"O, holy night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'til he appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder lies a new and glorious morn..."
The carolers sang their song in awed voices, hands
shoved in warm pockets and eyes gleaming in the falling snow.
Their voices rang loud and true, telling of the wondrous birth of
the Christ. People who were walking by would slow down to listen
and frazzled last-minute Christmas shoppers would pause for a
moment, forgetting their rush. The bright eyes of small children
were on the carolers and their mothers' ears were attentively
"Fall on your knees, oh hear the angels voices! O night divine! O night when Christ is born, night divine!"
One young girl in particular was touched by the song's words. "A new and glorious morn..." How she adored those words! If only she herself could believe in such a thing... but she was a grungy and dirty, homeless street girl. No one could love her. Her hair was in tangles, her thin clothes were tattered and torn; there was no reason for anyone to think fondly of her at all. She had tried staying in those homeless shelters, but she felt trapped. And very small.
They started singing another song, this time, one she had never heard before.
"Tears are falling, hearts are breaking. How we need to hear from God. You've been promised, we've been waiting. Welcome, holy Child. Welcome, holy Child. Hope that you don't mind our manger. How I wish we would have known. But long-awaited holy Stranger, make Yourself at home. Please make Yourself at home. Bring Your peace into our violence, bid our hungry souls be filled. Word now breaking heavan's siilence. Welcom to our world. Welcome to our world."
The girl's eyes started tearing up. Ashamed of herself, she turned away and left the crowd of people that had gathered. She wandered down the streets, passing decked trees and busy stores. She paused momentarily in front of her favorite store to look into-- the doll store. At one time, she had had a doll, but it had been lost years ago. As she gazed inside at the beautiful dolls of all shapes and sizes her heart beat wildly in desire to own one of those precious companions. The store manager walked over to the door into the shop and flipped the "open" sign to "closed". In dismay the little girl padded away.
This would be no sweet Christmas for her, alone and cold.
One Year Later
It was a freezing cold and snowy Christmas Eve. A group of about twenty kids from middle school to high school got on a bus. They rode the local homeless shelter singing Christmas songs the whole way. From "White Christmas" to "Away in a Manger" to "Santa, Baby"-- as long as it was related to Christmas, they would sing it. When they arrived at the shelter they all scrambled out and huddled together in the nipping cold. Their chatter quieted down when their youth pastor called for their attention.
"Listen up!" he shouted. "We're going to help out and help in the soup kitchen, okay? So you guys need to settle down! Don't be afraid to have fun, but be respectful." He went on to explain what each of their job's would be. "When we're done here we'll go caroling and then meet back up at my house for some hot chocolate."
The rowdy students dispersed into four smaller groups and went their separate ways. One of the groups of five headed to the soup kitchen where they received hair nets and plastic gloves. A girl in the group, Casi, cringed as she delicately patted the plastic hair net on her head. "This is going to ruin my hair,"
"Oh, Casi, deal with it," said a boy. "You're lucky to even be able to afford that haircut... how much did that cost, anyway?"
She squinted her eyes and glared through the slits. "None of your business,"
One of the other girls turned to them. "Would you guys cut it out? Let's just get to work." Another student said, "Amen to that!"
They started their work by dishing out servings of food ranging from soups to some sort of meatloaf to pumpkin pie at the very end. Some of them, like Suzie and Nick, well, their hearts reached out to the people. But for Casi, it was hard. She was so used to having so much, and no matter how much she tried, she could only see these homeless people as people who just wouldln't kick their butts in gear and get a job. She knew this wasn't right, but she couldn't help it. Scruffy men went by, never making eye contact or even saying 'thank you.' Those that did actually look at her in the eye were cold and hostile, as if they blamed her for their own misfortune.
Later on, almost time for the group to leave, a little girl, only eight or nine, went by. She looked balefully into Casi's eyes, unspoken messages clear-- she was in pain. Casi's heart retched. But what could she do? She was doing all she could now...
The girl passed.
When she reached the end of the line, Suzie was star-struck. This was a child! As soon as they were done, Suzie went over to the little girl and asked what her name was. The girl blushed and squirmed in her seat. Finally, she answered,
Suzi smiled softly. "You know what?" she asked. Katey shook her head. "That's my sister's name, too. I think it's really pretty." Katey blushed again and muttered a quiet, "Thank you."
"And what do you want for Christmas, Katey?"
Then the girl's countenance fell. Her eyes wandered away and she blinked slowly. Softly, almost inaudibly, she whispered, "I can't get anything."
Kindly, Suzie said, "Well, I'm sure you must want something. Would you tell me what it is?"
"A dolly," she replied with a nod and Suzie blinked with surprise. "A doll?" she inquired, just to be sure.
"Yes," came the confident answer.
For a few seconds-- which seemed like long minutes-- Suzie looked into Katey's big brown eyes. Slowly, enunciating each word carefully, she said, "Alright. You wait right here, okay?" The little girl nodded and she left her.
She came back a few minutes later, her face beaming. "Will you come with me?" she asked. Katey looked frightened for a moment, then quickly agreed. They walked hand-in-hand a few blocks away from the shelter. Suzie asked her what lights she liked the best out of all the Christmas trees on display and she received quick answers. They stopped in front of the same doll store Katey had gazed into a year before. And, just like last year, there were carolers outside... singing the same song:
"Fragile fingers, sent to heal us, tender brow prepared for thorn. Tiny heart whose blood will save us unto us is born. Unto us is born."
Realizing what Suzie was going to do, Katey looked at her in wonder. Then she broke down. She sobbed and Suzie kneeled down to comfort her, hugging her and holding her small, filthy frame in her warm arms. When she was done, Katey looked up at her new-found friend.
"Somebody can love me!"
"So wrap our injured flesh around You. Breathe our air and walk our sod. Rob our sin and make us holy, perfect Son of God. Perfect Son of God... welcome to our world."
Merry Christmas Everybody!
(The songs I used were "O Holy Night" and "Welcome To Our World"-Chris Rice)