Christmas. There's no other holiday quite like it. Christmas is a time for families to reunite and be grateful for all that they have.
This article brims with inspirational Christmas stories about giving, love, spirit, and cheer. Perhaps you've become jaded by Christmas as you've gotten older, or maybe you sometimes get overwhelmed by the shopping, wrapping, and busywork that accompany the holiday.
If this is the case, take a moment to read the following 11 inspirational Christmas stories. They'll warm your heart and encourage your own Christmas spirit.
Here's a snapshot of the stories we've included in our collection:
- "A Slice of Life" This story, written by Carol McAdoo Rehme, is about orphans who receive tangy, sweet oranges for Christmas -- except for one brokenhearted lad who's left empty-handed. However, when his pals see how dejected he is, they lift his spirits with a special gift. Read this story and see what the gift is.
- "Owed to Joy" Writer Ted A. Thompson tells the tale of a young girl who receives an unusual Christmas present from Santa: a bubble-maker. The child is eager to play with it, but the father isn't. Realizing he has broken his little girl's heart, he gets the bubble-maker going. Together, they find joy in making bubbles.
- "O Holy Night" In this story by Elizabeth Toole, a family moves to a new town and is looking for a church to join. The family winds up becoming part of a new congregation that meets in a barn because its church hasn't been built yet. It is there that the family ultimately discovers the real meaning of Christmas.
- "A Gift in the Trees" This story, by Cynthia J. Teixeira, begins with the words: "God shows His love for us in many ways." So how exactly does God show His love for the protagonist of the story, a 31-year-old woman who has yet to find the right man? Read this Christmas tale to learn the answer.
- "Heaven and Angels Sing" In Carol Stigger's story, two boisterous children are attending a Christmas Eve church service with their parents and a grandparent. Much to the chagrin of the adults, the youngsters are their usual overactive selves during the service. In the end, though, the children bring happiness to everyone.
- "Into the Wind" The wind in Wyoming can be bitter, writes Carol McAdoo Rehme. The wind seems particularly bitter for the story's protagonist, Grete Klein -- especially during a lonely Christmas season one year. Find out how that wind suddenly turns warm and blows Christmas cheer into Grete's life.
- "The Christmas Angels" In Susan Fahncke's uplifting tale, a single mom is struggling to make ends meet. Just before Christmas, however, she is visited by two strangers bearing gifts. Read this story to find out how these two little angels make Christmas truly special for the single mother and her children.
- "The Story of Silent Night" "Silent Night" is one of the most beloved Christmas songs. So how did it come to be? According to "The Story of Silent Night," written by Lisa Harkrader, two men -- Father Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber -- wrote the song and performed it on the holiest night of the year, Christmas Eve. Over the years, of course, the song became synonymous with the holiday season. When you've finished reading this story, you can check out the actual song. Click here for the lyrics and sheet music for "Silent Night."
- "The Story of Christmas Spiders" Ever wonder how silver tinsel on Christmas trees became a holiday tradition? Well, Stephanie Herbek provides her own answer in her wonderfully written story. Herbek's plot revolves around a poor widow and her eight children. The widow can't afford to give much to her family one Christmas, but some kindly spiders help make things right. Find out how.
- "The Legend of the Poinsettia" You learned all about tinsel in "The Story of Christmas Spiders." This story, also written by Herbek, focuses on something else that is synonymous with Christmas: poinsettias. "The Legend of the Poinsettia" takes place in a tiny village in Mexico and depicts the exploits of two children, Maria and Pablo. They find a unique way to honor the birth of Jesus one Christmas Eve, and -- of course -- it involves poinsettias.
- "The First Christmas" "The First Christmas" is as inspirational as a Christmas story can get. In fact, the story is made up of the passages from Luke 2:1-16. It tells of the birth of Jesus and contains such spiritual words as, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." Read this story and rediscover why we celebrate Christmas.
- "The Christmas Star" Can a single star really lead the way? Read "The Christmas Star" to find out how the brightest star in the sky led the way for so many to the infant Jesus.
- "The Little Drummer Boy" Get ready to be inspired by a little boy and his drum. This classic and touching "The Little Drummer Boy," is a story about a young boy's love of song, Jesus, and his beloved drum.
- "The Wishing Star"All Davey wants to do is see his big brother Josh on Christmas. Read "The Wishing Star" to learn how hope, love, and a shining star helped bring a little boy closer to someone he loved on Christmas Eve.
- "The Little Match Girl" Sometimes if we wish hard enough, our dreams will come true. In "The Little Match Girl," find out how a little girl who always seemed to end up cold, hungry, and alone eventually finds her way to the perfect "home."
- "The Littlest Angel"This delightful inspirational Christmas story tells the story of the tiniest angel in heaven and her journey. "The Littlest Angel" experiences many ups and downs that ultimately teach her to grow. This final story in our collection of Inspirational Christmas Stories will appeal to adults and children alike.
'A Slice of Life'
Jean heaved another world-weary sigh. Tucking a strand of shiny black hair behind her ear, she frowned at the teetering tower of Christmas cards waiting to be signed. What was the point? How could she sign only one name? A "couple" required two people, and she was just one.
The legal separation from Don had left her feeling vacant and incomplete. Maybe she would skip the cards this year. And the holiday decorating. Truthfully, even a tree felt like more than she could manage. She had canceled out of the caroling party and the church nativity pageant. Christmas was to be shared, and she had no one to share it with.
The doorbell's insistent ring startled her. Padding to the door in her thick socks, Jean cracked it open against the frigid December night. She peered into the empty darkness of the porch. Instead of a friendly face -- something she could use about now -- she found only a jaunty green gift bag perched on the railing. From whom? she wondered. And why?
Under the bright kitchen light, she pulled out handfuls of shredded gold tinsel, feeling for a gift. Instead, her fingers plucked an envelope from the bottom. Tucked inside was a typed letter. It was a...story?
The little boy was new to the Denmark orphanage, and Christmas was drawing near, Jean read. Already caught up in the tale, she settled into a kitchen chair.
From the other children, he heard tales of a wondrous tree that would appear in the hall on Christmas Eve and of the scores of candles that would light its branches. He heard stories of the mysterious benefactor who made it possible each year.
The little boy's eyes opened wide at the mere thought of all that splendor. The only Christmas tree he had ever seen was through the fogged windows of other people's homes. There was even more, the children insisted. More? Oh, yes! Instead of the orphanage's regular fare of gruel, they would be served fragrant stew and crusty, hot bread that special night.
Last, and best of all, the little boy learned, each of them would receive a holiday treat. He would join the line of children to get his very own....
Jean turned the page. Instead of a continuation, she was startled to read: "Everyone needs to celebrate Christmas, wouldn't you agree? Watch for Part II." She refolded the paper while a faint smile teased the corner of her mouth.
The next day was so busy that Jean forgot all about the story. That evening, she rushed home from work. If she hurried, she'd probably have enough time to decorate the mantle. She pulled out the box of garland, only to drop it when the doorbell rang. Opening the door, she found herself looking at a red gift bag. She reached for it eagerly and pulled out the piece of paper.
...to get his very own orange, Jean read. An orange? That's a treat? she thought incredulously.
An orange! Of his very own? Yes, the others assured him. There would be one apiece. The boy closed his eyes against the wonder of it all. A tree. Candles. A filling meal. And an orange of his very own.
He knew the smell, tangy sweet, but only the smell. He had sniffed oranges at the merchant's stall in the marketplace. Once he had even dared to rub a single finger over the brilliant, pocked skin. He fancied for days that his hand still smelled of orange. But to taste one, to eat one? Heaven.
The story ended abruptly, but Jean didn't mind. She knew more would follow.
The next evening, Jean waited anxiously for the sound of the doorbell. She wasn't disappointed. This time, though, the embossed gold bag was heavier than the others had been. She tore into the envelope resting on top of the tissue paper.
Christmas Eve was all the children had been promised. The piney scent of fir competed with the aroma of lamb stew and homey yeast bread. Scores of candles diffused the room with golden halos. The boy watched in amazement as each child in turn eagerly claimed an orange and politely said "thank you."
The line moved quickly, and he found himself in front of the towering tree and the equally imposing headmaster.
"Too bad, young man, too bad. But the count was in before you arrived. It seems there are no more oranges. Next year. Yes, next year you will receive an orange."
Brokenhearted, the orphan raced up the stairs empty-handed to bury both his face and his tears beneath his pillow.
Wait! This wasn't how she wanted the story to go. Jean felt the boy's pain, his aloneness.
The boy felt a gentle tap on his back. He tried to still his sobs. The tap became more insistent until, at last, he pulled his head from under the pillow.
He smelled it before he saw it. A cloth napkin rested on the mattress. Tucked inside was a peeled orange, tangy sweet. It was made of segments saved from the others. A slice donated from each child. Together they added up to make one whole, complete fruit.
An orange of his very own.
Jean swiped at the tears trickling down her cheeks. From the bottom of the gift bag she pulled out an orange -- a foil-covered chocolate orange--already separated into segments. And for the first time in weeks, she smiled. Really smiled.
She set about making copies of the story, wrapping individual slices of the chocolate orange. There was Mrs. Potter across the street, spending her first Christmas alone in 58 years. There was Melanie down the block, facing her second round of radiation. Her running partner, Jan, single-parenting a difficult teen. Lonely Mr. Bradford losing his eyesight, and Sue, sole care-giver to an aging mother....
A piece from her might help make one whole. -- By Carol McAdoo Rehme
Go to the next page to read "Owed to Joy," a story about how a father and daughter celebrate Christmas together one year.
'Owed to Joy'
The year our youngest daughter, Shelly, was four, she received an unusual Christmas present from "Santa."
She was the perfect age for Christmas, able to understand the true meaning of the season, but still completely enchanted by the magic of it. Her innocent joyfulness was compelling and catching -- a great gift to parents, reminding us of what Christmas should represent no matter how old we are.
The most highly prized gift Shelly received that Christmas Eve was a giant bubble-maker, a simple device of plastic and cloth the inventor promised would create huge billowing bubbles, large enough to swallow a wide-eyed four-year-old. Both Shelly and I were excited about trying it out, but it was after dark so we'd have to wait until the next day.
Later that night I read the instruction booklet while Shelly played with some of her other new toys. The inventor of the bubble-maker had tried all types of soaps for formulating bubbles and found that Joy dishwashing detergent created the best giant bubbles. I'd have to buy some.
The next morning, I was awakened very early by small stirrings in the house. Shelly was up. I knew in my sleepy mind that Christmas Day festivities would soon begin, so I arose and made my way toward the kitchen to start the coffee. In the hallway, I met my daughter, already wide awake, the bubble- maker clutched in her chubby little hand, the magic of Christmas morning embraced in her four-year-old heart. Her eyes were shining with excitement, and she asked, "Daddy, can we make bubbles now?"
I sighed heavily and rubbed my eyes. I looked toward the window, where the sky was only beginning to lighten with the dawn. I looked toward the kitchen, where the coffeepot had yet to start dripping its aromatic reward for early-rising Christmas dads.
"Shelly," I said, my voice almost pleading and perhaps a little annoyed, "it's too early. I haven't even had my coffee yet."
Her smile fell away. Immediately I felt a father's remorse for bursting her bright Christmas bubble with what I suddenly realized was my own selfish problem, and my heart broke a little.
But I was a grown-up. I could fix this. In a flash of adult inspiration, I unshouldered the responsibility. Recalling the inventor's recommendation of a particular brand of bubble-making detergent -- which I knew we did not have in the house -- I laid the blame squarely on him, pointing out gently, "Besides, you have to have Joy."
I watched her eyes light back up as she realized, in less than an instant, that she could neutralize this small problem with the great and wonderful truth she was about to reveal.
"Oh, Daddy," she promised, with all the honesty and enthusiasm and Christmas excitement she could possibly communicate, "Oh, Daddy, I do."
I broke records getting to the store, and in no time at all we were out on the front lawn creating gigantic, billowing, gossamer orbs--each one filled with Joy and sent forth shimmering into the Christmas sun. -- By Ted A. Thompson
On the next page, you'll find "O Holy Night." In it, a barn doubles as a church -- and with special results.
'O Holy Night'
"So where do you think we will be going to church next month?" That became a common inquiry from my husband. We had moved to this mid-Atlantic hinterland and found ourselves in search of a new church. This mission was compounded by the fact that we knew no one. Weekly, we checked out a different church to find the perfect place to worship.
After months, we found the perfect place (or so we thought). It was close to home, had a great children's program, and seemed to have an appropriate amount of young, growing families. I spoke with the greeter and found out who to call. The next day, Monday, I did just that.
"Hello, may I speak with Reverend Coleman?...Oh, well is there a better time to reach him? My family and I have been relocated to this area, and we really like your church and your congregation and would like the appropriate paperwork to formally join."
The receptionist, who had been taking Reverend Coleman's calls, told me that we could not join the church because too many families were enrolled. A new congregation was forming, however. "Perhaps you could speak with someone there," she said. I was to call a man whom I did not know, at a place that did not exist, for a congregation that was only being formed...somewhere.
"Okay, we will go back to the church one more time, and maybe we can find out where this new group meets," I told my husband and children. They were agreeable, mainly because we always went to breakfast after church. The draw was not the worship but the fellowship and the feast afterward. At the next Sunday mass, the homily was actually given by the new leader of the scattered flock of people. Thus, we now had a contact; her name was Mary Lou. I called her the next day.
"Oh, yes, yes, yes!" she said. "We would love to have you join our congregation. May I stop over and introduce myself and bring the paperwork for you and your family? We are still looking for a permanent place to have our weekly church gatherings, but we are delighted that you will be joining us." Mary Lou chattered on for a while longer, and I knew we were going in the right direction, although I was not sure where.
"Mommy, I thought we were going to church," Jay questioned the following Sunday as we pulled into the parking lot of a movie theater.
"We are, sweetheart," I answered, as his daddy parked the car. Jason's eyes lit up, and he was not about to let this drop, thinking one or both of his parents had lost their minds. "Why are we here if we are supposed to be going to church?"
"The church is not a church yet, and we do not have anywhere else to go, so we are going to the movie theater," I explained. None of us really cared where we went after a few weeks, especially because on these days we began going to the movies after church, which took the place of breakfast. Pop and popcorn began to substitute for ham and eggs.
As the summer wore into autumn, and the leaves began to drop from the trees, the congregation continued to grow and the accommodations in the movie theater became too small. It was time to move on again, and the new location was, again, due to the generosity of a community member. This time we were shuffled to an old, gray barn. It was not much to look at, but it served the purpose -- and our active, hard-working, and still-growing community gathered at this rustic spot, now filled with folding chairs.
It took a long time to get wiring into this dimly lit structure to supply us with light, heat, and a microphone. Reverend Appleby fortunately had a sense of humor and a booming voice. However, as October transitioned into November, and Thanksgiving ushered in Advent, our necessity for heavy coats during church became more apparent.
"Jim, make sure the kids have their gloves this morning," I said. "It is really cold. I know we should expect December weather, but the wind seems brutal today."
"Check. We have gloves and hats, and I grabbed a blanket, just in case we need it. We can wrap these little monkeys up; they'll stay warm for the hour."
The cold weather brought preparation but still no permanent church. December wore on and Christmas Eve appeared in a flash.
Again, we had the checklist before church. "Honey, let's keep the kids extra warm. It may snow tonight. Can you help me get Katie's boots on?"
Robby, our second child, mumbled, "Mommy, do we have to go? It's too cold."
"Yes, honey, we do. It is Christmas Eve, and if we have time to wait for Santa, we have time to go to church and remember Jesus' birthday."
So we packed up the children and drove to the barn. "This is an exceptionally blustery night," I remarked. "It is a good thing that Daddy remembered the blanket, isn't it?"
"Yes!" the three children yelled in unison. Dusk slipped into darkness as we parked along the old country road and trudged along to the barn, children in tow, wrapped up so much that they could barely walk. We entered our familiar "church."
The old, gray barn was no longer just an old, gray barn. It had been transformed into a nativity scene -- a real one, with a real manger and real sheep and a cow and a donkey. Hay was everywhere. The eyes of the children were filled with sheer wonder. Amid the animals were people. The woman wore a blue robe, and the man was in old, brown sackcloth tied with a rope. He held a staff, and she held an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes. They were not just people; they were the Holy Family. They were surrounded by shepherds tending the flock. I don't remember what the music was, if there was any. Nor do I remember what the homily was, if one was given. I don't even know if we stayed warm enough. I do remember being in the presence of the true spirit of Christmas. It was magnificent.
That Christmas Eve celebration could have lasted forever. We finally left the barn to find that snow was lightly falling and the stars were announcing the birth of Jesus. We all felt a silent joy at the miraculous event we had been witness to. Eventually, we did find a church to call our own. But nothing ever came close to that Christmas Eve of wonder, with Jesus in the old, gray barn. -- By Elizabeth Toole
Read the story on the next page, "A Gift in the Trees," to learn how one woman finds true love on Christmas.
'A Gift in the Trees'
God shows his love for us in many ways. Something that may not seem extraordinary to one person might appear as a miracle for someone else. On Christmas Eve 1997, that is exactly how I saw things, though not at first. At first I was feeling too sorry for myself to see anything but my own unhappiness.
The holiday season is a popular time for couples to get engaged. I had been in three long-term relationships by the time I was 29, but none of them had ever produced a marriage proposal. I had always considered myself a loyal, caring, unselfish girlfriend, and boyfriends often told me as much after the relationship had ended. I always seemed to be "the one that got away," and I began to feel like I was special only once the relationship was over. After a while, I started to feel like I just wasn't worth a lifetime commitment.
At the age of 29, I decided I needed to take my own happiness into consideration. It took a couple years of dating mistakes, but I finally figured out how to respect my own needs and not just worry about the needs of my partner. That's when, at the age of 31, I met Paul. He was a wonderful person who didn't expect me to take care of him. He just wanted to be with me, and he respected me for who I was. Everything felt right between us, and I figured I had finally found a man I could marry.
During our second Christmas together, I thought Paul might propose. On December 22, we ventured onto the topic of marriage. Paul said that he did see himself marrying me, but the timing was not good "right now." I couldn't help but feel sorry for myself. So many of my friends had received proposals and engagement rings, but I had never received either. I was at the point where I figured maybe marriage just wasn't in the cards for me.
On the following day, December 23, school was canceled because of a winter storm. I knew my students would be as excited as I was for the extra day off right before the holiday break. It would also be nice to have a beautiful, white Christmas. The roads were covered in snow, and the trees were buried under a sheer layer of ice. It was much too hazardous to venture out, so I just stayed inside and reflected on my situation.
By the end of that snowy day, I had come to the conclusion that it wasn't the proposal I needed. It was simply that I wanted to feel loved and appreciated enough that someone would want to be with me forever. I prayed to God and asked that someday a man would think I was important enough to give me a diamond, the symbol of the commitment that my heart needed the most.
Christmas Eve finally arrived. Paul came to my house so we could ride together to my sister's holiday party. I was happy to be with him but a little sad knowing he wouldn't be proposing that night.
By this time, almost all the snow and ice had quietly melted away. I realized that we wouldn't have a white Christmas after all. It would, however, make the drive to the party much safer.
The gathering was a happy one. My nieces and nephew were a joy to watch as they opened their gifts. Paul and I had a wonderful time with my family. Eventually, after all the gifts had been opened and all goodbyes repeatedly exchanged, we left.
It was a long, quiet ride home, as Paul fell asleep 25 minutes into the trip. The roads were dry and the trees were barren. Yet the stars shone brightly against the black, cloudless sky, adding a touch of beauty to the night.
As I neared my home, a small group of trees caught my attention. They stood out from the rest of the dull, dry landscape. Of all the tress I had passed on my way home, these were the only ones that had any sign of the recent winter storm upon their branches. As I drove, I wondered how this could be. The temperature was much too warm. Yet somehow the branches were covered in an incredible layer of ice. I had seen ice-covered trees many times before, but something about these was extraordinary. This was a dazzling light like I had never seen before.
As I gazed at the beautiful trees, warmth spread through my heart. This was a truly magical moment. No longer was I seeing these winter-decorated branches with the eyes on my face; I now looked upon them with the eyes in my heart and soul. That night -- Christmas Eve 1997--the air was clean and crisp, the sky was entirely filled with stars, and the trees...the trees sparkled with diamonds. Thousands and thousands of diamonds.
In my heart I knew this was God's way of answering my prayers. I had needed him to show me that there was a man who thought I was worth a commitment, the commitment that is symbolized by a diamond ring. That Christmas Eve, God covered the trees in diamonds for my eyes and heart to behold. It was his way of showing me that he thought I was special and worthwhile enough for an eternal commitment.
As Paul slept quietly in the seat next to me, completely unaware of the miracle that had taken place, joyous tears of peace and self-worth streamed down my face. I knew that I had found someone who would love me forever, and realizing this was more profound and meaningful than any marriage proposal I could ever receive. -- By Cynthia J. Teixeira
Go to the next page to read "Heaven and Angels Sing," a truly inspirational story about a Christmas Eve church service.
'Heaven and Angels Sing'
At the Christmas Eve church service, I sat with my two boisterous grandchildren, ages three and five. Their parents sat in front of the church to present a nativity reading titled "Silent Night." They had warned the children to behave. I had warned the children to behave. With scrubbed angelic faces and Christmas wonder in their eyes, they looked like model children posing for a magazine holiday spread. I indulged myself in a few moments of pride.
Alec pinched Aubrey. I was grateful that the organ thundered into the first hymn just then, drowning out her yelp. I grabbed her hand before she could return the pinch. During the Lord's Prayer, Aubrey shredded the program I had given her to color on. The crayons had already rolled under the pew. I watched bits of paper fall on the carpet like snow. I would help her pick it up later, but for now the naughtiness I was allowing kept her occupied and her brother quietly admiring.
We were enjoying an uneasy truce when their parents stood to deliver the reading.
"Mommy!" Alec yelled.
She frowned, and he sat back in his seat.
"Silence," my son said to the congregation. "Think for a moment what that word means to you."
My daughter-in-law signed his words. Earlier that year, she began to use her new signing skills for the benefit of the few hearing-impaired members of our church.
Alec said a naughty word, thankfully too low for many to hear. I scowled at him, shaking my finger and my head. Aubrey grinned. Then she proclaimed, every syllable enunciated perfectly, in a clear voice that carried to far corners of the sanctuary, "Alec is a potty mouth!"
Everyone stared. I was too stunned to speak. My son and his wife looked at each other. But instead of anger, I saw surprise.
My son set aside his script and told another story. He told about their daughter being born profoundly deaf. He talked about four years of hearing aids and speech therapy with no guarantee she would ever learn to speak plainly. He talked about the rugged faith that kept the family praying she would have a normal life.
He said Aubrey's outburst was an answer to prayer: the first perfectly enunciated sentence she had ever spoken.
From the back of the room, a lone voice sang the last line of a beloved Christmas Carol: Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn king.
While the congregation sang four verses of the unscheduled hymn, my two little angels wiggled in their parents' arms, adding laughter and giggles to the joyful Christmas noise. -- By Carol Stigger
"Into the Wind" is about how love is blown into a lonely woman's life one Christmas. You'll find this story on the next page.
'Into the Wind'
She hadn't been born on the high plains of Wyoming. In fact, even now, after all these months, she still called Pennsylvania home. She was only here because in 1923 that's what wives did: They followed their husbands. And her husband had a powerful yen to homestead in the West. So here she found herself, on the lonely plains of Wyoming.
For the most part, Grete Klein had made friends with the land. Well, maybe not friends, but she was learning its ways and that was the first key to survival in this harsh country. She had even learned to accept her "new" house, but the drafty tar-paper shack rattled with each gust of wind.
The wind. The ever-blowing, good-for-nothing, bitter Wyoming wind. The thief that puffed away the few autumn leaves before she had a chance to savor them. It robbed the children of pleasant play and stole the moisture from the crops.
Grete sighed and stoked the fire in the black majestic cookstove. She smiled as she recalled her mother saying, in heavily accented English, "If you vant to get rich, mein daughter, you must schtrike those matches tvice!" Rich? Hardly. Even her mother would be amazed and impressed at the ways Grete found to economize. Corncobs for fuel. Flour sacks sewn into underwear. Cardboard insoles to cover the holes and extend the life of the children's shoes.
And now Christmas was nearly here. Not that the landscape gave evidence of that. In the predawn light, Grete pushed aside the gunnysack curtaining the kitchen window and gazed out. No soft December snow blanketed the bare dirt. Instead, grim skies of gunmetal gray hovered while the wind howled in swirls of dust. Its icy fingers clawed at the flimsy door, while its frigid breath seeped around the crooked window frames. And all the while, a lone cottonwood tree -- their only summer shade -- batted its skeletal arms in a field dotted with tumbleweeds too stubborn to blow away. Shivering, Grete turned away.
Christmas. And we can't even spare a tree for the children.
Her children were so young. She knew they carried no memories of holidays back home. Of stately evergreens brushing the ceiling. Of Grossmutter's fine, hand-blown glass icicles dripping from its full branches. Of visits from the Weihnachtsmann, Father Christmas. Or of a table groaning under the weight of tasty traditional delicacies. Roast goose with potato dumplings. Sauerkraut and noodles. Apple strudel.
Oh, and don't forget all the home-baked desserts with their old-world names. I must teach them to the children.
Names like Pfeffernusse, Lebkuchen, and Blitzkuchen. Nusstorte, Apfel Pfannkuchen, and Schnitzbrot. Like taking roll call, Grete whispered her favorites one by one. The familiar German words rolled from her tongue, comforting her with their rhythm and taste.
Schnitzbrot. Fruit bread. Hmmm...maybe if I made some substitutions, altered the proportions....
With an excitement she hadn't felt in a long time, Grete pulled out a saucepan, a wooden spoon, and a large tin bowl. She reached for the carefully hoarded currants and dried peaches. Since the fruit was sweet, maybe the children wouldn't notice that she would have to skimp on sugar. She could spare two eggs and felt lucky to have fresh milk from the cow. But Schnitzbrot needed yeast. Grete hesitated.
Do I dare?
She dared. Grete lifted the crock of sourdough starter, her old standby. She had tended it faithfully for months, stirring for four days, adding exact amounts of milk, flour, and sugar each fifth day. It was the foundation for their regular fare of bread, johnnycakes, and biscuits. Why not Schnitzbrot? Grete could almost hear her mother say, "Ya, that's right, mein Grete. Lean into the vind and you vill arrive vit ease."
Humming "Stille Nacht" under her breath, Grete set about stewing, draining, and chopping the fruit. She measured. She mixed. She kneaded until the dough was soft and firm. Grete divided the dough into balls and rolled them like clay between her palms. Instead of the customary loaves, she would make a festive fruit bread wreath for each child. She braided the strips and shaped them into small circles. Covering the dough rings with dishtowels, Grete set them aside to rise near the radiating warmth of the cook stove.
Now, if only the children could have a tree. It would seem more like home. Then I think I could be satisfied.
A Christmas tree. No amount of wishing, no amount of dreaming, no amount of wanting would make it so. Of course, there was still prayer. Doubtfully, Grete closed her eyes and paused a long, silent moment.
Realizing it was nearly time to wake the family, she grabbed her long woolen coat and headed for the door. Let them sleep. She would see to a few outside chores first.
Grete lowered her head to shield her face from the grit of whirling dust. She leaned into the breath-stealing wind, headed toward the barn, and -- she gasped when she felt it. As sharp as needles, spiny tentacles pricked her stockings, scratched her legs. Tumbleweeds. Thorny, branched tumbleweeds. Those last, stubborn thistles had finally broken loose in this gale and rolled right to her feet.
With a hoot of laughter, Grete plucked them from around her ankles. She gathered tumbleweeds and carried them gingerly to the house. Already she could imagine her children giggling and stacking to make a towering tumbleweed tree. An answer to prayer. A gift from the fickle Wyoming wind. Who would have thought!
Remembering Grossmutter's heirloom icicles, she felt a fleeting tug of regret. But she shrugged and turned her thoughts toward tissue paper, shiny ribbon, and scraps of cotton batting. The children could string popcorn and make paper chains. Together, they would create new traditions. Perhaps, with a few clicks of her knitting needles and a little more thought, she could even arrange some small gifts from Father Christmas.
And at that very moment, Grete swore she heard her mother whisper, "Yust think, mein daughter. First sauer Schnitzbrot. And now a Vyoming Christmas tree. Vhat a vonderful place is home." -- By Carol McAdoo Rehme
Want to read about the joy of giving? Go to "The Christmas Angels" on the following page.
'The Christmas Angels'
It was December 23, 1993. For a single mom who was going to college and supporting my children completely alone, Christmas was looking bleak. I looked around my little home, realization dawning like a slow, twisting pain. We were poor.
Our tiny house had two bedrooms, both off the living room. They were so small that my baby daughter's crib barely fit into one room, and my son's twin bed and dresser were squeezed into the other. There was no way they could share a room, so I made my bed every night on the living room floor.
The three of us shared the only closet in the house. We were snug, always only a few feet from each other, day and night. With no doors on the children's rooms, I could see and hear them at all times. It made them feel secure, and it made me feel close to them -- a blessing I wouldn't have had in other circumstances.
It was early evening, about eight o'clock. The snow was falling softly, silently, and my children were both asleep. I was wrapped in a blanket, sitting at the window, watching the powdery flakes flutter in the dimming light, when my front door vibrated with a pounding fist.
Alarmed, I wondered who would stop by unannounced on such a snowy winter night. I opened the door to find a group of strangers grinning from ear to ear, their arms laden with boxes and bags.
Confused, but finding their joyous spirit contagious, I grinned right back at them.
"Are you Susan?" The man stepped forward as he held out a box for me.
Nodding stupidly, unable to find my voice, I was sure they thought I was mentally deficient.
"These are for you." The woman thrust another box at me with a huge, beaming smile. The porch light and the snow falling behind her cast a glow over her dark hair, lending her an angelic appearance.
I looked down into her box. It was filled to the top with delicious treats, a fat turkey, and all the makings of a traditional Christmas dinner. My eyes filled with tears as the realization of why they were there washed over me.
Finally coming to my senses, I found my voice and invited them in. Following the husband were two children, staggering with the weight of their packages. The family introduced themselves and told me their packages were all gifts for my little family. This wonderful, beautiful family, who were total strangers to me, somehow knew exactly what we needed. They brought wrapped gifts for each of us, a full buffet for me to make on Christmas Day, and many "extras" that I could never afford. Visions of a beautiful, "normal" Christmas literally danced in my head. Somehow my secret wish for Christmas was materializing right in front of me. The desperate prayers of a single mom had been heard, and I knew right then that God had sent his angels my way.
My mysterious angels then handed me a white envelope, gave me another round of grins, and took turns hugging me. They wished me a Merry Christmas and disappeared into the night as suddenly as they had appeared.
Amazed and deeply touched, I looked around me at the boxes and gifts strewn at my feet and felt the ache of depression suddenly being transformed into a childlike joy. I began to cry. I cried hard, sobbing tears of the deepest gratitude. A great sense of peace filled me. The knowledge of God's love reaching into my tiny corner of the world enveloped me like a warm quilt. My heart was full. I fell to my knees amid all the boxes and offered a heartfelt prayer of thanks.
Getting to my feet, I wrapped myself in my blankets and sat once again to gaze out the window at the gently falling snow. Suddenly, I remembered the envelope. Like a child, I ripped it open and gasped at what I saw. A shower of bills flitted to the floor. Gathering them up, I began to count the five, ten, and twenty-dollar bills. As my vision blurred with tears, I counted the money, then recounted it to make sure I had it right. Sobbing again, I said it out loud: "One hundred dollars."
I looked at my children sleeping soundly, and through my tears I smiled my first happy, free-of-worry smile in a long, long time. My smile turned into a grin as I thought about tomorrow: Christmas Eve. One visit from complete strangers had magically turned a painful day into a special one that we would always remember...with happiness.
It is now several years since our Christmas angels visited. I have remarried, and our household is happy and richly blessed. Every year since that Christmas in 1993, we have chosen a family less blessed than we are. We bring them carefully selected gifts, food and treats, and as much money as we can spare. It's our way of passing on what was given to us. It's the "ripple effect" in motion. We hope that the cycle continues and that, someday, the families we share with will be able to pass it on, too. -- Susan Fahncke
"Silent Night" is a beloved Christmas song. Learn about its beginnings in "The Story of Silent Night," which is on the following page.
'The Story of Silent Night'
Father Joseph Mohr sat at the old organ. His fingers stretched over the keys, forming the notes of a chord. He took a deep breath and pressed down. Nothing. He lifted his fingers and tried again. Silence echoed through the church.
Father Joseph shook his head. It was no use. The pipes were rusted, the bellows mildewed. The organ had been wheezing and growing quieter for months, and Father Joseph had been hoping it would hold together until the organ builder arrived to repair it in the spring. But now, on December 23, 1818, the organ had finally given out. St. Nicholas Church would have no music for Christmas.
Father Joseph sighed. Maybe a brisk walk would make him feel better. He pulled on his overcoat and stepped out into the night. His white breath puffed out before him. Moonlight sparkled off the snow-crusted trees and houses in the village of Oberndorf. Father Joseph crunched through the snowy streets to the edge of the little Austrian town and climbed the path leading up the mountain.
From high above Oberndorf, Father Joseph watched the Salzach River ripple past St. Nicholas Church. In the spring, when melting snow flowed down the mountains and the river swelled in its banks, water lapped at the foundation of the church. It was moisture from the flooding river that had caused the organ to mildew and rust.
Father Joseph looked out over the Austrian Alps. Stars shone above in the still and silent night.
Silent night? Father Joseph stopped. Of course! "Silent Night!" He had written a poem a few years before, when he had first become a priest, and he had given it that very title. "Silent Night."
Father Joseph scrambled down the mountain. Suddenly he knew how to bring music to the church.
The next morning, Father Joseph set out on another walk. This time he carried his poem. And this time he knew exactly where he was going -- to see his friend Franz Gruber, the organist for St. Nicholas, who lived in the next village.
Franz Gruber was surprised to see the priest so far from home on Christmas Eve, and even more surprised when Father Joseph handed him the poem.
That night Father Joseph and Franz Gruber stood at the altar of St. Nicholas Church. Father Joseph held his guitar. He could see members of the congregation giving each other puzzled looks. They had never heard a guitar played in church before, and certainly not during midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the holiest night of the year.
Father Joseph picked out a few notes on the guitar, and he and Franz Gruber began to sing. Their two voices rang out, joined by the church choir on the chorus. Franz Gruber's melody matched the simplicity and honesty of Father Joseph's words.
When the last notes faded into the night, the congregation remained still for a moment, then began to clap their hands. Applause filled the church. The villagers of Oberndorf loved the song! Father Joseph's plan to bring music to St. Nicholas Church had worked.
A few months later, the organ builder arrived in Oberndorf and found the words and music to "Silent Night" lying on the organ. The song enchanted him, and when he left, he took a copy of it with him.
The organ builder gave the song to two families of traveling singers who lived near his home. The traveling singers performed "Silent Night" in concerts all over Europe, and soon the song spread throughout the world.
Today, cathedral choirs and carolers from New York to New Zealand sing the simple song that was first played in a mountain church in Austria on Christmas Eve nearly 200 years ago. -- By Dick Smolinski
You'll never look at Christmas tree tinsel the same way after reading the story on the following page, "The Story of Christmas Spiders."
'The Story of Christmas Spiders'
In a quiet cottage in the woods lived a gentle widow and her eight children. The widow worked very hard to keep her children warm and well-fed, but money was not plentiful. When the air grew crisp, and the snow began to fall, the widow knew Christmas was coming. But instead of feeling joyful as the holiday approached, she felt sadness and sorrow. She knew that she did not have enough money to buy her children any gifts to open on Christmas morning.
"I cannot afford new toys or books," she thought, walking home through the woods one night. "What will I give my children?"
On Christmas Eve the family ate their simple Christmas dinner together, and the widow tried to conceal her worries. After tucking her excited children snugly into bed, she pulled her chair close to the fire and tried to erase the visions of their little disappointed faces from her mind. After all, what fun is Christmas morning without gifts to open?
"Perhaps a Christmas tree would make my children happy," the widow sighed.
She put on her coat and hat and walked through the woods in search of the right tree. She chose a small but beautiful evergreen, chopped it down with her husband's ax, and brought it to the cottage.
For hours, the widow carefully decorated the fragrant tree branches with colorful fruits, bits of ribbon, and Christmas cookies. Then she blew out her candle and went to bed, hoping the tree would make her children's empty Christmas a little bit brighter.
While the tired widow slept, tiny spiders crept from the cracks and corners of the cottage. They had watched her hard at work, decorating the tree for her children. Onto the branches they jumped, spinning delicate strands of silky web which gracefully covered the small tree from trunk to top. It was a beautiful sight.
When the family awoke on Christmas morning, they could not believe their eyes. The webs of silk had been turned into pure silver, covering the tree with dazzling brightness! During the night, Santa Claus had come with gifts for the children and saw the tree covered with spiderwebs. He smiled as he saw how happy the spiders were, but knew how heartbroken the widow would be if she saw her tree covered with spiderwebs. So he turned the silky webs into pure, shining silver. The next morning, as the widow watched her children sing and dance around the beautiful shining tree, she knew it would be a wonderful Christmas after all!
From that day forward, people have hung strands of shiny silver tinsel on their Christmas trees in honor of the poor widow and her tiny Christmas spiders. -- By Stephanie Herbek
Now you know about tinsel. To find out about another Christmas symbol, poinsettias, read "The Legend of the Poinsettia" on the next page.
'The Legend of the Poinsettia'
Maria and Pablo lived in a tiny village in Mexico. Because Christmastime at their house did not include many gifts, Maria and Pablo looked forward to the Christmas festivities at the village church with great joy and anticipation.
To honor the birth of Christ, the church displayed a beautiful manger that drew crowds of admirers. Villagers walked miles to admire the manger, bringing lovely, expensive gifts for the Baby Jesus. As Maria and Pablo watched the villagers place their gifts in the soft hay around the manger, they felt sad. They had no money to buy gifts for their family and no money to buy a gift for the Baby Jesus.
One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo walked to the church for that evening's services, wishing desperately that they had a gift to bring. Just then, a soft glowing light shone through the darkness, and the shadowy outline of an angel appeared above them.
Maria and Pablo were afraid, but the angel comforted them, instructing them to pick some of the short green weeds that were growing by the road. They should bring the plants to the church, the angel explained, and place them near the manger as their gift to the Baby Jesus. Then just as quickly as she had appeared, the angel was gone, leaving Maria and Pablo on the road looking up into the dark sky. Confused but excited, the children filled their arms with large bunches of the green weeds and hurried to the church.
When the children entered the church, many of the villagers turned to stare. As Maria and Pablo began placing the weeds around the manger, some of the villagers laughed at them. "Why are those children putting weeds by the manger?" they asked each other. Maria and Pablo began to feel embarrassed and ashamed of their gift to the Baby Jesus, but they stood bravely near the manger, placing the plants on the soft hay, as the angel had instructed.
Suddenly, the dull green leaves on the tops of the plants began to turn a beautiful shade of red, surrounding the Baby with beautiful blooms. The laughing villagers became silent as they watched the green plants transform into the lovely star-shaped crimson flowers we call poinsettias. As they watched the weeds bloom before their eyes, Maria and Pablo knew they had no reason to be ashamed anymore. They had given the Baby Jesus the only gift they could--and it was the most beautiful gift of all.
Today, poinsettias are a traditional symbol of Christmas, thanks to young Maria and Pablo and their special gifts to the Baby Jesus. -- By Stephanie Herbek
Our collection of inspirational Christmas stories ends in a fitting manner on the next page, with the telling of the birth of Jesus, "The First Christmas."
'The First Christmas'
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David):
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
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.
And there were in the same countryshepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
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.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
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.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. -- Luke 2:1-16
Can a single star really lead the way? In the next story -- 'The Christmas Star' -- find out how the brightest star led the way to the infant Jesus.
'The Christmas Star'
Isaac's head began to nod. His hand slowed down scratching the dog's head. It was hard for a boy of ten to stay awake all night in the field. The dog licked his face. "What? Oh, good boy," Isaac said. He rubbed his eyes and stretched. The sky was clear and full of stars. Isaac was glad his father thought he was old enough to help with their flocks of sheep.
Isaac's father and his uncle soon came by to check on him. The three of them sat to share a loaf of bread and some cheese. Suddenly a bright light washed over the shepherds from above. They were scared. They looked up to see a host of beautiful angels. One of the angels spoke to them. "Do not be afraid," the angel said. "I bring you good news of great joy! Today a savior is born in Bethlehem. He is Christ the Lord. Go to the city. You will find the baby lying in a manger. Follow the brightest star."
Hundreds of angels appeared and sang praises to God. As suddenly as they appeared, the angels returned to heaven. Only one bright, shining star over Bethlehem was left in the sky. The shepherds were amazed. "We must go to the city and find this savior," said Isaac's father. "We must hurry!" said Isaac.
The shepherds began to round up their flocks and herd them toward home. Once the sheep were penned up, Isaac and his father and uncle walked quickly to Bethlehem, where the star was shining down on the stable behind the inn. There they found Mary, Joseph, and the baby in the stable.
Jesus was bundled in clean cloths and sleeping in a feeding manger full of fresh hay. The light from the star shone back from the baby's face. The shepherds fell to their knees.
Isaac knelt by the manger and said a prayer, thanking God for giving a savior to the world. Isaac's father thanked Mary and Joseph for letting them see the baby. When the shepherds left, they told everyone they saw about the miracles they witnessed that night.
The star shone over Bethlehem day and night. One night a large caravan made its way past the shepherd's field. Isaac went to the edge of the field and called out to the men. "Did you see the one they call Jesus?" he asked. "We did!" the men replied.
These men were not like any men Isaac had ever seen. They were the three Wise Men. "We saw the star from our lands very far away. We have traveled a long time to see this child called the Savior. The kings from our countries sent precious gifts to give to him."
Isaac said to the Wise Men, "You did not come by my fields when you came to Bethlehem." "You are right," said the tallest man. "We asked King Herod where to find this savior." "The king did not know," continued the man, "but he told us to find out so he might worship him also."
"We followed the star to the house where young Jesus was staying," said the shortest man. "We gave our gifts of gold and frankincense, to scent the air, and myrrh, a costly oil."
"Then we were warned in our dreams by an angel not to return to Herod but to go home another way," said the oldest man. "So that is what we have done. And now we have met you, my young friend." "I am Isaac," said the young shepherd. "I'm telling everyone about God's glorious star lighting the way to the King of Kings."
Get ready to be inspired by a little boy and his drum. Continue to the next page to read 'The Little Drummer Boy,' a story about a young boy's love of song, Jesus, and his drum.
'The Little Drummer Boy'
David grew up in the kitchen of the inn. His father was the innkeeper. His mother cooked the food. David's older sisters cleaned the rooms, and his older brother swept the stable. David loved to sing. He would sing to his mother as she cooked the food. David made up songs and banged on pots and bowls as he sang to her. David's mother smiled at him. "Someday you will sing in the temple, my son," his mother said. David grinned at his mother. "Tem-ple," David said very carefully.
David's father came into the kitchen. "How is my big boy?" David's father asked as he swung David onto his shoulders. "Pum Pum Pum! Tem-ple come!" David sang as he drummed on his father's head with a wooden spoon. David's father smiled as his son kept on drumming. "We must find this boy a drum or my poor head will not survive!" said David's father, with a laugh.
A few years later David got a small drum for his birthday. Soon he was beating rhythms on his drum wherever he went. Pat-a-rum, pat-a-rum, pat-a-rum, David drummed to copy the donkeys on the road. Swish-click-click-tum, swish-click-click-tum, went David's drumming to copy his brother sweeping straw in the stable.
One day David's father said to his family, "We are going to be very busy. Caesar Augustus has ordered a count of all the families in all the towns." "Pum Pum. Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum. I counted six of us!" David sang. "Why does this make us busy?" "Because people will come to Bethlehem to be counted with their families," said David's father. "They will need a place to stay. They will stay with us, and we will be very busy."
David's mother cooked more food. David's sisters cleaned the rooms. David's brother swept out the stable and put new hay and pots of water in the stalls. David's father greeted the people as they came into town. Soon the inn was very full. David played his drum and sang his songs for the people.
Late one night there was a knock at the door. David peeked around his father at the young man and his wife, who was on a donkey. They had no room for these people! What could they do? David's father was a kind man. "You can stay in the stable," he said. "It is warm and dry there. I can send food out to you." The young man thanked David's father and walked the donkey to the stable.
David helped his mother carry bread and cheese out to the young couple. His mother told him the woman was going to have a baby soon. The next day there was a lot of excitement. "The young woman who stayed in the stable last night had her baby," David's mother told him. "The baby is the King of Kings, they say!" said David's father.
David could not see the baby because of the crowd around the stable. David stood at the back of the crowd and began to make up a song for the baby: "Come, they told me, our newborn king to see. Our finest gifts we bring to lay before the king. So to honor him when we come."
The crowd began to part when they heard David's beautiful singing: "Baby Jesus, I am a poor boy, too. I have no gift to bring that's fit to give a king. Shall I play for you on my drum?"
David stepped closer to Mary, Joseph, and their son. Baby Jesus smiled at David, reached out, and patted his drum.
Love, spirit, and the beat of his drum brought one little boy closer to the infant Jesus. Continue to the next page to Read 'The Wishing Star,' and learn how hope, love, and a shining star helped bring another little boy closer to someone he loved -- on Christmas Eve.
'The Wishing Star'
Davey looked out the window at the falling snow. Usually he loved snow, but today he was sad. It was Christmas Eve, and the snow was so deep that it might ruin Christmas for Davey. Because of the snowstorm, Davey was afraid that his older brother Josh would never make it home for Christmas.
“And I have such a special present for him!” Davey said to himself. “If only he could get here!" With his best crayons, Davey had drawn a picture of the barn on their farm. He was going to give it to Josh for Christmas to hang in his room at college. Davey turned away from the window with a sigh.
Just then, Dad called, “How about some help shoveling the driveway? We’re going to try to make it into town to finish our Christmas shopping. We also have to buy our tree, don’t forget.”
Davey ran to get his boots and coat. He followed Dad out into the snow. Davey picked up his small shovel and set to work, while Dad used his bigger one. Helping Dad shovel the snow made Davey feel better.
Soon, Davey and Dad and Mom were on their way to town. Because of the snow, they had to drive slowly. “I brought my picture for Josh with me,” Davey said as they rode along. “Maybe I can find a frame to fit it when we get to the store.” “Good idea,” said Mom. “I’ll help you look.”
When they got to town, they went to the Christmas tree lot. Davey was the first one out of the car. He ran over to a beautiful, glossy, tall tree. “Look at this one!” he shouted to Mom and Dad. “Josh will love this tree!” Then he remembered. Josh probably wouldn’t be home at all. Davey felt sad again.
Mom and Dad came over to see the tree Davey had found. “That’s a great tree, Davey,” said Dad with a smile. “I think you’re right. It’s the one we should get.” Mom added, “And even if Josh doesn’t get here to see it, he’d still be happy we have such a beautiful tree.”
Later, at the store, Mom took Davey to the counter where picture frames were sold. Davey looked at all the frames. Finally he said, “I like this wooden one. It reminds me of the wooden barn in my picture.”
The wooden frame was just the right size for his picture. Davey was very pleased. “I’m getting this just in case Josh makes it home for Christmas,” he said. Mom patted him on the shoulder. “I know how much you want Josh to be here tonight,” she said, “but it is still snowing hard. I really don’t think hell make it. So you mustn’t be too disappointed.”
“At least I can wish he’d come,” Davey said. As they were about to leave the store, Davey saw a crowd of people. “What are all those people looking at?” Davey wondered. He ran to get a closer look. Looking around the man in front of him, Davey could see what was at the center of the crowd.
It was Santa! Children were sitting on Santa’s lap and talking to him. “Can we get in line, please Dad?” begged Davey. “Well, we’re kind of in a hurry. We need to be back home before the snow gets too deep,” said Dad. “But since this is Santa, I guess we can spare the time.”
Davey gave Dad a big thank-you hug and ran to get in line. It seemed to take forever, but at last it was his turn. When Davey climbed up on Santa’s lap, Santa said, “Well, well, and what would you like for Christmas?”
“I wish my brother Josh could get home for Christmas,” Davey said. “But the snow is so deep that Mom and Dad don’t think he can make it.” “I don’t usually deliver people on Christmas Eve, just toys,” said Santa. “But I’ll tell you what. Tonight, before you go to sleep, make your wish on the biggest, brightest star in the sky. That’s the Wishing Star.”
“Will it really work?” Davey asked Santa. “Well, you never can tell about wishes, so I don’t make any guarantees,” said Santa. “But it surely doesn’t hurt to try!”
On the way home in the car, Davey saw that the snow was coming down harder and harder. When he and Mom and Dad were almost to the house, Davey talked about Santa’s Wishing Star. “We all make wishes every now and then,” said Mom, “but sometimes they just can’t come true.”
“I’m going to try, anyway,” insisted Davey. That night after dinner, Dad put the Christmas tree in its stand, and Mom and Davey joined him in decorating it with colored lights and balls and lots of tinsel.While they were working, Davey thought sadly, “It would be so great if Josh were here to see our beautiful tree.” Dad Put a golden angel on the very top. “I think this is the best tree we’ve ever had!” he exclaimed.
Davey went over to the window and looked out. The snow had stopped falling. And there, right overhead, was a star Davey had never seen before. It was big and bright and sparkling. It was the biggest and brightest star in the sky, just as Santa had said.
Davey looked at the star and said, “Wishing Star, please let my Christmas wish come true. I wish that Josh would come home tonight, so we can all be together for Christmas.” Then Davey closed his eyes and wished as hard as he could.
Too soon, Davey heard Mom’s voice. “Time for bed, little one. If you go right to sleep, it will be Christmas morning before you know it.” Davey hung his stocking by the fireplace. He kissed Mom and Dad and started up the stairs to his room.
Just then, the three of them heard a sound outside the front door. “Who could that be?” asked Dad.Suddenly the door flew open, and there was Josh! Davey raced to the door, flung his arms around his brother, and gave him the biggest hug he could manage. Josh had made it home after all. Davey’s Christmas wish had come true!
Later that night, when Davey was finally in bed, he looked out his window. Sure enough, the Wishing Star was still high in the sky. “Thank you, Wishing Star,” he whispered. “I knew you could do it. You’ve made this my best Christmas ever!”
Sometimes if we wish hard enough, our dreams will come true. In the next story -- 'The Little Match Girl' -- find out how a little girl who always seemed to end up cold, hungry, and alone eventually finds her way to the perfect "home."
'The Little Match Girl'
The weather was frosty and cold. It was growing dark, and a heavy snow had begun to fall. It was Christmas Eve. A little girl wandered in the darkening streets. She wore ragged clothes, and she carried a bundle of matches in her hand.
All day, the Little Match Girl had been trying to sell her matches. “A penny for a match!” she had called in a small, pitiful voice to shoppers on the streets. But the people just glanced at her and then hurried on their way. Now it was almost night. The poor girl had not sold a single match.
As she walked along, the Little Match Girl grew very cold. She wore only an old, thin pair of slippers. She had no socks, for she could not afford them. Suddenly, a voice bellowed, “Out of my way!” At that moment, she heard the thundering sound of horses’ hooves.
She scurried across the street, barely managing to get out of the way of a large carriage pulled by two enormous horses. When she stopped to catch her breath, the Little Match Girl looked down at her feet. In fleeing the carriage and horses, she had lost her slippers. Now the Little Match Girl had no shoes at all.
The Little Match Girl wandered through the streets as the hour grew later and later. Up ahead, she saw a light shining through the window of one of the houses.
The Little Match Girl looked in the window and saw a table spread with a white tablecloth and set with candles and silver. On the table was a grand Christmas feast -- a fat goose stuffed with the traditional apples and nuts, cakes and pies of all sorts, puddings, and every imaginable fruit. The Little Match Girl had never beheld such a feast.
A family came into the room and sat down at the table. The little girl wished that she could join the mother, father, and three young ones who were about to eat this beautiful Christmas dinner. How hungry she was! The Little Match Girl sighed and turned away, then continued down the street. Soon she saw a light shining from the window of another house.
This time when she looked inside, the Little Match Girl saw an extraordinarily lovely Christmas tree. There was a gold star at the top, and candles flickered on the branches. Gaily wrapped packages were piled beneath the tree. While the Little Match Girl watched, a group of joyous girls and boys entered the room.
They clapped their hands with delight when they saw the tree and all the presents. How the Little Match Girl wished she could have laughed and played with the children around the Christmas tree! As she turned away from the window, the Little Match Girl heard singing from a group of carolers nearby:
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright. . . .
The Little Match Girl thought the music so beautiful that she followed the carolers down the street listening to their song:
‘Round yon Virgin Mother and Child,
Holy Infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
When they finished singing, the carolers were invited to come inside a brightly lit kitchen. Standing near the door, the Little Match Girl could smell bread baking inside. Once again, she was all alone. Now it was growing late, and the Little Match Girl was very cold. To keep warm, she decided to light one of her matches.
She struck the match, and the light flared. In the bright glow of the match, she imagined herself sitting at a table eating a Christmas feast just like the one she had seen through the lighted window. The Little Match Girl was eating Christmas goose, with pudding and fruit and cake and pie. How warm and full and happy she was!
Just then, the match went out. The bright light was gone, and the Little Match Girl was alone again in the dark. She shivered with cold.
The Little Match Girl decided to light a second match to try to get warm again. She struck the match, and once more a warm glow and bright light appeared. In the light from this match, she saw herself with the boys and girls around the Christmas tree. She was about to open a Christmas gift wrapped in red paper and tied with a gold ribbon. She was anxious to see what might be inside.
Just then, the match burned out. Suddenly, everything was dark, and again the Little Match Girl was cold and alone. Except for the light from streetlamps, the night was utterly dark, and the Little Match Girl grew so cold that she decided to light the entire bundle of matches.
When she struck all her matches, the whole world suddenly seemed to light up. Stars shot down from the sky. The Little Match Girl felt warm and wonderful. As she looked around, the Little Match Girl had an amazing vision. She saw an angel dressed all in white. The angel was smiling and coming toward her with outstretched arms.
The angel picked the Little Match Girl up in her arms and smiled upon the small face. The angel started to walk, carrying the Little Match Girl. “Where are we going?” asked the girl. “I am taking you to a place where you will never be cold,” the angel replied as they rose slowly into the night sky. “It is a place always filled with light and warmth. We will go where there are only laughter and smiles, and where you will never be hungry again.”
The next morning, those who emerged from their houses saw the bundle of burnt matches lying in the snow. They wondered what had happened. What they could not know was that the Little Match Girl had gone to a place where she would always be warm and loved and happy -- so happy that every single day would seem just like Christmas!
The Little Match Girl finally found her way “home.” In that same home, The Littlest Angel experiences many ups and downs that ultimately teach her to grow. Continue to the next page to read our final inspirational story -- 'The Littlest Angel.'
'The Littlest Angel'
A very long time ago, long before anybody on earth today was born, there was no Christmas season -- no gaily decorated Christmas trees, no yuletide gift-giving, no carolers singing on a snowy December night. That’s because it was a time before the birth of Jesus in a lowly stable in Bethlehem.
There was such a thing as Heaven, of course, the home of glorious angels who sailed the skies on beautiful white-feathered wings. They wore long, flowing white gowns, and their golden hair fell in waves and curls down their backs.
They were tall and strong and swift -- all except the Littlest Angel, who was tiny, with short, curly blonde locks. She had just got her wings and was only now learning to fly. One day, Archangel Gabriel made an important announcement. “Tonight,” declared Gabriel in a ringing voice, “we fly to earth to honor the birth of the Prince of Peace! We will sing hymns throughout the world, giving tidings of great joy!”
The Littlest Angel jumped up and down with excitement. Tonight was the night she had heard so much about! For weeks, the big angels had been planning a splendid celebration. Would she be allowed to go along? The Littlest Angel’s singing voice was still weak, but she had a worse problem: She couldn’t fly as fast as the others. It did not look promising
“Unless I get a head start,” she thought, and this cheered her up. “If I go now, I’ll be in Bethlehem before the others get there. Won’t they be surprised to see me!”
At that moment, the Littlest Angel happened to be strolling beside Heaven’s crystal sea. On the shore grew thousands of starflowers with their golden centers and five pearl-white petals. Starflowers were valued on earth as a sign of hope and would surely make a lovely gift for the newborn infant. So the Littlest Angel gathered a bunch and stuck them inside the sash of her robe.
It was time to test her wings in a way they’d never been tested before. The Littlest Angel climbed atop the highest cloud, then jumped! Miraculously, her baby wings spread wide, and the Littlest Angel glided in the bright air. Now the wings began to beat, and she aimed for planet Earth down below.
When the Littlest Angel landed, she looked around. Where did Bethlehem lie? The sun was setting, and there was no one in sight. But then in the distance she saw a village with houses of mud brick and stone, so she headed down the dirt road toward it.
On the way, the Littlest Angel heard a pitiful sound from a nearby olive tree. A mother dove was cooing sadly from a high branch. Below, her baby, which had fallen from its nest, was struggling to fly but with no success. It was too young. The Littlest Angel picked up the birdling.
“You poor thing,” she said. Up the Littlest Angel flew and settled the little dove gently in the nest. The mother thanked her with all her heart. A starflower fell from the Littlest Angel’s sash and landed where the dove had fallen. Suddenly, a bell rang out through the winter evening.
The Littlest Angel came to a one-room hut and peered inside a window. There sat a careworn young mother watching over her little son, who slept fitfully in a cradle. The Littlest Angel could see the child’s skin was hot and damp, and tendrils of hair clung to his cheeks and forehead. The mother rocked the cradle and wept softly to herself.
The child opened his feverish eyes and smiled as the Littlest Angel tiptoed in. The angel laid a cool hand on the boy’s forehead, and the fever went away instantly. Soon the child closed its eyes and slept soundly.
As the Littlest Angel walked back through the door, a few starflowers fell from her sash, and a second bell rang out. It had grown dark, so she left the village and continued down the road. The Littlest Angel’s wings ached too much to fly. She had no idea where she was headed, and she was so tired that she almost forgot why she had visited earth in the first place.
She was lost, too. Where was Bethlehem? The Littlest Angel seemed no nearer to the end of her journey than when she began, and she now had only a single starflower left. This troubled her. “What will happen if I lose this, too?” she thought. “I’ll have nothing to give Jesus.”
As if to make matters worse, the Littlest Angel stubbed her toe on a stone in the road. She hopped around, holding her injured foot. Suddenly overhead, a host of angels flew past, singing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will!” “Oh, no!” cried the Littlest Angel. “I’m too late!”
A short time later, the Littlest Angel heard the sound of bleating nearby. In the bushes beside the road lay a little lamb that had broken its foreleg. She took pity on the suffering creature and gathered it up in her arms. “Come with me to Bethlehem,” said the angel, “that is, if I can ever find it!” The last starflower slipped unnoticed from her sash and fell in the dirt road. A third bell rang out through the night.
The Littlest Angel carried her pitiful burden down the road, and it seemed to get heavier and heavier. Her arms and legs were sore with fatigue. At the moment that she thought she might have to stop and rest, the Littlest Angel glimpsed light shining from far off. The closer it got, the more it seemed to be coming from a stable. “Well stop there,” whispered the Littlest Angel, for the lamb had fallen asleep in her arms.
When the angel and her little lamb got within a short distance of the stable, they were greeted by the most amazing sights and sounds. On the ground, several people had gathered. They were mostly poor and humble, but three men bearing costly gifts rode camels and were dressed in rich robes.
The people were oddly quiet, but every now and then the Littlest Angel heard hushed words being spoken in strange languages. Overhead in the velvet darkness flew scores of angels in a fiery blaze of light. Some were singing hymns, while others played shiny brass horns.
High above shone a single star, brighter and steadier than any the Littlest Angel had ever seen The Littlest Angel walked through the stable’s bright doorway and was so astonished by what she saw that she nearly dropped the lamb.
There, in the straw, sat a pale but beautiful young woman holding a newborn infant in her arms. A bearded man wearing robes dusty from travel looked on. The Littlest Angel knew at once that she was in the presence of Jesus and his parents, Mary and Joseph. She laid the lamb in the straw and reached for her last starflower, but it wasn’t there!
Mary smiled lovingly on the Littlest Angel. “I know what you’re thinking,” she said sweetly, “but you have brought a far greater gift -- a creature in need.” The baby Jesus reached out and, with his dimpled hand, touched the lamb’s broken leg. Instantly the animal leaped up and frisked about.
“Not only that,” added Mary, “but your good deeds have caused the Chime of Love to ring out three times tonight. Because of this, I ask that you visit every year and bring this music to people of good will.”
The Littlest Angel was overjoyed. Such an important responsibility for one so little! She flew back to Heaven in a burst of speed. And every Christmas, you’ll hear this magical bell ring out -- that is, if you’ve been kind and good throughout the year!