Kalie Wood sat on the small bench by her window, staring out across the vast open meadow behind her family’s house. The sun glinted on the snow and small, light flakes that sparkled like shards of diamonds fell from the sky. The scene was breathtaking, like something from one of the fairy books Kalie used to read when she was young.
There was a light knock on her door.
“Come in,” Kalie called.
A beautiful woman entered, a mirror image of Kalie herself, aside from a few streaks of grey at the root of her soft ash blond hair. Bright sapphire blue eyes twinkled with laughter, accented by a simple dress of the same color. Her name was Marie and she was Kalie’s mother. Marie was carrying a tray with chocolate chip cookies and a steaming mug full of hot chocolate.
“I thought you might like a snack,” she said in a soft voice.
“Thanks mom,” Kalie replied quietly.
“What’s wrong? And don’t say nothing Kalie. I know you better than that.”
In fact, Kalie had been about to say ‘nothing’. But since her mother seemed to know that already, she replied with, “It’s almost Christmas.”
“And?” Marie questioned, sensing that Kalie wasn’t telling everything.
“We-ell…” Kalie hesitated, then suddenly burst out, “It’s just that I don’t really understand what Christmas is about. Is it about the presents, or the food, or the tree? I just don’t see what the point is!”
“Kalie, none of those are what Christmas is about,” her mother said, gently, pitying her child.
“Then what is?!”
“Christmas is about joy and giving. And most importantly, Jesus,” said Kalie’s mother.
“I still don’t understand. I give presents every year and I am happy every year!” Kalie said in a loud, exasperated voice.
“You-” Marie broke off. She had been about to say ‘You forgot Jesus’, but then thought of something better and said, “I have a better idea. Get your coat and come with me.”
Kalie wondered briefly where her mother was going to take her, but then she stood and grabbed her coat, throwing it over her shoulders as she followed her mother out the door.
Outside, snowflakes fell from the sky, settling gently on Kalie and Marie’s shoulders. Kalie looked in wonder at the white world around her.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered.
“It is,” her mother agreed.
There was no sound as Marie led Kalie across the large yard to the white picket fence. Marie unlatched the gate and held it open for Kalie.
“Thank you,” Kalie said.
Marie didn’t reply, but instead let herself out and closed the gate.
Finally, Marie entered the town.
“Where are we going?” Kalie asked for the 50th time.
Marie answered the same as she had the other times, “You’ll see.”
The answer was getting increasingly annoying and Kalie wished her mother would give her a real answer.
Marie walked through the affluent part of town, Kalie trailing slightly behind her.
“Are we going to the bakery? Or the dress shop? Maybe the market?” Kalie guessed.
“No Kalie. Now please,” Marie said, adding emphasis on the word,” stop trying to guess.”
Kalie sighed, but didn’t stop trying to think of answers.
Awhile later, Marie finally stopped at the edge of the poor part of town.
“Why are we here?” Kalie asked, puzzled.
Marie didn’t answer, but started walking again.
“Mom! Why are we here? I don’t understand!” Kalie shouted, her voice rising in pitch as she hurried to catch up with her mother.
“We are here to see someone,” Marie replied simply.
“Who? Who are we here to see?”
“Stop repeating yourself Kalie. You sound like an owl.”
“But I just want to know who we’re visiting!” Kalie exclaimed.
Marie sighed. “You’ll find out soon enough. We are almost there.”
“Almost where?” Kalie asked.
Marie sighed again – a long sigh this time – and looked at Kalie, one eyebrow raised slightly, as if asking whether Kalie had anything more to say. Kalie decided it wouldn’t be wise to continue, and kept silent. Marie turned away, looking satisfied, and they kept walking.
“Marie!” the old woman said in a delighted tone, a smile breaking out on her face. “It’s been too long! Come in, come in!” The old woman ushered them inside and closed the door tight. “And to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” she said, still smiling.
“Well, I need your help,” Marie said. “Kalie here doesn’t understand the true meaning of Christmas and I thought you could help her understand it, just like you did for me.”
“Of course, of course!” the woman said, seeming to notice Kalie for the first time. “Oh where are my manners? My name is Deborah. Take a seat, take a seat.” Deborah said gesturing to the old chairs beside the fireplace.
Deborah had golden brown eyes and long curly brown hair. She had a determined face and, when she was younger, she probably would have been stunningly beautiful, but now old age had made her skin wrinkle and she no longer possessed the beauty of youth. “Would you like some tea?” Deborah asked Marie, the sound snapping Kalie back to reality.
Marie nodded, then, as the woman filled Marie’s teacup to the brim with tea, she added, “Thank you Deborah.”
“No problem at all, no problem at all,” Deborah said happily. Then she turned to Kalie. “Would you like some?”
“Yes, please!” Kalie said, eager for something hot to warm her up.
The moment Deborah had finished filling her teacup, Kalie wrapped her hands around it. Her fingers tingled with warmth everywhere they touched the cup.
Marie sighed, breaking the peaceful silence. “I’m getting too old to wander around outside in the cold.”
Deborah laughed, though it sounded more like a cackle. “I’m even older than you are and I’m perfectly fine! Learn to enjoy God’s creation!” she said, and then, with another laugh, she added, “I’m sure you’ll live!”
Kalie couldn’t quite hold back her smile, and quickly covered it by taking a sip of her tea. Her eyes widened in delight. Deborah might live in the poor part of town and her house may be a little run down but her tea was the best Kalie had ever tasted!
“Biscuits?” Deborah asked.
“Yes!” Kalie exclaimed, then, remembering her manners, she added, “Please. Thank you,” as she took two. The cookies were as good as the tea, with jam in the centre and white icing swirled around the top.
Kalie wondered how Deborah afforded all this. After all, she lived in the poor part of town, so didn’t that mean she was poor?
“Now, to the point of your visit,” Deborah was saying, “Your mother here tells me that you want to know the true meaning of Christmas, isn’t that right?”
Kalie nodded and ducked her head, trying to hide behind her long wavy hair so that Deborah wouldn’t see her blush.
Apparently, she wasn’t successful because the next thing Deborah said was, “Nothing to be embarrassed about child, nothing at all.
“Now child, what do you think Christmas is about?”
“Well, I’m not really sure. My mom said that it’s-”
“I asked what you think it is about; not what your mother thinks,” Deborah interrupted gently.
That was going to make things a little bit more complicated. “Well, like I said, I’m not really sure.”
“Give it your best guess,” Deborah said.
“I think it’s about… um, I, uh-” Kalie broke off, and tried to think past the wall in her mind that was blocking the flow of thoughts. She took a deep breath, then a sip of her tea, and closed her eyes. “I think it’s about giving to those who have less than you,” she finally said.
“Partly child, partly,” Deborah said. “It’s also about joy.”
“That’s what my mother said,” Kalie agreed.
“And that’s what I told her.”
“Is that all? I mean, isn’t there something more to Christmas?”
“You’re right, you’re right!” Deborah cackle-laughed. “Christmas is also about grace, mercy and peace!”
“What’s grace? What’s mercy?”
“Mercy is when you don’t receive what you deserve, and grace is when you receive what you don’t deserve.”
“What?” Kalie asked, totally dumbfounded. “Er-pardon me?” she said, realizing ‘what’ was rude.
“Think of it this way. A man steals a loaf of bread for his family, because they are poor and in need. When brought before the judge in court, the bakery owner shows mercy to the man by deciding not to press charges, and then grace, by letting him keep the loaf that he stole, even though he didn’t deserve it.”
“I think I understand now,” Kalie said. “But there was something else. Something that my mom told me…”
“Not something,” Deborah corrected. “Someone. The most important thing about Christmas is the person that made it happen. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. He came down to earth as a baby boy, to take away the sins of the world. He is the reason we celebrate Christmas! He came to save you, and me!”
“And we celebrate that because…” Kalie said, motioning with her hand for Deborah to continue.
“We celebrate that, because without Jesus we would never have eternal life in heaven with God! John 3:16 says ‘For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’”
“Wow… God really loves me that much?”
Kalie felt a warm feeling spreading from her heart, and it made her feel safe, and loved, and happy. That was what Christmas was about. Jesus. And the fact that God loved her, so much that He was willing to sacrifice His only Son for her. And for the first time in a long time, Kalie felt right.