The coffee shop had a retro feel to it. The orange and green walls were covered in album covers of rock groups from the seventies. The lights of the Christmas tree blinked randomly throwing brightly colored speckles across the garish paint of the walls.
Christmas carols played one after another on an old phonograph in the corner behind the cappuccino machine. Joy to the world was currently scratching out of the speakers.
Marcy and Gwen sat quietly. Their conversation had been nothing more than Nerf footballs lobbed at each other, missing their target.
“And heaven and nature – and heaven and nature – and heaven and nature –“ The needle stuck and the words echoed in the nearly empty room. The barista dressed in platform shoes and bell bottom jeans trudged over to the corner and nudged the needle.
The song finished out but wasn’t heard as Gwen suddenly blurted out, “How can we sing of joy to the world at a time like this?”
“Christmas is a time of joy.” Marcy smiled.
“Hah, a time of joy? Our country is at war and thousands of our young men and women are dying for this. The country is in a mess and Joe lost his job. We won’t have Christmas, much less joy. Explain that to my five year old.” Tears glistened in Gwen’s eyes.
Marcy reached over the table and put her hand over Gwen’s. “I know it is hard to understand, but Christmas is a time of love and joy. Christ loves us so much he gave his life for us and we rejoice during the celebration of his birth at Christmas.”
“How can you say Christ loves us? If he did he would set this world right and take away the evil and suffering.”
“Oh Gwen, he does love us. That is why he died for us. His death allows us to join him in eternal life.”
“Why would we want eternal life when life is full of hate and pain?” Gwen’s words spewed from her mouth like poison darts. Her eyes were angry and dark.
In the corner Sonny James began to sing “I Got a Pocket Full of Mistletoe.” The door opened and a cold blast ushered a group of teenagers into the coffee shop. Their bright chatter and happy smiles only heightened Gwen’s dark mood.
“You just don’t understand,” she began quietly. “You have never had to deal with the things I have had to deal with, Marcy. Your life is perfect and simple. It is easy for you to talk of joy and love.”
Marcy sipped her coffee and sighed. “You’ve only known me a short time. What I have never told you is that I ran away from home at 15. Alone on the streets I had no way to support myself and I turned to prostitution. I got pregnant when I was only 17. I was scared and didn’t know what to do. I went to a clinic for a pregnancy test and to find out how to get an abortion.”
“Oh Marcy, I never knew this…”
“I don’t talk about it much. All seemed hopeless those years on the streets. After I went to the clinic I didn’t think I could go through with the abortion so I bought a razor blade and slit my wrists. That’s all I remember until I woke up in the hospital. Apparently someone happened by the alley where I was and called 911. While I was in the hospital I met an elderly chaplain named Jim. He talked to me of unconditional love and everlasting life. He helped me call my parents and return home. That encounter changed me forever.”
“That’s a great story Marcy, but I don’t have a chaplain named Jim. I can’t go home again and I am the only one who can figure out how to take care of my family.” Gwen’s words were laced with fatigue and distrust.
“Would you mind if I told you more about Jesus’ love?” I had to find a way to help her understand.
“No, I have to go. I can’t sit here and talk fairy tales while life spins out of control.” Gwen rose from the table and headed towards the door.
As the player in the corner began “Silent Night” Gwen turned and said quietly, “But Marcy…”
“If you want to pray for me tonight, that would be okay….”
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