The last few days, my friends have opened our conversations with their concerns about sadness. “So many have died. There is so much sickness, hunger, war…” My heart joins theirs in this heart felt lament. Celebrating Christmas is difficult for many. Today, I feel God is calling me to offer you this Christmas story.
Our Christmas Angel is basically a true story. This beautiful little angel actually visited my friend’s church a number of years ago. Like our Bible stories, “Our Christmas Angel” story came to me in just a few short sentences. Told with love and wonder and gratitude, the story had few details. Consequently, I have added descriptive details to help you be present in the story. Writers call this “Creative Non-fiction”. I offer this story today because we need to be reminded that God does love us and offers comfort when we are hurting. I pray this story will bring peace for those who need it this year.
Our Christmas Angel
My heart heavy, I slipped in the vestry door, stomped the snow from my boots and shrugged out of my coat. Grief, surrounded me like a shroud. “Help me, God,” I prayed as I pushed opened the heavy door into the sanctuary and faced the sea of desperate eyes, waiting, expecting me to give them something. My heart ached.
Bong, Bong, Bong… The town clock struck eleven as the McGregor family, their cheeks glistening with tears, filed bravely down the aisle and settled into their accustomed pew. I stared at the empty space where five year old Shannon usually sat, between her mom and big brother. Last night, a drunk driver had ended Shannon’s life. Never again would I hear her laughter or struggle with her questions at children’s time. “It isn’t fair. Please God, give her back, I pleaded silently.
The organ music swelled. It was time to begin.
My throat choked with tears, I invited us all to stand and sing “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The loss, the sadness, the defeat echoed in our trembling hesitant voices. All too soon it was time for the message. The lights lowered. The spotlight focused on me, alone, at the front. I had no words to offer. With a faltering heart I began to read the ancient Christmas story.
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, the town of David, to be registered with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” I took a breath and added. “Joseph and Mary had far to go.”
A tiny voice broke the suffocating silence. “Far to go?”
Puzzled, I scanned the crowd. Nothing. I bent my head to my worn Bible and continued the story.
“She brought forth her first born child and laid him in a manger because there was no room in the inn…”
The rustle of the congregation caught my attention. Once again I looked up.
A small child, no more than four years old, stood in the aisle. Wearing a shiny red plastic raincoat and matching rubber boots, she was dressed for spring on this frigid winter night. I watched her take a tentative step forward.
“No room,” she echoed, as small children often do, and continued, up the aisle her tiny boots scuffing the carpet…
With each step, her captivating smile and dancing eyes shone God’s light from side to side, their beam as bright as a hunter’s flashlight drawing hesitant smiles from the tear-stained faces.
She reached the front, stopped and stared up into my face. This beautiful child sat down on the chancel step, and patted the empty spot beside her. Mesmerized I lowered my body down onto the step. She pointed to the Bible. I continued the story.
“There were shepherds abiding in the fields, watching their flocks by night…”
She listened with rapt attention while I read.
The story over, she smiled and stood up. All eyes followed her as she walked to the nativity scene on the chancel steps. Her plastic coat crackled as she bent over and picked up the doll, our Jesus/.
“In a manger,” she said.
Cuddling Jesus close, she turned to face the congregation. Her coal black hair glistened in the candle light.
Slowly, she lifted the doll up as high as her tiny arms could reach.
“Baby Jesus,” she shouted, her joy exploding around us.
Genuine laughter spilled forth. For a moment, the Joy of Christmas shone through our pain.
Obviously satisfied, she grinned, pulled Jesus close, and kissed him.
The opening chords of “Go Tell It On the Mountain” filled the sanctuary.
We rose to sing as this beautiful child in the red plastic raincoat placed Jesus in his bed. Waving goodbye, she skipped back down the aisle, her red boots slapping against her legs.
Our voices strong we sang God’s command, “Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.” Our pain wasn’t gone, but we had heard God’s message.
When the service ended, I searched for the child. I asked everyone. No one
knew her. No one claimed her. Her healing gift given, our unidentified Christmas angel had disappeared.