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The Christmas WishAngel
Fiction by Carol Abbott, December 1998 ©

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          I really don't know when I first realized that things were getting "way out of hand" but it might have been when I lost my purse and everything that was in it.----*My keys to my clunky old car which only gave me big trouble on important occasions like job interviews and lunch with my hugely successful best friend from college who was just back in town for the weekend from New York City where she was living the life I thought I had wanted to live.  *The keys to my apartment, which was basically one rather large room at the top of an older and seen-better-days Victorian in a quiet tree lined neighborhood on the north side of town.   *my day planner that had cost a day's wages but made me feel, somehow, better about stuff in general---at least most days.  (can a person mourn a "matching"--and wildly expensive--"ballpoint pen to complete the ensemble"?)    Of course, in the planner was every phone number, address, appointment (date,time,where,why),a complete budget plan and when to pay my bills and where to send them....In other words, that purse pretty much carried my whole LIFE!....what was I going to DO!!!

         I'd gone downtown for some last minute Christmas shopping(oh, no, my gift giving list is gone, too!) and it was so crowded.   Generally, I kind of like crowds and the bustling purpose of the shoppers, but I had experienced nothing but frustration on this particular morning.  Every store was "out of" the only.....ONLY present that my nephew, Jake, had expressed any interest in wanting.  I had been so sure that since it was advertised every 15 minutes on TV and high on every child's list this year, that the stores would have stocked them to the rafters.  I wandered, more and more aimlessly from department store to specialty shop to Katz Drugs where they claimed to have every toy known to the Western world in their Huge Christmas Toys Department.  Every harried clerk gave me basically the same answer.  "Yeah, that's been a big seller.  Sorry, we are out."   One clerk gave me false hope by saying 'they are down aisle D on the left', as she rang up her customer's purchases, but down Aisle D was lots of disarranged toys and a big gapping empty hole on one shelf section labeled "Hottest Toy this Xmas!!!"  

         I was clutching many other bags with items for my Sis, her hubby Rob, Mom and Dad and Grandpop and my work friend, Dixie, plus a couple of ungainly rolls of gift wrap and I saw a street dispenser of those big huge shopping bags and decided to get one to keep track of all the stuff while I hit a couple of more places for Jake's 'must have' present.  I was just trying to maneuver the bags to get at my purse for the coins to feed the vending machine when, suddenly, my spine turned to ice.  "oh, God! Oh, no... oh, God" I spoke out loud and in some distress, as I realized that my purse wasn't flung over my shoulder and it wasn't clutched in either hand with my packages.  "Oh, dear God" I practically moaned again.  A tall, distinguished, gray-haired man, glanced in my direction as though he heard my voice, if not my exact words.  I could feel my eyes beginning to brim with tears and really didn't want to cause a public spectacle so I immediately dropped my eyes toward the ground and backed away from the dispensing machine and whirling, crossed the sidewalk toward an area of relative calm surrounding an arched doorway.  I had to get away from the rushing, purposeful shopping crowd and decide what in the world I could possibly do.  "Oh, God!"  This time I barely breathed the words as I glanced frantically around.  My mind was barely able to register the fact that I was at a side entrance to St. Ann's, a wonderful old, all stone, darkly varnished wood and glowing jewel-toned stained glass haven from my childhood days.

         Fumbling my packages with ice cold, shock-numbed fingers I pulled at the door and stepped into the hushed interior.  As the door closed behind me and my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I realized that I had the place to myself.  Inanely, I thought, 'I MUST pray that I FIND my purse'.  But then took a firmer grip on my emotions and slipped into the pew closest to the door to try and think what to do.  Placing the packages upon the seat beside me, I realized that my fingers were cramping from having clutched all these bags and parcels so tightly.  Inside my head, I distinctly heard a voice say "are all of these things what Christmas is about?"  And the really interesting thing was that I knew the answer to that unspoken question immediately!  All I needed to do was look toward the alter of this lovely and well loved old Church.  There on the wide, marble steps leading upward was a manger with a yet empty crib.  In just a few days it would again be time to celebrate the birth of this Baby who was born to be our King.   Tons of  Presents, trees filled with lights, fancy prepared meals and so much more that we have imbued around this Simple Event and His Promise to our World, should never obscure our remembering this one Ultimately important fact.

         I suddenly felt a calm acceptance of my circumstances of the moment and with a certain detachment, murmured "well, what will be, will be."  As I accepted this, my mind stopped racing in useless circles and I quite distinctly remembered the little cafe where I had stopped half an hour ago for hot chocolate and to wrack my brain for other places to look for Jake's toy.  That place had been so packed, that I asked if I could share a table with several grandmotherly women who were enjoying the chance to giggle and tease each other like school girls.  Since I was the interloper and they were gracious enough to scoot over so I could sit down, I had tucked myself into the available corner and placed my purse on the floor by the wall where I or someone else would be less likely to kick it.  That is where I had left it!   When I said my polite thank yous and gathered up all my many parcels and bags and agreed with their good natured remarks that Yes, indeed I was most surely going to have a very Merry Christmas, the purse had been forgotten.  Sitting in beautiful, peaceful St. Ann's and looking at the tangible visual manger scene with all the statues, save the one, already in their appointed places, I really  was convinced that all would yet be okay with my purse.  I lingered there in the subdued but rainbow colored sanctuary for several minutes more and came to the oddest conclusion.  I would get Jake an absolutely wonderful book that we had discovered on a trip to the Mall the summer before when I'd taken him for an afternoon so Sue could have a little time to herself.   Jake and I had been waiting for the latest Disney epic's next showing at the 12-plex next door and were filling time with a 'let's just look around' in the bookstore.

         Jake and I had both fallen in love with the hologram on the book's front cover and the illustrations inside were fun and funny at the same time for kid and aunt alike.  I could tell that Jake hated to replace the book on the shelf when it was time to leave, but impulse purchases were not in my budget.   I had decided then and there to return and get it for his birthday but since I didn't write the idea in my day planner, I had, of course, forgotten.  Now, it somehow seemed a much more appealing gift for this cleaver but thoughtful little fellow than the TV toy wonder of the year.

         Something else happened to me in those few, thoughtfilled minutes in the Church.  Call it my personal epiphany, if you will, but I began from that day forward to simplify my plans and my expectations for this lovely holiday.  Now, five years later, I am a married woman of a little over two years with a darling and much cherished baby daughter.  Her name is Mary Grace and she means all the world to my husband and me.  As I get ready to commence the preparations for Christmas I recall that year when I lost my purse and found my perspective to celebrating in a more meaningful way the Birth of my Lord in the Human Presence of the Baby Jesus.   I can see in my mind's eye, The Blessed Mary of St. Ann's Crèche, with Her hands outstretched and leaning slightly forward as if to pick up Her Baby Son.  He becomes a very real presence in my life when I think of Him as having been a helpless Baby who would one day grow to be the Man who would shoulder the burden to save us all.


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In our church at Christmas Eve services, the Choir and all of our congregation will sing joyfully all the traditional Carols of the season but we also sing a simple song that may not be in your church's service.  We sing "Happy Birthday to You"....

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