This year, like every year for the past twenty-five, I have written a children’s Christmas story to read at the Christmas Day service.

The number of children at this service are fewer than they once were, and are mostly supplied by my family.

christmas-story

Here is my 2016 Christmas offering:

Kyla’s Christmas

For the first time in her life, Kyla was dreading Christmas. It used to be her favourite time of the year. But this year was different.

Kyla was alone in an unfamiliar country, in a strange city, with just her mother and her father.

Thousands of kms. away her grandparents, and all her aunts, and uncles, cousins, and friends would be getting ready for Christmas. They would be decorating their house, preparing special food, wrapping gifts, and visiting friends for holiday celebrations.

On Christmas Eve Kyla’s far away family would walk in the evening to the local church through the quiet village that had once been her home. In church they would sing carols and watch as the baby Jesus was carried in down the centre aisle, and placed in the manger with Joseph and Mary. Kyla remembered the Christmas two years ago when she was chosen to carry the baby Jesus into the darkened church with candles and everyone singing “Away in a manger”.

She knew that this year, like every year, after church her family would gather around the Christmas tree at her grandparents’ home. They would exchange gifts, sing Christmas music, hear the Christmas story, and eat the traditional food of the Christmas season until everyone was full and sleepy, and it was way past Kyla’s bedtime.

But this year, Kyla would not be there.  There would be no grandparents, no aunts or uncles, no cousins or friends, just Kyla and her mother and father.

It was only four months since Kyla and her parents had come to Canada. She had left home just after her tenth birthday. Before they left her family and friends had gathered to celebrate Kyla’s birthday and to say goodbye. It had been a sad, exciting, happy, unhappy, and frightening time all rolled into one.

Now that Kyla was settled in her new home, some of the excitement had worn off. She was beginning to feel the sad part more than the exciting parts. She missed her friends. She missed her big noisy family. Kyla longed to hear the familiar language of her people. She imagined the smell of the food of her homeland and the familiar sights and sounds of the village she had lived in since she was born.

For Kyla this Christmas was filled with things that were missing.

Kyla was thankful for all the kindness she and her parents had received in their new home. They had been warmly welcomed by so many people. Everyone in her new school had worked hard to help her adjust to her new life. Kyla and her parents had found a church where the people loved and supported them. And Kyla had begun to make new friends.

But Christmas was meant to be family time, filled with love and warmth, gift-giving and special parties. This year Christmas would be quiet and lonely. Kyla felt a big empty space inside.

Three weeks before Christmas Kyla’s church friend Shelly invited her to join the choir at church to sing in the Christmas concert. Kyla loved to sing, but was worried she might not know the music the choir had already been practicing for weeks. But, she thought being in the choir might help her forget the lonely sad feeling she carried inside; so she told Shelly she would sing with the other children.

At their first practice Kyla found out that, although the language was different, Christmas music was the same in her new home as it had been where she came from. She learned the new words quickly and, when the night came for their concert, she was excited to sing before the people in church.

There was one song Kyla had not learned in her homeland. But she loved it more than all the familiar Christmas music. The words came from an old poem. The choir director told the children that the poem was written many years ago by a woman named Christina Rossetti.

Kyla felt like the first verse of this poem understood exactly how she was feeling. It made her feel teary every time they sang the words of the poet who wrote,

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Kyla had never seen snow and did not really understand how the earth could be “hard as iron.” But she felt pretty sure she knew the feeling of being “in the bleak midwinter.” She understood that her heart could be like the “frosty wind” that “made moan”.  She felt “like a stone” inside.

On the night of the concert, there was a warm glow in the church. The Christmas concert was full of light and beauty. At the end of the concert before they all went downstairs for hot apple cider and Christmas baking, the minister said to the children,

“At Christmas we often think about getting gifts. But, Christmas is also a time for giving gifts.”

He paused. Then he said to the children who had sung in the concert, “This evening you have given us the greatest gift of all. You have given us the gift of beauty and love. This gift will always warm our hearts.”

As Kyla and her parents left the church that night, she thought about the words of the minister. She wondered if she had really given a gift to the people who came to hear the children sing. How could she, who knew so little and felt so lonely, possibly give a gift to anyone?

Then Kyla heard music in her head. It was the song they had sung earlier, the song that Kyla felt described her feelings so well,

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

But this time, Kyla didn’t stop with the first verse. In her mind the tune went on and she heard the final verse singing the words,

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Kyla looked up at the night sky. She saw stars sparkling against the dark. In the quiet of that moment, Kyla said silently, “Jesus, I do give you my heart, and I thank you for all the beauty and love you give us.”

In that minute, Kyla knew that, even though she might feel lonely, there was love in her heart that was bigger than anything she might miss from home.

Kyla took her mother’s hand on one side and her daddy’s hand on the other and as they walked along, Kyla felt the empty space she had been carrying inside was beginning to fill up a little bit with warmth and love.

© Christopher Page December 2016

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