Anne didn’t like this season, it was always so busy and her daughter Sarah had been plaguing her with questions about the meaning of Christmas of all things. Anne knew it was all Sarah’s new friend Emily’s fault. Why do those people try to worm their beliefs into other’s brains? They can’t even get their own shoes on the right feet. Maybe it was time to introduce Sarah to some new friends.
For Sarah’s sake their family celebrated the holiday three days before Christmas and without a tree but something felt different to Anne this year. She found herself looking forward to their celebration with bewilderment as if something exciting were about to happen.
Anne had been rushing all day long to finish work early so she could pick up Sarah and get her a present. On the drive to the mall she noticed the lights on the houses. Were they brighter and more colorful? It must only be her imagination.
When Anne and Sarah got out of the car and were heading into the store she broke the news to Sarah. “We’re going to get a puppy for you this year and you can pick out the one you like the best.”
“But I don’t want a puppy.”
“You don’t want a puppy?”
Anne had given her daughter every doll imaginable. Sarah couldn’t want another one could she? “Honey, you love puppies and I thought it would make a wonderful holiday gift.”
An exasperated look came over Sarah’s face. “Mom, why can’t you even say it?”
“Why can’t you even say Christmas?”
Anne’s sense of wonderment diminished. “Sarah I don’t want to argue…”
“But Mom, all I want for Christmas is to go to church!”
After the great day Anne had, she was in no mood for this confrontation and wanted to settle this church thing once and for all. “No.”
Sarah stamped her foot, “But Mom.”
“Oh for heaven's sake, why do you want to go to church?”
“Because Emily goes and she says…”
Now Anne was angry. “Emily again.”
At those words Sarah pulled away from her mother and bumped into the man ringing a bell for donations at the store’s entrance. “Oh, I’m sorry, sir.”
The man looked down and gave Sarah a big warm smile. “That’s quite all right, no harm done.” Then he looked up to Anne, “I couldn’t help but overhear you talking with your daughter…”
The man patted Sarah’s head. “Sarah.”
Then he reached out to shake Anne’s hand. “Hi, my name is Rick Brown and I am the pastor of a small church near here. You both would be more than welcome to come to our service on Christmas Eve.”
“Oh, thank you but we have other plans on that night.”
Rick reached into his coat pocket and handed Anne his card. “Here, in case you change your mind. I think Sarah would have a great time.”
A fierce look came over Anne’s face. “My daughter is not going anywhere near one of those places.”
Sarah shouted, “But Mom I have questions…”
“No buts!” Anne gripped her purse as she always did when she wanted to regain some control.
“Mom, if Jesus was such a tyrant why did he become a baby and…”
Anne gave a heavy sigh and looked down at Sarah. She was going to say something but she saw the look of hope in her daughter's eyes.
Looking into those big eyes made Anne’s anticipation return. She hadn’t felt like this since childhood. It began to snow and chills ran down her spine but not from the cold. “All right.”
Sarah gave her mom a hug, “Yea.”
Anne put her arm around Sarah. “You can still have a puppy. Come on let’s go pick one out.”
Three days later on Christmas Eve Anne found herself upset at the thought of going to church with Sarah. She was adamant to teach Sarah to value herself and women. Christianity had subjugated women for thousands of years. But she had promised and there were only a few hours left before they had to go.
As she sat looking out the window at the falling snow, memories flooded her mind. She was a girl again and the fight between her parents brought back her rage against her father. How could he just walk out of our lives like that?
It was on a grey miserable day and her parents were arguing about her father’s drinking.
Anne’s mom stood her ground this time. “If you don’t get help you have to leave.”
Then her dad walked out the door and never came back. He could have. Wasn’t that what Christians were supposed to do?
That had been enough for Anne. She would never become a Christian. No, this was all God’s fault, if there was a God. Sarah burst into the room. “You ready, it’s time to go.”
Anne looked up at Sarah and said. “Are you sure about this?”
Sarah went to her mom and grabbed her hand. “It’s alright mom I’ll protect you.”
Anne took a deep breath and smiled. Then off they went before she could back out.
Anne felt very self-conscious as her and Sarah entered the church and found seats. She looked up and there was a manger with children gathered around it. For some reason she was mesmerized by it and her discomfort abated.
Sarah’s words came back to her and she asked herself, was Jesus a tyrant? Pastor Brown’s voice only added to the spell of her thoughts. “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son…”
Anne’s memory stretched far back into time when she was very young and singing in a church pageant. Her mom and dad were in the front row. Her dad had his arm around her mom’s shoulder and they looked so proud of her as she sang, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…”
How she loved attending church back then but things were different now. Now she was an adult, life had torn through that imaginary world.
After the service, when they returned home and Sarah was asleep, Anne went to get herself a cup of hot chocolate before getting ready for bed when she heard someone say, “Remember.”
There was no one around and she shrugged it off as just her imagination because she was so tired. She finished her hot chocolate and decided it was time for bed. When she turned out the lights she heard the voice again. It was soft, gentle, and eerily familiar. “Remember.”
This time she knew she heard someone so she turned on her light and said, “Who’s there?”
But again there was no one around. She turned her light off, fell into a deep sleep, and dreamed. Jesus was in the dream and He was holding her talking to her. She couldn’t hear what He was saying but it was so comforting. Then the dream changed and she was little. She saw herself crying and praying every night pleading with God. “Please dear God bring my daddy home I need him and I miss him.”
In her dream, Anne asked Jesus, “Why are you are here now God? Where were You then, when I needed You and why didn’t You bring my daddy back?”
“I’ve always been here with you through everything. You are my little princess.”
Then Jesus said, “Why haven’t you given Sarah the gift your father left you?”
“What gift, my father just left without leaving me anything?”
“Grace, it is your inheritance and is supposed to be your legacy.”
The scene of the dream changed again and Anne was now sitting with Sarah in Pastor Brown’s church watching and listening as the children played out the Christmas story. Light was emanating from the manger. One of the wise men looked directly at her and spoke but he wasn’t a child, he was her father. “Come here and see.”
Anne woke with tears streaming down her cheeks and she remembered.
One day Anne and her father were playing. Her daddy was throwing her in the air and they were laughing when he told her, “ I love you my little princess.”
Then he put her down, got on his knees, and placed his hands around her face so he could look her directly in the eyes and said, “God loves you even more than me I want you to always remember that. Promise me you will.”
“Oh daddy I promise I’ll remember it forever.”
Her dad let go of her and put his head down. “Anne, if anything happens to me Jesus will take care of you and please forgive me.”
After that, until the day her father left when any of Anne’s friends were having problems she would console them by saying. “God loves you more than anyone and He’s bigger than anyone or anything.”
She also invited her friends to come to church with her and many accepted the offer.
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