Joey recoiled from his mommy, panic filling his eyes.
She grabbed his arm, jerking him around to face her.
“Don’t you dare move away from me!” she hissed.
Whenever he tried to ward off her blows, she became more violent, landing crushing blow after crushing blow on his already bruised and battered body.
Finally Joey collapsed on the floor, bloodied and nearly unconscious. Tears trickled down his cheeks, into his ears, but he didn’t have the strength to wipe them away.
His mommy’s heels clicked across the floor. Car keys jangled and he knew she was leaving for work.
One week later
Snow crunched beneath Joey’s feet as he walked down the street to the church he’d seen many times. He had left his house before his mommy was up. As he came to the church, he looked up at the stained glass window of a man and woman looking down at a baby laying in some kind of crib. He’d never seen a crib like that before and he wondered why the man and woman were looking at the baby like that. He knew it was a loving look, but in his young mind, he knew it was also something more.
Joey wished his mommy would look at him with even just a little bit of love, and that he had a daddy he could do fun things with.
The sound of footsteps made him flinch. He started to back away, but couldn’t help looking up at the same time. Joey saw a woman looking at him just like he wished his mommy would look at him. Oh, but she was pretty and so sweet looking, with her gray hair curled around her face.
Martha’s eyes filled with tears as she looked down at the little boy. He couldn’t be more than five or six. Empty, almost lifeless eyes looked up at her. Never had she seen such sadness in one so young. She wanted nothing more than to wrap him in her arms, as pain at seeing his bruised face and black eye, welled up in her. “What are you doing out here in the cold?”
“I was just lookin’ at that window. I never seen nothin’ like that afore. Them people are dressed funny and that sure is a funny lookin’ crib that baby’s in.”
“Why don’t you come into the church with me and I’ll tell you about it. I think there are some cookies in the kitchen and I could make some hot cocoa. Would you like that?”
Fear washed over his face, but just as quickly faded as a brief smile appeared. “Are you sure it’d be okay?”
“Yes, I’m sure, come on.” She said, holding out her hand.
Joey placed his small hand in hers. Oh! It was warm and so soft…
Joey sat at a table with the nice lady sipping his hot cocoa and nibbling a cookie.
She was telling him the story of someone named Jesus who lived a long time ago and died for people’s sins. She said he was the reason for Christmas. Joey’s brow furrowed as he looked at her, disbelief written on his face.
“I thought Christmas was just ‘nother day. What’re sins?”
“Sins are things we do that are wrong, like telling lies or doing things that hurt other people.”
“My mommy hurts me cuz she says I’m naughty. Would Jesus hurt me too? He might not like how naughty I am. I do lotsa bad things, else mommy wouldn’t hit me.”
“No, Jesus would never hurt you. He loves you, child. Oh… I never asked you your name.” She smiled.
What a kind smile she had. “My name’s Joey.”
Joey gave a small smile, but then a frown creased his brow. “Does Jesus really love me? He’s really the reason we cel’brate Christmas? I ain’t never heard nothin’ like that afore.” His face filled with doubt, a smattering of wonder flickering in his pale blue eyes.
“Yes, Joey. He loves you and he is the reason we celebrate Christmas.”
Tears trickled slowly down Joey’s cheeks… “I jus’ don’t believe it… someone loves me that much…” Pushing his hot cocoa aside, he laid his head in his arms on the table and sobbed.
Pastor Joe preached a Christmas Eve message to a congregation in the church with the stained glass window that had drawn him many years ago; his eyes on his mother, hoping she would come to believe.
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