally I could give her something she didn't already have. Clyde. Merry Christmas Grandma. Janis, a little North of Detroit


The Expected Guest

There once lived in the city of Marseilles an old shoemaker, loved and honored by his neighbors, who affectionately called him Father Martin. One Christmas Eve as he sat alone in his little shop reading of the visit of the wise men to the infant Jesus, and of the gifts they brought, he said to himself: If tomorrow were the first Christmas, and if this Jesus were to be born in Marseilles this night, I know what I would give him! He rose from his stool and took from a shelf overhead two tiny shoes of softest snow-white leather, with bright silver buckles. I would give him these, my finest work. Then he paused and reflected. But I am a foolish old man. The Master has no need of my poor gifts.

Replacing the shoes, he blew out the candle and retired to rest. Hardly had he closed his eyes, it seemed, when he heard a voice call his name. 'Martin! Martin!' Intuitively he felt a presence. Then the voice spoke. 'You have wished to see me. Tomorrow I shall pass your window. If you see me, and bid me enter, I shall be a guest at your table.'

Father Martin did not sleep that night for joy. Before it was dawn he rose and swept and tidied up his little shop. He spread fresh sand on the floor, and wreathed green boughs of fir along the rafters. On the spotless linen covered table he placed a loaf of white bread, a jar of honey and a pitcher of milk. When all was ready he took up his vigil at the window. Presently an old street sweeper passed by, blowing upon his thin, gnarled hands to warm them. 'Poor fellow, he must be half frozen' he thought. 'Come in my friend and warm yourself and drink something hot.' And the man gratefully accepted. An hour passed and Martin saw a young, miserably clothed woman, carrying a baby. She paused wearily to rest in the shelter of his doorway. The heart of the old cobbler was touched. Quickly he flung open the door. 'Come in and warm while you rest. You do not look well.'

'I am going to the hospital. I hope they will take me in, and my baby boy. My husband is at sea and I am ill, without money.'

'Poor child,' cried Martin. 'You must eat something while you are getting warm. No? Then let me give a cup of milk to the little one. Ah! What a bright pretty fellow he is! Why, you have put no shoes on him!'

'I have no shoes for him.' sighed the mother. 'Then he shall have this lovely pair I finished yesterday." And Martin took down from the shelf the soft little white shoes he had admired the night before. He slipped them on the child's feet ... they fit perfectly. And shortly the poor young mother went on her way, some coins in her hand and tearful with gratitude. And Martin resumed his post by the window. Hour after hour went by and although people passed his window, and many needy souls shared the hospitality of the old cobbler, the expected Guest did not appear. It was only a dream he sighed with heavy heart. I did hope and believe, but He has not come.

Suddenly, so it seemed to his weary eyes, the room was flooded with a strange light. And to the cobbler's astonished vision there appeared before him, one by one the poor street sweeper, the sick mother and child, and all the other people whom he had aided during the day. And each smiled at him and said: 'have you not seen me? Did I not sit at your table?' And they vanished from view.

At last out of the silence Father Martin heard again the gentle voice repeating the old familiar words: 'Whosoever shall receive one such in my name, receiveth me ... for I was hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger and ye took me in ... inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me.'
Anne Mccolum Boyles


A Legend
~Author Unknown

There's a beautiful legend
That's never been told
It may have been known
To the Wise Men of old
How three little children
Came early at dawn,
With hearts that were sad,
To where Jesus was born.

One could not see,
One was too lame to play,
While the other, a mute,
Not a word could he say.
Yet, led by His star,
They came there to peep
At the little Lord Jesus
With eyes closed in sleep.

But how could the Christ Child,
So lovely and fair,
Not waken and smile
When He heard their glad prayer
Of hope at His coming,
Of faith in His birth,
Of praise at His bringing
God's peace to the earth?

And, then, as the light
Softly came through the door,
The lad that was lame
Stood upright once more.
The boy that was mute
Started sweetly to sing,
While the child that was blind
Looked with joy on the King!


Santa's Prayer On Christmas
~By Warren D. Jennings

The sleigh was all packed, the reindeer were fed,
But Santa still knelt by the side of the bed.

"Dear Father," he prayed "Be with me tonight.
There's much work to do and my schedule is tight.

I must jump in my sleigh and streak through the sky,
Knowing full well that a reindeer can't fly.

I will visit each household before the first light,
I'll cover the world and all in one night.

With sleigh bells a-ringing, I'll land on each roof,
Amid the soft clatter of each little hoof.

To get in the house is the difficult part,
So I'll slide down the chimney of each child's heart.

My sack will hold toys to grant all their wishes.
The supply will be endless like the loaves and the fishes.

I will fill all the stockings and not leave a track.
I'll eat every cookie that is left for my snack.

I can do all these things Lord, only through You,
I just need your blessing, then it's easy to do.

All this is to honor the birth of the One,
That was sent to redeem us, Your most Holy Son.

So to all of my friends, least Your glory I rob,
Please Lord, remind them who gave me this job."


Sweet Symbolism

A significant symbol of Christmas
is the simple candy cane,
Its shape is the crook of a shepherd-
one of the first who came.

The lively peppermint flavor
is the regal gift of spice,
the white is Jesus' purity;
the red His sacrifice.

The narrow stripes are friendship
and the nearness of his love-
eternal, sweet compassion,
a gift from God above.

The candy cane reminds us
of just how much he cared,
and, like his Christmas gift to us,
it's meant to be broken and shared.


A Cup Of Christmas Tea
~by Tom Hegg

The log was in the fireplace, all spiced and set to burn.

At last, the yearly Christmas race was in the clubhouse turn. The cards were in the mail, all the gifts beneath the tree. And 30 days reprieve 'till VISA could catch up with me.

And though smug satisfaction seemed the order of the day, Something still was nagging me, and would not go away. A week before, I got a letter from my old Great Aunt. It read: "Of course, I'll understand completely if you can't, but if you find you have some time, how wonderful if we could have a little chat and share a cup of Christmas tea."

She'd had a mild stroke that year which had crippled her left side. Though housebound now, my folks had said it hadn't hurt her pride. They said: "She'd love to see you. What a nice thing it would be for you to go and maybe have a cup of Christmas tea."

But boy! I didn't want to go! Oh what a bitter pill to see an old relation and how far she had gone downhill. I remembered her as
vigorous, and funny and as bright. I remembered Christmas Eves when she regaled us half the night. I didn't' want to risk all that. I didn't want the pain.

I didn't need to be depressed. I didn't need the strain. And what about my brother? Why not him? She's his aunt, too! I thought I had it justified, but then before I knew, the reasons not to go I had so painstakingly built were cracking wide and crumbling in an acid rain of guilt.

I put on boots and gloves and cap, shame stinging every pore, and armed with squeegee, sand and map I went out my front door.

I drove in from the suburbs to the older part of town. The pastels of the newer homes gave way to gray and brown.

I had that disembodied feeling as the car pulled up and stopped beside the wooden house that held the Christmas cup. How I got up to her door, I really couldn't tell ...

I watched my hand rise up and press the button of the bell. I waited, aided by my nervous rocking to and fro, and just as I was thinking I should turn around and go, I heard the rattle of the china in the hutch against the wall. The triple beat of two feet and a crutch came down the hall.

The clicking of the door latch and the sliding of the bolt, and a little swollen struggle popped it open with a jolt.

She stood there, pale and tiny, looking fragile as an egg ... I forced myself from staring at the brace that held their leg. And though her thick bifocals seemed to crack and spread her eyes, their milky and refracted depths lit up with young surprise.

"Come in! Come in!" She laughed the words. She took me by the hand, and all my fears dissolved away, as if by her command. We went inside, and then before I knew how to react.

Before my eyes and ears and nose was Christmas past ... alive ... intact:

The scent of candied oranges, of cinnamon and pine the antique wooden soldiers in their military line;

The porcelain Nativity I'd always loved so much ... The Dresden and the crystal I'd been told I mustn't touch ...

My spirit fairly bolted, like a child out of class and danced among the ornaments of calico and glass. Like magic, I was six again, deep in a Christmas spell, steeped in the million memories the boy inside knew well.

And here among old Christmas cards, so lovingly displayed, a special place of honor for the ones we kids had made.

And there, beside her rocking chair, the center of it all ... My great aunt stood and said how nice it was I'd come to call.

I sat ... and rattled on about ... the weather and the flu. She listened very patiently, then smiled and said, "What's new?" Thoughts and words began to flow. I started making sense. I lost the phony breeziness I used when I get tense. She was still passionately interested in everything I did. She was positive. Encouraging. Like when I was a kid.

Simple generalities still sent her into fits. She demanded the specifics. The particulars. The bits. We talked about the limitations
that she'd had to face. She spoke with utter candor, and with humor and with grace. Then defying the reality of crutch and straightened knee, on wings of hospitality, she flew to brew the tea.

I sat alone with feelings that I hadn't felt in years. I looked around at Christmas through a thick, hot blur of tears. And the candles and the holly she'd arranged on every shelf ... The impossibly good cookies she still somehow baked herself ...

But these rich, tactile memories became quite pale and thin when measured by the Christmas my Great Aunt kept deep within. Her body halved and nearly spent, but my Great Aunt was whole. I saw a Christmas miracle ... the triumph of a soul.

The triple beat of two feet and crutch came down the hall. The rattle of the china in the hutch against the wall. She poured two cups. She smiled, and then she handed one to me.

And then we settled back and had a cup of Christmas tea.


Story In Russia

In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. They relate the following story in their own words:

It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear -- for the first time -- the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.

Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city. Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia, were used for the baby's blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States.

The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat -- he looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy's manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at his completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately -- until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger.

Then Misha started to ad lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, "And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don't have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn't, because I didn't have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, 'If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?' And Jesus told me, 'If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.' So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him -- for always."

As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him -- FOR ALWAYS."


Mary's Christmas Miracle

DECEMBER 1985 This Christmas story has been compiled by Marian Jeppson Walker from memories of hearing the story told by her mother, Mary Thomas Jeppson. It has been over fifteen years since anyone has heard this story from her lips, so memories of details have grown dim. However, asked by many ward Relief Societies to come and retell her beautiful true Christmas story. The retelling of this story was always an emotional drain on her but an emotional uplift for all of those who were privileged to hear her tell the story.
It was December of 1927 in the remote prairie town of Hillspring, Alberta, Canada. A young mother by the name of Mary was getting her six small children ready for bed. Her heart was so full of sorrow and concern that she felt it would surely break ... and yet she felt that it was too laden down in grief to even have a chance to break.
It was Christmas Eve, and all of the children except for the oldest, Ellen, age ten, were dancing around excited to hang their socks for Santa to come. Ellen sat very subdued and sullen over in a corner of the cold, small two-room house. She felt that her mother was cruel and wrong to let the children build up their hopes and excitement for Santa to come, because actually there would be no Santa. There was nothing to fill the socks. There would be only a little mush for breakfast. There was very little wheat and corn left. The winter had just started and already it was cold and harsh. The milk cow had died last week from starvation and harsh weather conditions. The last two or three chickens had stopped laying eggs about a month ago.
Times were hard and Ellen being the oldest had too much responsibility put on her thin young shoulders. She had become very cynical, and childhood hopes and dreams and excitements had to be put out of mind much too early.
Mary helped each one of her children hang a little darned and mended sock. She couldn't persuade Ellen to hang one, however. All Ellen could say was, "Mom, don't do this. Don't pretend."
After the socks had been hung, Mary had read the Christmas story from the Bible to the children and then recited a few Christmas poems from memory -- memories of her own happy childhood living in the United Sates.
She was the next to the youngest of a very large and loving family. Her mother and father, although pioneers in a remote area of Idaho, made life, and especially Christmas, very happy, loving and warm times. As the children went to bed, everyone except Ellen had visions of sugarplums dancing through their heads.
Ellen turned to her mother with one last plea, "Mom, tell them tonight. Let them know tonight that there's not going to be anything there in the morning for them. Don't let them go to bed thinking that they are going to be able to get up and have some surprises. They'll just be disappointed."
But Mary turned to her daughter, kissed her goodnight and whispered, "I can't Ellen. Don't ask why, I just can't tell them that."
It was midnight now. The children had been asleep for hours, and Mary's husband, Leland, had gone to bed -- feeling like a broken man, like he had failed the family completely. Mary sat by the dying fire reading from the Bible the story of Christmas over and over again. Her mind drifted off to think about their plight here in this God forsaken land of ice and snow.
It was the beginning of the depression, and her husband had heard wondrous stories about the opportunities in Canada. He'd heard that anyone could come to Canada, homestead some land, and if he had a good team of horses, could hire out to clear other people's land. There would be good money to be made. He'd heard that the opportunities were unlimited.
After two years of not being able to find work in the United States and after flood had destroyed their small home in Willard, UT, he had moved his family to Canada. But when they arrived they found that they were five or six years too late to cash in on the great opportunities they had heard about. They did homestead a small piece of land, however. But spring had come very late for the last two years and winter had come very early. They had been left with only part of July and part of August for a growing season, and all of the crops had frozen for two years in a row.
In October Mary had received a letter from her family in Idaho. Her sisters living in Malad and Pleasant View had written to her and told her that they knew times were very hard for her and although the Depression was causing many hardships for themselves, they wanted to know what they could do to help and what they could send the family for Christmas. Mary hadn't written back to them real soon. In fact, it was quite a long time before she did write back. She had too much pride to tell them how poor and destitute the family really was.
Finally in November, seeing that things were not going to get any better, in desperation she had written. Mary had requested only necessities. She had told them how desperately they needed food, especially wheat, yeast, flour and some cornmeal. She related to them how long it had been since she had been able to bake a cake or cookies because they had no molasses or honey and of course no sugar. It had been a year since they'd had any salt to use on their food. She also added the if they could ship just a little bit of coal it would help because is was so cold there, and their fuel was almost down to nothing. She finished her letter with a request for some old used quilts. All of her own had worn thin and were full of holes, and they could not keep her children warm. Also she requested some old worn out pants that she could use to cut up for patches to repatch the pants that her boys were wearing. She told them of their desperate need for socks and shoes and gloves and warm hats and coats. And at the very end of her letter she had stated, "if you could just find a dress that someone has outgrown that I could make over to fit Ellen, please send that too. Ellen is such a little old lady for such a young girl. She worries about the family and about our needs and she carries the worries of the family on her shoulders. She has only one dress that she wears all the time, and it is patched and faded. She's outgrown it, and I would like to fix something that is nicer up for her."
The week before Christmas had found Leland hitching up the horse to the sleigh and making the three hour round trip from Hillspring into the town of Cardston every day to check at the train station and at the post office to see if a package had come for the family from Idaho. Each day he would receive the same disappointing answer.
Finally on the day of Christmas Eve he left early in the morning from Hillspring and went into Cardston and sat around waiting for the one daily train and checking at the post office to see if the box had come from Idaho. He left at noon, however to return home to Hillsping before dark, and he left without a package. He had to go home and tell Mary that maybe it would arrive the day after Christmas or some time next week, but it hadn't made it before Christmas.
Mary woke up out her reminiscing sleep with a chill. The old clock on the wall showed that it was 3:30 AM. The fire in the old stove was all but out. She decided to put a little more fuel into the stove so that it wouldn't take so long to start in the morning so that she would be able to cook the last little bit of wheat that she had for breakfast. She looked up at the sad little mended socks still hanging empty and felt that her heart was hanging just as empty. Outside the wind was blowing about seventy miles per hour and the snowstorm had intensified.
After she had added a few lumps of coal to the fire, she was about to put out the lantern and go to bed for a few hours when suddenly there was a knock at the door. Mary opened the door to find a man standing there, and for all the world he looked exactly like what one would expect Santa himself to look like. He was covered with frozen snow and ice. He had a long beard and it was white from the snow. His hat, his gloves, his boots were all white, and for a moment she was startled into believing that Santa had really come and knocked on the door.
It was the mailman from Cardston. He belonged to the Church and he knew of the plight of the family. He told her that he knew of their waiting for the package from Idaho and he knew that there would be no Christmas without it. That evening as he was finishing up a long day of delivering mail all around the area of Cardston, he was glad to be in. His horse was exhausted and cold. It was one of the worst days that they had had so far that year with the blizzard and the cold wind and he was very anxious to put his horse in the barn, park his sleigh and go home and spend Christmas Eve with his family. Just after he got in to put the horse away, someone from the train station came up to him and told him that ten large crates had arrived from the States for the Jeppson family. It was only about four in the afternoon, but already it was dark. The storm was getting worse. The mailman told the man from the train station it was just too late. There wasn't anything he could do about it. He did say that the day after Christmas, though, he would see that those crates did get out to the Jeppsons. He went home and was very disturbed. He talked to his wife about it, and together they decided that the only thing he could do was to take the crates out to the Jeppsons' little isolated farm house in Hillspring. He would have to find someone that would let him borrow a fresh horse and also borrow a sleigh with sharp running edges on it.
After he finished telling Mary about his decision to come, he brought the crates into the house. Mary told him to go over by the stove and to get warm and thaw out. She took his horse out to the barn and when she looked at the poor animal, she knew there was no way that horse could make the trip back to Cardston that night. She went back into the house and asked him if he wouldn't just stay until morning to let himself and the horse have a chance to rest. He told her no, that it had taken him about eight hours to make a trip that could usually be made in about an hour and a half, and he said that if he were to leave now and go back, he would still be able to spend Christmas afternoon with his family. Mary reminded him of the condition of his horse. She said that it had icicles hanging from its nose, mouth and ears and that there was no way that horse could make it back. But he still insisted on going, so Mary told him that she would harness up their horse because it was in a lot better condition to make the trip back. She then went in and got some of Leland's clothes and had the mailman take off his wet frozen clothes and put dry clothes on. While he was doing that she went back out to the barn and harnessed up their horse. Back in the house again she fed him what warm food she could muster up. The mailman then headed back to town. It had taken him eight hours to get there because of the severity of the storm. By this time it was 4:30 and going on 5:00 in the morning. He probably wouldn't get back till noon or after if he left now. Mary had thanked him as best she could, but she always said that there just were no words enough to express her thanks. After all, how do you thank a miracle, and a Christmas miracle at that?
As soon as he left, Mary began to unpack the crates. She only had an hour or so to get ready before the children would wake up. At the top of one of the crates she found a letter from her sisters. They told her that quilting bees had been held all over the Malad Valley, and from these, six thick warm beautiful quilts had been make to be sent up for them. They told her of the many women who had sewn shirts for the boys and dresses for the girls, and of others who had knitted the warm gloves and hats. The donation of socks and shoes had come from people from miles around. The Relief Society had even held a bazaar to raise the money to buy the coats, and all the sisters and nieces and cousins and aunts and uncles from all around had got together to bake the breads and make the candy to send. There was even a crate half full of beef that had been cured and packed so that it could be shipped, and lo and behold, there were two or three slabs of bacon and also two hams. The closing of the letter had said, "We hope you have a Merry Christmas, and thank you so much for making our Christmas the best one we've ever had!"
When Mary's family awoke that Christmas morning, they awoke to what to them was a miracle. Bacon was sizzling on the stove, hot muffins were ready to come out of the oven. There were bottle and jars of jams and jelly and canned fruit that the younger children had never even seen before in their lives, and they weren't even sure what it was. But, oh, was it good! Every sock that was hanging was stuffed full! Homemade taffy, fudge, divinity and, dried fruit of every kind were in the socks, as well as cookies like the children had never seen. They weren't sure what to call them.
Later Mary and Leland were to find tucked in each toe of socks that had been sent for them, a dollar or two with a little note that the money was to be used to buy coal and fuel for the rest of the winter and to buy oats and wheat to feed the animals.
For each boy there was a bag of marbles, and each girl had a little rag doll made just for her.
But best of all and the most wonderful miracle occurred when Ellen, the very last to get up, rubbed her eyes in disbelief as she looked at the spot where her sock was supposed to have been hung the night before and saw hanging there a beautiful red Christmas dress, trimmed with white and green satin ribbons. Ellen turned around, walked back to her bed and laid back down, thinking it to be a dream. But in only moments she opened her eyes again and came back out to the joy of the most wonderful Christmas ever, for that morning with a Christmas dress for Ellen, a childhood had been brought back, a childhood of hopes and dreams and Santa’s and the miracle of Christmas.

The Legend Of The Christmas Spider
(This Legend comes from both Germany and the Ukraine)

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a gentle mother was busily cleaning the house for the most wonderful day of the year ... the day on which the Christ-Child would come to bless the house. Not a speck of dust was left. Even the spiders had vanished from their cozy corner in the ceiling to avoid the housewife's busy cleaning. They finally fled to the farthest corner of the attic.

Twas Christmas Eve at last! The tree was decorated and waiting for the children to see it. But the poor spiders were frantic, for they could not see the tree, nor be present for the Christ-Child's visit. But the oldest and wisest spider suggested that perhaps they could peek through the crack in the door to see Him. Silently, they crept out of the attic, down the stairs, and across the floor to wait in the crack in the threshold. Suddenly, the door opened a wee bit and quickly the spiders scurried into the room. They must see the tree closely, since their eyes weren't accustomed to the brightness of the room. So they crept all over the tree, up and down, and over every branch and twig, until they had seen every one of the pretty things. At last they had satisfied themselves completely of the Christmas tree's beauty.

But alas! Everywhere they had been, they had left webs, and when the Christ-Child came to bless the house he was dismayed. He loved the little spiders for they were God's creatures too, but He knew the mother, who had trimmed the tree for the children would not feel the same ... so he touched the webs and they all turned into sparkling, shimmering strands of silver and gold.

Since that time we have hung tinsel on our Christmas trees, and according to the Legend, it has become a custom to include spider among decorations on the tree..


Christmas

I have a list of folks I know, all written in a book,
And every year at Christmas time, I go and take a look.
And that is when I realize that these names are a part ...
Not of the book they're written in, but of my very heart.
For each name stands for someone
who has crossed my path sometime,
And in that meeting they've become the rhythm in each rhyme.
And while it sounds fantastic for me to make this claim,
I really feel that I'm composed of each remembered name.
And while you may not be aware of any special link,
Just meeting you has changed my life and a lot more than you think.
For once I've met somebody, the years cannot erase
The memory of a pleasant word or of a friendly face.
So never think my Christmas cards are just a mere routine
Of names on a Christmas list, forgotten in between.
For when I send a Christmas card that is addressed to you,
It's because you are on the list of folks I am indebted to.
For I am the total of the many folks I have met
And you happen to be one of those I prefer not to forget.
And whether I have known you for many years or few,
In some way you have been part in shaping things I do.
And every year when Christmas comes, I realize anew
The best life can offer is meeting folks like you.
And may the spirit of Christmas that forever endures,
Leave the richest blessings in the hearts of you and yours.
--Unknown


Santa's Secret Wish
~by Betty Werth

On Christmas Eve, a young boy with light in his eyes
Looked deep into Santa's, to Santa's surprise,
And said as he nestled on Santa's broad knee,
"I want your secret. Tell it to me."
He leaned up and whispered in Santa's good ear,
"How do you do it, year after year?

"I want to know how, as you travel about,
Giving gifts here and there, you never run out.
How is it, dear Santa, that in your pack of toys
You have plenty for all of the world's girls and boys?
Stays so full, never empties, as you make your way
From rooftop to rooftop, to homes large and small,
From nation to nation, reaching them all?"

And Santa smiled kindly and said to the boy,
"Don't ask me hard questions. Don't you want a toy?"
But the child shook his head, and Santa could see
That he needed the answer. "Now listen to me,"
He told the small boy with the light in his eyes,
"My secret will make you sadder, and wise.

"The truth is that my sack is magic. Inside
It holds millions of toys for my Christmas Eve ride.
But although I do visit each girl and each boy
I don't always leave them a gaily wrapped toy.
Some homes are hungry, some homes are sad,
Some homes are desperate, some homes are bad,
Some homes are broken, and children there grieve.
Those homes I visit, but what should I leave?

"My sleigh is filled with the happiest stuff,
But for homes where despair lives, toys aren't enough.
So I tiptoe in, kiss each girl and boy,
And pray with them that they'll be given the joy
Of the spirit of Christmas, the spirit that lives
In the heart of the dear child who gets not, but gives.

"If only God hears me and answers my prayer,
When I visit next year, what I will find there
Are homes filled with peace, and with giving, and love
And boys and girls gifted with lights from above.
It's a very hard task, my smart little brother,
To give toys to some, and to give prayers to others,
But the prayers are the best gifts, the best gifts indeed,
For God has a way of meeting each need.

"That's part of the answer. The rest, my dear youth,
Is that my sack is magic. And that is the truth.
In my sack I carry on Christmas Eve day
More love than a Santa could e'er give away.
The sack never empties of love, or of joys
'Cause inside it are prayers, and hopes. Not just toys.
The more that I give, the fuller it seems,
Because giving is my way of fulfilling dreams.

"And do you know something? You've got a sack, too.
It's as magic as mine, and it's inside of you.
It never gets empty, it's full from the start.
It's the center of lights, and of love. It's your heart.
And if on this Christmas you want to help me,
Don't be so concerned with the gifts 'neath your tree.
Open that sack called your heart, and share
Your joy, your friendship, your wealth, your care."

The light in the small boy's eyes was glowing.
"Thanks for the secret. I've got to be going."
"Wait, little boy," said Santa, "don't go.
Will you share? Will you help? Will you use what you know?"
And just for a moment the small boy stood still,
Touched his heart with his small hand and whispered,
"I will."


The Little Loaf

Once, when there was a famine, a rich baker sent for twenty of the poorest children in the town and said to them, "In this basket there is a loaf for each of you. Take it, and come back to me every day till God sends us better times."

The hungry children gathered eagerly about the basket, and quarreled for the bread, because each wished to have the largest loaf. At last they went away without even thanking the good man. But Gretchen, a poorly dressed little girl, did not quarrel or struggle with the rest, but remained standing modestly a pace away. When the ill-behaved children had left, she took the smallest loaf, which alone was left in the basket, kissed the man's hand, and went home. The next day the children were as ill-behaved as before, and poor, timid Gretchen received a loaf scarcely half the size of the one she got the first day. When she came home, and her mother cut the loaf open, many new, shining pieces of silver fell out of it.

The mother was very much alarmed, and said, "Take the money back to the good man at once, for it must have got in the dough by accident. Go quickly, Gretchen, go quickly!"

But when the little girl gave the rich man her mother's message, he said, "No, no my child, it was no mistake. I had the silver piece put into the smallest loaf to reward you. Always be contented, peaceable, and grateful as you are now. Go home, now, and tell your mother that the money is your own."

--adapted from McGuffey's Third Reader


The Envelope

It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so. It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas-oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it -- overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma --t he gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a
wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them."

Mike loved kids -- all kids -- and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me.

His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition -- one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure.

The story doesn't end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing round the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope...

Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us. May we all remember the Christmas spirit this year and always.


Two Donkeys
A Christmas Story by Joan Goble <momof2miss@juno.com> 1998

Two donkeys stood in their stalls in a humble stable on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The oldest, a she-ass could barely chew on the small amount of moldy hay she had been given to eat. She knew that her days left on earth were few, and her colt, which stood by her side, also munching on his hay, was the last one she would ever birth. He wore her out with his constant questions. She only had so much energy to give to him -

"Mother --"

(Not again, she thought, why doesn't he give me some peace.)

"Mother --" he said again.

"Yes --- son."

"Why are the people making so much noise in the streets?"

"Because it is the Passover, son. I have lived through many Passovers, and it is the custom for the people to have one prisoner released. They are calling out his name."

"But, I hear them call, Barabus, Barabus, Mother. Why are they calling for him? I heard he is a thief and a murderer."

"You can never understand men, my son, they are very unpredictable."

"I thought they would want someone else. It was only a week ago that they pulled me out of the field where I was eating green grass, and threw their coats over me, and then they put a man on my back -- a big, strong man. My back could hardly support him, but then a feeling came trough me -- traveled down my back into my legs, a strengthening power that made me feel like I could carry a whole Roman legion. And a joy that filled my heart so that all I wanted to do was gallop with happiness. Then he rode me through the gate and into the streets of the city. And the people bowed before us and scattered palm leaves, and called him their King. I
heard the Romans have arrested him. Why don't the people release him, their King? Why do they want a thief?"

"Like I told you, son, men are fickle and unpredictable. But if you will listen, I can tell you more about this King." The colt bent his legs and sat down at his mother's side.

"It was many years ago, my son. I was no older than you, and I lived near a little town in Galilee, may miles from here. I used to work for a young carpenter for my daily meals. He would tie the wood on my back and I would carry it to his carpenter shop. His clever hands would make many things from the wood I carried, everything from plows to chairs and tables. I would graze in a small field just outside the shop and sometimes I would watch him work. Then I would carry the plows and chairs to the people that he made them for. He would sleep in the carpenter shop and I would sleep in the field.

"One day he left his work in the shop and built a small sturdy house outside the shop. Soon after the house was built, he brought a beautiful lady there to live with him. She was going to birth a foal soon, and often when she went through the town the lady would ride on my back when it became too tiring for her to carry the water on her head to her little house.

"One day we made a long, long trip, and the lady had to ride on my back almost all the way. We came to a little town near Jerusalem and there in a stable near us animals the foal was birthed. But her was not an ordinary human foal, because he was visited by the rich and the poor alike. Great kings from the east brought him gifts, and the shepherds even left their flocks in the fields to worship him. Angels sang at his birth. They called him the King and the Son of God.

"Later we had to travel very fast at night a long way to Egypt. The lady cried almost all the way and seemed frightened. But the little human foal was quiet and happy. I seemed to get the same kind of strength in my legs from carrying him that you did, and the same kind of happiness in my heart that made me travel fast and for long hours without tiring.

"Later we went back to Galilee, when the lady was no longer frightened. The foal grew up to be a fine young colt. We all worked together in the carpenter shop, until the colt had grown older and we went to Jerusalem one Passover. There, some men stole me and made me work in a mine until I was too broken to work any more. I never saw the carpenter's family again until I saw you bringing the King into Jerusalem. Then I knew that it was the colt grown up to be the King -- and I knew it was the same--Jesus the Son of God."

"But Mother, Why do they want to kill their King?"

"As I said, son, men are fickle and unpredictable."


George Albert Smith And The Christmas Spirit

{George Albert Smith was born in 1870 in Salt Lake City. He was ordained an apostle in 1903 at age 33, became the eighth president of the Church in 1945, and died in 1951 at age 81. This reminiscence was written by his daughter.}

Christmas Eve, we hung our stockings in front of the fireplace in the dining room. Father always hung a huge stocking because he assured us that Santa Claus would never get all the things he wanted in just a regular stocking. That added to the gaiety of the occasion. Each year he brought his tall rubber boots from the basement, and stood one at each side of the fireplace. No matter how excited we children were, we were never permitted to go downstairs until we were washed, combed and fully dressed. Then we had morning prayers and sat down to breakfast -- the worst breakfast of the year, because it took so much time and seemed to hinder our getting to our stockings.

There was always something very unusual and very special down in the toe of the stocking. First we laughed and laughed over the things that Santa Claus put in father's boots -- coal, kindlings, and vegetables. Then we were offended because we thought Santa Claus was not very kind to father who was always so generous with everyone else. We always brought something very special the next day to make up for the slight Santa Claus had made.

After our mirth and merriment had subsided, father took us with him to make the rounds of the forgotten friends that he habitually visited on Christmas. Once we went down a long, long alley in the middle of a city block where there were some very poor houses. We opened the door of one tiny home and there on the bed lay an old lady very sad and alone. As we came in, tears ran down her cheeks. She reached over to take hold of father's hands and said, "I am grateful to you for coming, because if you hadn't come, I would have had no Christmas at all. No one else had remembered me." We thoroughly enjoyed this part of the day.

(Emily Smith Stewart, daughter of President Smith; recorded in Madsen,
Christmas - A Joyful Heritage, pp. 22-23)


Waiting ... Waiting For Christmas
By Elizabeth English

Herman and I finally locked our store and dragged ourselves home.

It was 11:00 p.m. Christmas Eve. We'd sold almost all of our toys; and all of the layaways, except one package, had been picked up. But the person who had put a dollar down on that package never appeared. Early Christmas morning our 12-year-old son Tom, and Herman and I were out under the tree opening up gifts. But, there was something humdrum about this Christmas. Tom was growing up, and I missed his childish exuberance of past years. As soon as breakfast was over, Tom left to visit friends, and Herman disappeared into the bedroom, mumbling, "I'm going back to sleep."

So there I was alone. It was nearly 9:00 a.m. and sleet mixed with snow cut the air outside. Sure glad I don't have to go out on a day like today, I thought to myself. And then it began. Something I'd never experienced before. A strange, persistent urge. "Go to the store," it seemed to say. That's crazy, I said to myself. No one opens shop on Christmas Day. For an hour I fought that strange feeling. Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer, and I got dressed. I put on my wool coat and tam on my head, then my galoshes and scarf and gloves. Once outside the wind cut right through me, and sleet stung my cheeks. I felt ridiculous. I had no business being out in that bitter chill.

There was the store just ahead. But, what in the world? I wondered. In front of the store stood two little boys, huddled together, poorly dressed and half frozen. One about nine, and the other six. "Here she come?" yelled the older one. "See, I told you she would come," he said. The younger one's face was wet with tears, but when he saw me his eyes opened wide and his sobbing stopped. "What are you two children doing out here?" I scolded, hurrying them into the store. "We've been waiting for you," replied the older brother. "My little brother Jimmy didn't get any Christmas. We want to buy some skates. That's what he wants." I
looked at the three dollars in his hand, and at their expectant faces. Then I looked around the store. "I'm sorry," I said, "but we have no ska... " Then my eye caught sight of the layaway shelf with its one lone package. Could it be ... ? I walked over and unwrapped the package. Miracle of miracles, there was a pair of skates!

Jimmy reached for them. Lord, I said silently, let them be his size. And miracle added upon miracle, they were his size. When the older boy finished tying the laces and saw that the skates fit perfectly he stood up and presented the dollars to me. "No, I'm not going to take your money," I told him. "I want you to have these skates, and use your money to get some gloves for your hands." What I saw in Jimmy's eyes was like a blessing. It was pure joy, and it was beautiful. My low spirits rose.

As I locked the door, I turned to the older brother and said, "How lucky that I happened to come along when I did. How did you boys know I would come?" I wasn't prepared for his reply. His gaze was steady, and he answered me softly. "I knew you would come," he said. "I asked Jesus to send you."

The tingles in my spine weren't from the cold, I knew. God had planned this. As we waved good-bye, I turned home to a brighter Christmas than I had left.


How To Make This The Best Christmas Ever
Kelly Reber <toetrk@primenet.com>

(Putting Christ Back into the Holiday Season)

1. Contemplate whose birthday we are celebrating. What will you give Christ this Christmas season?

2. Give presents of the heart. (Gifts of time, babysitting, service, etc.)

3. Visit and sing at a nursing home. Ask if there is a particular resident that has few visitors and go back another time.

4. Go through your clothes, toys, possessions and give something away to someone less fortunate. Do sub for Santa or participate in a worthy cause to bring Christmas cheer to someone who might not have it.

5. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Put this saying on a can or jar. Put in your extra change and make some small sacrifices -- such as go without a pop, treat, make pizza instead of purchasing, etc. Put the money you save in the jar and then pray for a project that you can participate in and use the money.

6. The SALVATION ARMY has a list of names needing assistance. Many stores such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart have Christmas trees that you can select a name to buy something.

7. There are boxes in many stores for food or other needed items. Consider sharing in this manner.

8. The Rescue Mission needs help serving meals and delivering holiday baskets.

9. Give Church related items such as scriptures, Church News, subscriptions to The Friend, New Era, Ensign, church books or tapes, food storage items, 72 hour kit items.

10. Write a letter of appreciation to a teacher, coach, friend, or anyone who has been an influence in your life.

11. Write a thank-you note to your parents, a family member, and share some positive experiences.

12. Do your own life story to give out or the life story of someone else (even a one page history would be great!)

13. Do a tribute for a family member. Write to friends and relatives and have them share feelings about the family member you are honoring. Send a self-addresses, stamped envelope, have a deadline, and encourage pictures. Type up the responses and share with the person being honored and other family members.

14. Read The Polar Express and wear a bell during December to remind you that you truly believe and want to be Christ like.

15. Do the 12 days of Christmas for someone.

16. Write your testimony in a Book of Mormon and share with a friend.

17. Start some simple traditions; foods that you will bake each year, obtain a new ornament, decoration, book, tape.

18. Read the gospels in the New Testament or make a determination to truly read and ponder the scriptures.

19. Make decisions based upon the thought, "What would Christ do?"

20. Simplify, simplify, simplify!!!!!!!!!! Many times less is more ...

21. SING! SING! SING! And LISTEN! LISTEN! LISTEN! To Christmas carols. READ! READ! READ! Christmas stories.

22. Do something your roommates or family members want to do -- no matter how messy, loud, or time consuming.

23. Do anonymous acts of service (shovel someone's walk, leave a card or treats, pray and listen to the spirit.)

24. Someone once said that decorations should reflect your testimony. Find the symbolism in the decorations. Emphasize decorations centered around the birth of Christ.

25. Prepare early so you can truly enjoy the holiday season.

26. Consider what you can do for the missionaries ... write to them, invite them to dinner, prepare someone for them to teach (the best present of all), give them small food items they can use in their apartments -- breakfast foods, Kleenex, new toothbrush, stamps, postcards about our area, a picture of your family, etc.

27. Have a Shepherd's Night. Eat a simple meal (bread, cheese, stew, etc). Sing songs and read scriptures about the shepherds. Sleep out around the Christmas tree. Ponder how the shepherds went with haste to see Christ.

28. Submit genealogy names and do the work. Attend the temple as often as you can.

29. Indicate a blessing you enjoy when you put the ornaments on the tree.

30. Turn off the lights except the tree light and listen to music.

31. Have "secret pals" in your apt/family the week before Christmas and do anonymous acts of service.

32. Give your children/grandchildren/family members a gift from the heart -- an ornament they can take when they leave, a painting, life story up to date, scrapbook, special letter, etc.

33. Have family home evenings centered around the gifts Christ has given and write down what you will give. Save in an envelope, put on the tree, put on your mirror so you will remember throughout the year, etc.

34. Prepare a Christmas scrapbook of fun things you've done, pictures, stories, ideas.

35. Have a picture of Christ in your home. Put on a note, "Am I keeping Christmas all year through?"

36. Have a Christmas advent calendar and move one space closer to the stable. Read a scripture reference each day.

37. Give a basket of IOU's that you will give throughout the year.

38. Remember the families you home and visiting teach. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!!


The Christmas Scene
By Neal A. Maxwell

What counsel then comes to us out of that Bethlehem chapter to help us be worthy and effective participants in the further unfolding chapters?

1. We should be like that star -- in our proper orbit and place, on time, putting our talents to work, doing what we have been asked to do. God has placed us in our proper human orbits with the same precision he used as He placed that star in a certain trajectory ages before it shone brightly that special night. Like that star, we too must reflect the glory of God and not seek to shine for our own sake. Illuminated individuals should remember that "a candle is not lighted for itself, and neither is a man." (George McDonald, Life Essential, p. 79.)

2. We should emulate the shepherds who "made known abroad" all that which was told them. And we have been told so much more! We too must be willing to leave off other tasks in order to declare the glad and good tidings of Christ's gospel and Church fully restored. The scriptures say the shepherds "came with haste." Their lengthening of their stride is a sermon in itself.

3. We can be like the wise men and notice the signs in the midst of an unnoticing world and seek the Savior -- refusing, as did the wise men, to be used improperly by earthly rulers, yet giving freely of our gifts and talents and time, for these are the real gold, frankincense, and myrrh of our lives.

4. Let us do what is right even when misunderstood, just as Joseph did, and endure the doubts and even the derision of others who simply do not understand what divine purposes are under way.

5. We should, as did John the Baptist while yet a babe in Elizabeth's womb, leap in anticipation and acknowledgment of the impending Christ. We too need a sense of history and of our place in preparing the way for His coming.

6. Like our fellow members of the ancient Church on the American Hemisphere, we ought to be willing to trust (even up to the last moment) in the fulfillment of prophecy. These Saints trusted in Samuel's prophecy about the Savior's birth (Helaman 14:3-5) even when their lives were forfeit (3 Nephi 1:8-9).

7. We will need to be like Mary and keep some things in our hearts and ponder them trustingly, for we too know more than we can tell. And should we, like the Christ child, need to spend a season in an Egypt of patient preparation and waiting, so be it!

8. We should avoid being deeply disappointed or surprised when the modern innkeepers or the establishments of the world have no room for Christ's servants or cannot "give place for a portion" of Christ's word (Alma 32:27). For us too, better a spiritual manger than a stay in those secular inns of the intellect, which are so exclusionary of spiritual things.

9. Let us not be surprised, either, if the Herods of today are no more human that the one of the Christ child's day, especially when they think their kingdoms are to be threatened by the kingdom of God. Let us be wise as serpents and harmless as doves as we are confronted with the modern counterparts of that wily Herod who asked the wise men to return to him to tell him where the Babe was so that he too could come to "worship." It is better to be rejected than "taken in" by those who would use us to hurt God's work.

Yes, the larger Christmas story is clearly not over. It is not solely about some other time, some other place, and some other people. It is still unfolding, and we are in it! Like the wise men who persisted to Bethlehem, let us not turn back from our full journey -- beyond Bethlehem -- and we too shall be led to Him.

So, in gospel gladness, we wish for ourselves and each other not only a "Merry Christmas" with all that implies, and not just a "Happy New Year," but also the joys and happiness of eternal life, God's greatest gift!


Christmas Blessings
By Elder Robert E. Wells

It was the afternoon of December 24th. All Church employees had been given the day off, but I had some business matters that I wanted to finish, so I was still in my office in the high-rise Church Office Building. Helen and the children were expecting me home for last-minute Christmas preparations before our traditional Christmas Eve dinner and family program.

I was hurrying to finish a long and complicated matter so I could go home when the phone rang. It was President Spencer W. Kimball, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve at that time. All he said was, "Robert, are you busy?"

I felt that he must need me for something so my answer was, "Not at all. What can I do for you?" We had developed a relationship over the years when he had stayed in our home in South America and I had traveled with him and translated for him down there. From time to time, now that I was living in Salt Lake City and working for the Church, he would ask me to drive him somewhere or accompany him to a conference. I was always flattered and happy to have the privilege of serving or helping this great man. His response was as I expected: "Robert, thanks. Could you please meet me by my car?"

I answered, "Yes, of course." He hung up without another word, so I called Helen and explained that there would be a further delay in my arriving home. I hurried down to the parking level. President Kimball had already arrived and was waiting. We got into his car, and as we drove out he explained. "I have a distant relative with a small son in
the Primary Children's Hospital and they have asked me to give the boy a blessing, but the father can't be there. Also I have heard of a child from South America who needs a blessing, too. So I thought of asking you to go with me. Is that all right?"

I assured him that it was perfectly all right and that it was both a privilege and an honor to be his junior companion anytime he could use me. After we gave the two blessings that he had mentioned, he suggested, "Robert, I think there must be some Lamanite children here in this hospital who would like a blessing on Christmas Eve. Shall we go find them?" I was fascinated and delighted. I thought, "What a kind thing for this busy servant of Christ to think of doing.

I found myself accompanying President Kimball from nurses' station to nurses' station in that large hospital where we would ask, "Are there any Indian children here? Are there any Latin American or South American children here? Are there any Lamanite children from the islands of the seas? Wee would like to visit each one and give them a blessing. May we do that, please?" President Kimball was so loving and kind and tender that no one turned him down. The Spirit was with him in a beautiful way.

So we went from room to room and from bed to bed to give blessings. I did the translating when the children spoken only Spanish or Portuguese. I couldn't help much with one young Navajo boy who spoke little English, but it was obvious that he wanted a blessing and that he appreciated the spirit that President Kimball reflected that Christmas Eve.

As we drove back to the Church Office Building several hours later, President Kimball mentioned that his family was waiting for him just as mine was waiting for me. Then he added, "But they will forgive us, I am sure. What better thing could we than give the gift of blessings of the priesthood on Christmas Eve? Isn't that what the Savior would want us to do?"

I treasure in my memory and in my heart that interlude on a Christmas Eve when this great apostle who would shortly become the President of the Church took some valuable hours away from his dear wife and family so that he could minister to the children in a hospital because that was "what the Savior would want us to do." (From "Christmas Treasure", pp.
93-94)


Unexpected Christmas

We were well over half way to our farm in East Texas when the storm broke. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed and a tree fell with a great ripping noise. When the rain poured in such a flood that we could not see the road, my husband drove on to what seemed to be a bit of clearing deep in the piney woods.

As we waited I sensed we would not get to the farm that night to celebrate Christmas with our family. We were sitting there, miserable and dejected, when I heard a knocking on my window. A man with a lantern stood there beckoning us to follow him. My husband and I splashed after him up the path to his house.

A woman with a lamp in her hand stood in the doorway of an old house; a boy of about twelve and a little girl stood beside her. We went in soaked and dripping, and the family moved aside in order that we might have the warmth of the fire. With the volubility of city people, my husband and I began to talk, explaining our plans. And with the quietness of people who live in the silence of the woods, they listened. "The bridge on Caney Creek is out. You are welcome to spend the night with us," the man said. And though we told them we thought it was an imposition, especially on Christmas Eve, they insisted. After we had visited a while longer, the man got up and took the Bible from the mantle. "It's our custom to read the story from St. Luke on Christmas Eve," he said, and without another word he began: "And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger ... "

The children sat up eagerly, their eyes bright in anticipation, while their father read on: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night." I looked at his strong face. He could have been one of them. When he finished reading and closed the Bible, the little children knelt by their chairs. The mother and father were kneeling, and without any conscious will of my own I found myself joining them. Then I saw my husband, without any embarrassment at all, kneel also. When we arose, I looked around the room. There were no bright-wrapped packages or cards, only a small, unadorned holly tree on the mantle. Yet the spirit of Christmas was never more real to me.

The little boy broke the silence. "We always feed the cattle at 12 o'clock on Christmas Eve. Come with us."

The barn was warm and fragrant with the smell of hay and dried corn. A cow and a horse greeted us, and there was a goat with a tiny, wooly kid that came up to be petted. This is like the stable where the Baby was born, I thought. Here is the manger, and the gentle animals keep watch.

When we returned to the house there was an air of festivity and the serving of juice and fruitcake. Later, we bedded down on a mattress made of corn shucks. As I turned into a comfortable position, they rustled under me and sent up a faint fragrance exactly like that in the barn. My heart said, "You are sleeping in the stable like the Christ Child did."

As I drifted into a profound sleep, I knew that the light coming through the old pine shutters was the Star shining on that quiet house.

The family all walked down the path to the car with us the next morning. I was so filled with the Spirit of Christmas they had given me that I could find no words. Suddenly I thought of the gifts in the back seat of our car for our family.

I began to hand them out. My husband's gray woolen socks went to the man. The red sweater I had bought for my sister went to the mother. I gave away two boxes of candy, the white mittens and the leather gloves while my husband nodded approval.

And when I was breathless from reaching in and out of the car and the family stood there loaded with the gaiety of Christmas packages, the mother spoke for all of them. "We thank you," she said simply. And then she said, "Wait."

She hurried up the path to the house and came back with a quilt folded across her arms. It was beautifully handmade; the pattern was the Star of Bethlehem. I looked up at the tall beautiful pines because my throat hurt and I could not speak. It was indeed Christmas.

Every Christmas Eve since then, I sleep under that quilt, the Star of Bethlehem, and in memory I visit the stable and smell again the corn shucks, and the meaning of Christmas abides with me once more. ~Marguerite Nixon


The Voice On The Phone

The fragrance of gingerbread always makes me think of Suzie and the year I was going have a perfect Christmas. During the past Christmas seasons, I had always been too busy to create the Christmas traditions I felt would build a lifetime of memories for my family. But that Christmas was going to be different. That year my time was my own, and I meant to make every minute of the holiday season count. I would make hand-painted ornaments, home-sewn gifts, beautiful decorations, artistically wrapped packaged, and baked goods to fill a freezer.

I was baking gingerbread men the day my nine-year-old daughter brought Suzie home from School.

"Mama, this is my new friend, Suzie," Debbie announced, presenting a rather chubby, cheerful-looking little girl. Suzie reminded me of a California poppy, with her red-gold mop of curly hair and a freckled nose that twitched eagerly as she breathed in the spicy fragrance. I took two warm gingerbread men from a pan and gave them to Suzie and Debbie. Soon the two girls were helping my seven-year-old son, Mark, hang gingerbread men on the tree. (Of course, the cookies never stayed long on the tree. The children and their friends ate all of them every few days, and we replenished the supply weekly. As a result, our house smelled gingery from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.) Later, Suzie's mother telephoned, and in a tired-sounding voice, she asked me to send Suzie home.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, I was still working on my perfect Christmas. I had decided to mail my Christmas cards early, and so I had spread the dining room table with Christmas cards, address books, stamps, and green and red ink pens with which to address the envelopes. I was all set to start when Mark came in.

"Mama, we talked in Primary today about helping other people," he told me. "Our Primary teacher said a lonely lady in our ward needs help."

"Oh! What's the lady's name?" I asked, wondering if I had met her.

"I can't remember -- something long and hard to say," Mark said, "but Sister Jones wrote in on the blackboard, and I'd remember it if I saw it." He went to the desk drawer and pulled out the ward list. After a moment he gave a shout of triumph. "Here it is!" he cried. He thrust the page under my nose, and I glanced at the name before turning back to address my Christmas cards. The name was difficult to pronounce. Mark borrowed my pen and drew a green circle around the name in the ward list before putting it back in the drawer. "I want to go visit that lonely lady and take something to her. Can we make something for her now?" Mark wanted to know.

"Not today, Mark. It's Sunday, and I don't bake on Sundays. Besides, this lady doesn't even know us. Surely she wouldn't want a visit from strangers," I explained. "Today we are going to start addressing our Christmas cards. For once I'm going to get out cards mailed before December twenty-third. If you want to help someone, you can help me."

In the days that followed, Mark persisted in reminding me about the lonely lady. Twice he asked me to make something for the woman, but both times, I was involved in other projects. One Tuesday afternoon Suzie again came home with Debbie. That day I was putting together my specialty: a gingerbread train. Each car carried tempting cargo such as bread sticks, candy canes, and cinnamon bears. Suzie's eyes sparkled when I gave her a few chocolate-chip wheels to "glue" into place with frosting. She ate one of them.

"I wish my Mom made gingerbread trains." she said. "Last year she made a neat gingerbread house, but this year she said it was too much work."

"It is a lot of work," I agreed, remembering the year I had been too busy with church and community duties to make my gingerbread train. The children had been very disappointed that year, but not this year. This year everything would be perfect. A week later Debbie came home from school just as I was taking a fresh batch of gingerbread men from the oven.

"Too bad Suzie isn't here," she said, biting off one cookie's foot. "Suzie loves our gingerbread men. She wasn't in school today, though." Debbie set down her cookie, suddenly serious. "They said Suzie's mama took too many pills, and she's in the hospital. She might die."

"Oh, Debbie, are you sure?" I asked in dismay. Debbie nodded. "Sally Miller told me Sister Miller was at the hospital with Suzie's mama all night," she said.

Sister Miller was our Relief Society President. "I didn't know Suzie was a member of the Church," I said, surprised. "I've never seen her at meetings."

"Suzie said they used to come all the time before her dad died," Debbie said. "He got killed in a car accident this summer."

"Poor Suzie!" I said. "Her poor mother! And I don't even know her name." I called Sister Miller to see if I could be of any help in caring for Suzie during the crisis. I also asked for Suzie's mother's name. When she told me, it sounded vaguely familiar. I hung up the phone repeating the name when a devastating thought struck me. With a sinking feeling, I took the ward list from the desk drawer and turned some pages. Yes there it was, circled in green ink -- the name of Suzie's mother, the name of Mark's lonely lady whom I had never found time to help.

Suzie was with us the night when we received word that her mother had died. I asked myself over and over: What if we had gone to visit her when Mark first wanted to? Would it have mattered that we were strangers? Would she have been a little less lonely, a little less desperate? I thought of the tired voice on the telephone, asking me to send Suzie home that first day we made gingerbread. When Suzie went away a week later to
live with her grandparents, we gave her our gingerbread train. The bright eyes that had sparkled as she helped make the train had lost some of their glow, but Suzie managed a little smile and a thank you. A gingerbread train. A very small gift. Too little, Too late. As Suzie took a halfhearted nibble from a breadstick, I saw more than a saddened
little girl holding a cookie train. I saw myself with painful clarity: a woman so involved with the things of Christmas that I had lost touch with the very spirit of Christmas, without which there can never be a "perfect Christmas". I would never again forget. Every holiday season since then, the fragrance of gingerbread reminds me of Suzie ... and I cry. --D.M. Brown


The Spirit Of Christmas

The spirit of Christmas should not be a seasonal switch. It really doesn't cost much to leave it on.

Bobby was getting cold sitting out in his back yard in the snow. Bobby didn't wear boots; he didn't like them and anyway he didn't own any. The thin sneakers he wore had a few holes in them and they did a poor job of keeping out the cold. Bobby had been in his backyard for about an hour already. And, try as he might, he could not come up with an idea for his mother's Christmas gift. He shook his head as he thought, "This is useless, even if I do come up with an idea, I don't have any money to spend."

Ever since his father had passed away three years ago, the family of five had struggled. It wasn't because his mother didn't care, or try, there just never seemed to be enough. She worked nights at the hospital, but the small wage that she was earning could only be stretched so far. What the family lacked in money and material things, they more than made up for in love and family unity. Bobby had two older and one younger sister, who ran the household in their mother's absence. All three of his sisters had already made beautiful gifts for their mother. Somehow it just wasn't fair. Here it was Christmas Eve already, and he had nothing.

Wiping a tear from his eye, Bobby kicked the snow and started to walk down to the street where the shops and stores were. It wasn't easy being six without a father, especially when he needed a man to talk to. Bobby walked from shop to shop, looking into each decorated window. Everything seemed so beautiful and so out of reach. It was starting to get dark and Bobby reluctantly turned to walk home when suddenly his eyes caught the glimmer of the setting sun's rays reflecting off of something along the
curb. He reached down and discovered a shiny dime.

Never before has anyone felt so wealthy as Bobby felt at that moment. As he held his new found treasure, a warmth spread throughout his entire body and he walked into the first store he saw. His excitement quickly turned cold when salesperson after salesperson told him that he could not buy anything with only a dime. He saw a flower shop and went inside to wait in line. When the shop owner asked if he could help him, Bobby presented the dime and asked if he could buy one flower for his mother's
Christmas gift. The shop owner looked at Bobby and his ten cent offering. Then he put his hand on Bobby's shoulder and said to him, "You just wait here and I'll see what I can do for you."

As Bobby waited, he looked at the beautiful flowers and even though he was a boy, he could see why mothers and girls liked flowers. The sound of the door closing as the last customer left, jolted Bobby back to reality. All alone in the shop, Bobby began to feel alone and afraid.

Suddenly the shop owner came out and moved to the counter. There, before Bobby's eyes, lay twelve long stem, red roses, with leaves of green and tiny white flowers all tied together with a big silver bow. Bobby's heart sank as the owner picked them up and placed them gently into a long white box.

"That will be ten cents young man." the shop owner said reaching out his hand for the dime. Slowly, Bobby moved his hand to give the man his dime. Could this be true? No one else would give him a thing for his dime!

Sensing the boy's reluctance, the shop owner added, "I just happened to have some roses on sale for ten cents a dozen. Would you like them?" This time Bobby did not hesitate, and when the man placed the long box into his hands, he knew it was true. Walking out the door that the owner was holding for Bobby, he heard the shop keeper say, "Merry Christmas, son."

As he returned inside, the shop keeper’s wife walked out. "Who were you talking to back there and where are the roses you were fixing?" Staring out the window, and blinking the tears from his own eyes, he replied, "A strange thing happened to me this morning. While I was setting up things to open the shop, I thought I heard a voice telling me to set aside a dozen of my best roses for a special gift. I wasn't sure at the time whether I had lost my mind or what, but I set them aside anyway. Then just a few minutes ago, a little boy came into the shop and wanted to buy a flower for his mother with one small dime. When I looked at him, I saw
myself, many years ago. I too was a poor boy with nothing to buy my mother a Christmas gift. A bearded man, whom I never knew, stopped me on the street and told me that he wanted to give me ten dollars. When I saw that little boy tonight, I knew who that voice was, and I put together a dozen of my very best roses. "The shop owner and his wife hugged each other tightly, and as they stepped out into the bitter cold air, they somehow didn't feel cold at all.


Santa's Gift

He knelt beside the manger bed
A tear was in his eye.
His jolly laugh and manner gone
As he heard the baby sigh.

"Sweet sleeping child, I never meant
To push aside your birth
To loose you in the tinsel,
Or trade gifts for things of worth.

It seems that long forgotten
is the star o'er Bethlehem
Angels voices, shepherds watching.
Cattle lowing and a lamb.

"Unremembered is the rag wrapped baby.
Born to be a king.
Amid the gifts and stockings
That Santa Claus will bring.

I only meant to spread some hope
To all the sons of earth,
And share the joy in giving
Like the wise men at your birth.

I wanted just to see some peace
In a world so torn with strife.
I only brought presents and candy
You gave them eternal life."

Still kneeling there with a tear stained face
He saw the eyelids lift;
Twas almost as if he heard these words,
"Dear Santa, I accept your gift.

It was with love and selflessness
you acted on your plan,
And with every gift, a part of me
Was delivered to the hearts of man.

I maybe right now overlooked
By those who are lost or weak
but I'm still there for each of them,
They only have to seek"


Harry's Carol
By Lisa Dahlgren

I had my mother to thank that I was cooking breakfast for 120 elderly people on Christmas morning. Instead of Santa waking us, the phone rang with a call for help from the nursing home where I worked part-time. No one, the head nurse explained, had shown up for work, and they were desperate. Could I possibly come down for a few hours? My mom said we all would!
Morning is everyone's least favorite time except for Mom, who managed to be extra coherent with Christmas spirit as she announced the news. "Get up! They need us down at the home. We'll have our Christmas later. First, we have to go cook lots of eggs."
"What about the presents?" Todd and Christine, my younger brother and sister wailed.
"We've waited all night," Christine pleaded.
"It'll be here when we get home. Now get the lead out. Mom and Dad are serious about this," I said without much sympathy.
Somehow we managed to pile in the car, and we drove the two miles in silence. The nurse met us at the door looking disheveled and frantic.
"Oh, thank goodness," she said. Not wasting any more time with gratitude, she pushed us towards the kitchen in unison. The only cook to show up that morning, Gladys, was rushing from stove to steam table, scooping out scrambled eggs and shouting orders to Frank, the janitor.
"Get moving on that O.J., will you," Gladys said. She hadn't noticed her bleary-eyed crew yet. "They'll be down in 45 minutes, and I can't find the bread, let alone the toaster."
"Uhmmm, maybe we could be of help," offered my dad, a bit reluctantly.
"We're Diane's family," Mom introduced us, steering Todd and Chris over to the newly found toaster. "I think the children can make toast. Oh, by the way, I'm Irene, and this is my husband, Bill," she pointed to Dad. "You know Diane, and the toast makers are Christine and Todd."
"Hi," muttered Chris and Todd together. They were thinking about opening presents, not about buttering toast.
Gladys stood in the middle of the kitchen supporting her latest batch of eggs. After a moment's hesitation, she sized us all up and decided we'd do. Gladys shoved the bowl in Dad's stomach. "Here, you look like an egg man to me. You can take over the scrambling."
Dad caught the bowl and his breath. "Sure, I can do that," he gasped.
"And you, Diane," Gladys turned me toward the hot cereal. "Oatmeal duty."
We all set to work and before we knew it the breakfast rush was on, over, and breakfast dishes were just beginning.
"Mom, can't we go home yet?" Christine whimpered, emphasizing yet. "It's almost eight and every child in America, probably the entire world, has opened their gifts except us. Doesn't that bother you even a little?"
Mom didn't mince words. "No, not even a little, Chris," she answered watching Dad and Todd squirt each other with the high powered hoses. "I know it isn't easy to be here on Christmas, honey, but could we really be anywhere else?" When neither Chris nor I responded, Mom started humming a cheery carol. "Let's sing a song," she encouraged.
I honestly wasn't in the mood. Helping others was supposed to make a person feel good, but I was right there with Chris, wanting to be opening gifts and away from the smell of eggs and nursing home.
Mom continued without us, singing her favorite, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." At first she sang softly, but by the second verse she picked up the volume. Chris and I gave in, joining Mom, and sliding dishes down the metal chute on beat.
"Let's sing 'Rudolph,'" Todd shouted. "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" it was, Dad leading the family along in a loud baritone. This might have ended our musical contribution on that unusual Christmas morning, if it hadn't been for Brother Greenwall.
I turned to pick up one of the last dish stacks, and there he stood, listening at the kitchen serving window. Brother Greenwall had lived in our neighborhood and attended church with us until his wife passed away. "Hi, Brother Greenwall," I said. His lonely eyes stared back, not recognizing me.
My dad smiled over his shoulder and walked to the window. "Harry, how are you? It's Bill. Did you hear us singing away in here?" Dad chuckled, "Hope we didn't disturb you."
Harry Greenwall smiled back at Dad. I wasn't sure if he remembered him or not, but something had been triggered. "Just a minute," he muttered, hurrying off to the TV lounge. Dad watched him go. "I wonder what he's up to," he said as Harry returned with two or three friends and their chairs. Before we figured out what Harry had in mind, he'd pushed open the door and seated them by the stove, then hobbled back to the TV room. Eyebrows raised, Mom checked out the three seated in the kitchen.
"Well, Bill, do you think we're supposed to keep singing?" When no one volunteered an opinion she added, "I think Harry wants a performance."
"Oh, Mom, do we have to?" Todd groaned, blasting his dishes with an extra hard squirt.
Dad put his arm around Todd, "You've heard of singing for your supper haven't you?"
"Yeah, but . . . "
"Well, you get to sing for your presents."
Chris and I laughed. "Come on and give me a hand helping Brother Greenwall with his friends," said Dad.
By now Harry had returned, cramming in seven more concertgoers. Eight more joined the group, bringing the crowd to about twenty. Fully staffed, the kitchen never held more than eight people.
Harry stared at us without recognition, interested only in the music. Mom and Dad exchanged their you'd-better-do-something look, and Dad picked up the cue. "Well, folks, Harry thought you'd all like a little Christmas music."
We sang, starting with family favorites like "Jingle Bells," "Silent Night," and "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful." Actually, "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful" is Dad's favorite. Mom says his eyes twinkle when he sings that song. I looked over at Dad to catch that twinkle, and its shine filled me with warmth. My voice cracked, and I stopped singing, bowing my head to hide the tears.
Looking down at the floor, I felt love for each of those people listening to my family sing. I tried to join in the music, but the same feeling came again, repeating the impression. This time I knew the Savior wanted them to know of his love. Doubting myself, I hesitated a moment and was overwhelmed for the third time with the same desire to comfort them. My family finished the last few measures of music, and I began without thinking, "I just want to tell you I know Jesus lives. He's concerned for you and loves you. I didn't really want to come here today, but I'm glad we did. Most of all, I hope you can feel the Savior's love for you like I have. He really wants you to know this."
Dad put his arm around me. "I couldn't give any of you a better gift at Christmas than the knowledge that Jesus lives, as Diane has said."
The kitchen was silent for a minute, the spirit of Christ in our hearts. "Let's sing a carol together," Mom suggested. "What one would you like, Harry?" Considering all the carols available and Harry's love for Christmas music, we should have been surprised when his choice wasn't a traditional Christmas song. "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," he said. Everyone sang his "carol," filling the kitchen with the words, "He lives, my kind, wise heav'nly Friend. He lives and loves me to the end." That day became a treasure and started a family tradition of Christmas Day service we enjoy. And, out of all the carols we sing at Christmastime, Harry's carol is our favorite and the finest way to get a twinkle in any of our eyes. By the way, my dad says we still sound the best in kitchens.

The Candy Cane

A candymaker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.

He began with stick of pure white, hard candy. White to symbolize the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the Church and firmness of the promises of God.

The candymaker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. It could also represent the staff of the "Good Shepherd" with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep have gone astray.

Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candymaker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life.

Unfortunately, the candy became known as a Candy Cane -- a meaningless decoration seen at Christmas time. But the meaning is still there for those who "have eyes to see and ears to hear". I pray that this symbol will again be used to witness To The Wonder of Jesus and His Great Love that came down at Christmas and remains the ultimate and dominant force in the universe today.




The Christmas Story As It Appears In Luke Chapter 2

Luke 2:1 AND it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

Luke 2:2 ([And] this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

Luke 2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

Luke 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

Luke 2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

Luke 2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

Luke 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Luke 2:9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:12 And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto
Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

Luke 2:16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

Luke 2:17 And when they had seen [it], they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

Luke 2:18 And all they that heard [it] wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Luke 2:19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered [them] in her heart.

Luke 2:20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.



The Story of the Birth of Christ
As told in Matthew

Matthew 1 16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

Matthew 1:17 So all the generations from Abraham to David [are] fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon [are] fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ [are] fourteen generations.

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

Matthew 1:19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just [man], and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

Matthew 1:20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Matthew 1:22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Matthew 1:24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

Matthew 1:25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Chapter 2 Matthew 2:1 NOW when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Matthew 2:2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

Matthew 2:3 When Herod the king had heard [these things], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Matthew 2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

Matthew 2:5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

Matthew 2:6 And thou Bethlehem, [in] the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Matthew 2:7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

Matthew 2:8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found [him], bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

Matthew 2:9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

Matthew 2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

Matthew 2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.


Christmas Version Of The Love Chapter: I Corinthians 13
author unknown
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows,
Strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,
But do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator. If I
slave away in the kitchen,
Baking dozens of Christmas cookies,
Preparing gourmet meals
And arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime,
But do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, Carol in the nursing home
And give all that I have to charity,
But do not show love to my family,
It profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels,
And crocheted snowflakes,
Attend a myriad of holiday parties,
And sing in the choir's cantata,
But do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china
and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful
they are there to be in the way.
Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return,
but rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures
all things.
Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will
rust...
But giving the gift of love will endure.


Santa's Secret Wish

By Betty Werth

On Christmas Eve, a young boy with light in his eyes
Looked deep into Santa's, to Santa's surprise,
And said as he nestled on Santa's broad knee,
"I want your secret. Tell it to me."
He leaned up and whispered in Santa's good ear,
"How do you do it, year after year?"
"I want to know how, as you travel about,
Giving gifts here and there, you never run out.
How is it, dear Santa, that in your pack of toys
You have plenty for all of the world's girls and boys?
Stays so full, never empties, as you make your way
From rooftop to rooftop, to homes large and small,
From nation to nation, reaching them all?
And Santa smiled kindly and said to the boy,
"Don't ask me hard questions. Don't you want a toy?"
But the child shook his head, and Santa could see
That he needed the answer. "Now listen to me,"
He told the small boy with the light in his eyes,
"My secret will make you sadder, and wise.
"The truth is that my sack is magic.
Inside it holds millions of toys for my Christmas Eve ride.
But although I do visit each girl and each boy
I don't always leave them a gaily-wrapped toy
Some homes are hungry, some homes are sad,
Some homes are desperate, some homes are bad.
Some homes are broken, and children there grieve.
Those homes I visit, but what should I leave?
My sleigh is filled with the happiest stuff,
But for homes where despair lives, toys aren't enough.
So I tiptoe in, kiss each girl and boy,
And I pray with them that they'll be given the joy
Of the spirit of Christmas, the spirit that lives
In the heart of the dear child who gets not, but gives.
"If only God hears me and answers my prayer,
When I visit next year, what I will find there
Are homes filled with peace, and with giving, and love
And boys and girls gifted with light from above.
It's a very hard task, my smart little brother,
To give toys to some, and to give prayers to others.
But the prayers are the best gifts, the best gifts indeed,
For God has a way of meeting each need.
"That's part of the answer. The rest, my dear youth
Is that my sack is magic. And that is the truth.
In my sack I carry on Christmas Eve day
More love than a Santa could e'er give away.
The sack never empties of love, or of joys
'Cause inside it are prayers, and hopes. Not just toys.
The more that I give, the fuller it seems,
Because giving is my way of fulfilling dreams.
"And do you know something? You've got a sack, too.
It's as magic as mine, and it's inside of you.
It never gets empty; it's full from the start.
It's the center of lights, and of love. It's your heart.
And if on this Christmas you want to help me,
Don't be concerned with the gifts 'neath your tree.
Open that sack called your heart, and share
Your joy, your friendship, your wealth, your care."
The light in the small boy's eyes was glowing.
"Thanks for the secret. I've got to be going."
"Wait, little boy," said Santa, "don't go.
Will you share? Will you help? Will you use what you know?"
And just for a moment the small boy stood still,
Touched his heart with his small hand and whispered,
"I will."