Little Emi ran through the house searching for her Mom, “Guess what! Mommy, just guess.”
Sandy stood at the sink washing dishes but dried her hands when she heard her daughter racing through the house.
Emi flew into her mother’s arms. “Mommy! They picked me to sing a Christmas song.”
“Really? You’re one of the youngest, too. Wow. What did Daddy say when he picked you up?”
“He was happy. He said he would come to the program.”
“Now that is exciting, Little Girl. To get your daddy to come to church, now that is a big wow!”
Emi pulled out a crumpled piece of paper from her pocket. “I have to ummm… mem...” She scrunched up her face and tilted her head as she tried to think of the right word.
“Memorize the words?” Sandy helped her out.
Emilie nodded. “Can you help me?”
“Let’s have a look.” Sandy took the paper and gently unfolded it and smoothed down the crinkles. “Away in the Manger. You should know most of this.”
Together they sat on the couch and worked on the song until both their stomachs started to rumble and growl. As they made supper together Emi practiced and while they ate, she studied the words on the paper even though she could barely read her primer library books.
“Okay, time for bed.” Sandy tucked Emi into bed and turned on her princess nightlight. Before she herself went to bed, she went in to check on her daughter. Sandy watched her from the doorway as Little Emi quietly sang the first verse as she sat on the floor, kneeled at her bed.
Away in a manger,
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head
The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay
When she finished singing, Sandy heard a whispered prayer.
“Jesus, I’m sorry you didn’t have a place to stay when you were born. That’s so sad.” Emi started to sniff and she wiped tears from her eyes.
Sandy moved to her side and hugged her close. She whispered a prayer. “Lord, thank You for making my little girl so very special. I pray that her Daddy will come to church on Christmas Day and that you start working on his heart right now. We love You, Jesus.”
Sandy tucked her daughter back into bed and got into bed herself. As she lay there, the second verse floated through her head.
The cattle are lowing
The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes
I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my side,
'Til morning is nigh.
Christmas Day finally came amid a flurry of flying wrapping paper and breakfast casserole.
“Mommy, is it time?” Emi, unable to stand still, danced across the room.
“Yes, Darling. Let’s go get you dressed.”
Emi stood on stage, her emerald green and ruby red dress glittery in the spotlight. She looked expectantly out at the crowd of faces for her daddy. She caught her mom’s eyes and only Sandy could see sadness. Sandy’s heart ached.
It was Emilie’s turn to sing her song while the rest of the choir gathered around her. Her voice rang out clear and sweet. Her eyes glistened with tears and Sandy wasn’t sure if it was from disappointment that her dad didn’t show up or if it was the overflow of her tender heart.
Just as she got to the last verse, even the stodgiest of them all had tears in his eyes. Emi got down on her knees and folded her hands as she sang.
Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever and love me I pray
Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there
Emi got to her feet as the people applauded. She found her place with the rest of the kids and there she stood; a gallant little soldier in the face of disappointment.
At the last song, Emi jigged and jagged through the crowd until she found her mom. “He didn’t come.”
“I know, Honey. Give him time. Remember, Daddy and I are the ones that got the divorce, not you and Daddy.”
“That’s what Daddy says, too.”
We’ll keep praying. Don’t give up, okay?”
“Merry Christmas, Emi.”
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