Every year since at least 1994 I have written a Christmas story to read at church to the children in our Christmas Day service.

This year there were children listening to my story whose parents listened to my Christmas Day Stories when they were children.

Most commonly the stories I have written have been set in Bethlehem and have included some form of the retelling of the Nativity. This year I stayed in a modern setting and tried to imagine a child for whom the story is less familiar than i is to those children who will listen in church this morning.

Samantha Finds Christmas 

Samantha did not like Christmas.

She did not like Christmas carols; she did not like Christmas lights, or Christmas parties, or Christmas pageants. Samantha did not even like Christmas presents.

Every year when all her friends started getting so excited because Christmas was coming, Samantha wanted to stay in bed, pull the covers over her head and sleep until the whole thing was over.

You might think it is odd for a seven year old little girl not to enjoy Christmas, but for Samantha Christmas was horrible.

You see, Christmas was not part of Samantha’s family. Samantha’s mummy and daddy did not believe in Christmas. They said Santa wasn’t real and Jesus was just make-believe.

Samantha’s parents believed Christmas was nothing but a big excuse to make people go shopping and spend lots of money on things they could not afford and stuff they did not need.

Samantha’s daddy told her that at Christmas everyone eats too much, drinks too much, and gets too tired going to parties and spending too many hours in the shopping malls and that the world would be a better place if there was no such thing as Christmas.

So Christmas always made Samantha sad. Her friends were excited about their family celebrations and the presents they were going to give and receive. They sang Christmas songs and school. And many of Samantha’s friends talked about the Christmas pageant they were getting ready for at church and the parts they were each going to play.

No one ever read the Christmas story in Samantha’s house. So she was a little unclear about the details that would be acted out in her friends Christmas pageant. And that was a problem this year because Samantha’s best friend Grace had asked her to join her and be an angel in the pageant at church.

Samantha was pretty sure that in her family they did not believe in angels and she had no idea what angels might do and why they would be part of some story about a little boy being born a long time ago.

But, for once Samantha wanted to be able to share in the excitement with her friends; she thought maybe if she was in the Christmas pageant, she might learn to like Christmas a little more.

So one day after school, while her parents were preparing dinner, Samantha asked, “Can I be an angel?”

Her parents stopped what they were doing and looked at their daughter as if she had asked, “Can I do a cartwheel in the middle of the dining room table?”

Her father asked, “Can you be a what?”

“An angel” Samantha repeated. Then she went on in a small voice and explained, “In the Christmas pageant at Grace’s church.”

There was a long silence.

Samantha’s mother finally asked, “Why would you want to do that?”

“I don’t know,” Samantha answered. “It sounds like fun. And, so many of the kids in my class go to Grace’s church and they are all in the Christmas pageant together.”

Samantha’s mummy and daddy said they would have to talk about it and the would give her an answer in the morning.

Next morning Samantha’s mummy told Samantha that she was allowed to be in the Christmas pageant with her friends. But they wanted her to remember that it was all a make-believe story and that she should not take it seriously because things like angels and a virgin birth just did not happen in the real world.

Samantha promised she would remember that the story about Jesus wasn’t real and that in her family they did not believe in Christmas.

As Christmas got closer, Samantha loved sharing in the pageant rehearsals with her friends. She loved the music, the costumes, and the beautiful story about people being so happy at the birth of this baby.

Gradually Samantha got to know all the details of the story they would tell on the big night in the pageant. She learned about Mary and Joseph who had to make a long journey from their home in Nazareth to the little town of Bethlehem because a mean king ordered all the people to go to their hometown to be counted.

Samantha heard how there were shepherds who learned about the baby’s birth from mysterious messengers and that the shepherds came into Bethlehem to see the baby.

Samantha especially loved the part at the end of the story when the wise men came and brought gifts for the baby Jesus. Samantha thought this helped explain why gift giving meant more than just getting lots of stuff.

But, all the rehearsals they had getting ready for the pageant did not prepare Samantha for the night itself when she stood on the stage and shared in telling this wonderful story. Samantha tried to remember what her parents had said about this story being just make-believe and that she should not take it seriously. She tried hard not to believe any of it was true.

But the music was beautiful. And all the children were quiet in the dark church. There was a stillness that Samantha had never experienced before.

She loved it when Mary and Joseph came down the aisle of the church. They looked so tired from their long journey. But they seemed to really care for each other. And Joseph was so gentle with Mary even though he still did not really understand what was going on.

And when Mary and Joseph sat down in the stable with Mary holding her new baby cradled in her arms, something mysterious and wonderful began to stir in Samantha’s heart.

She just couldn’t help it. She felt a warmth and joy deep inside that was real and strong and nothing could take away.

Then the angels appeared to shepherds out in the fields. Samantha joined the angel choir singing to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Suddenly Samantha knew this story about Jesus was true. It was not a make-believe story at all.

Samantha did not really understand the words of the angel song, but when she sang the word “peace” she looked down at the baby sleeping in Mary’s arms and a peaceful presence was born inside her own heart. This baby seemed to have come into Samantha’s life and brought with him all the light and love that Samantha had seen in the pageant.

Samantha knew at that moment that, she would always love Christmas, because this Christmas she had found something real and strong living in her heart. His name was Jesus.

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