Here is a story I have written this Christmas. I wish you all peace and joy at this very special time, as we remember the true meaning behind the celebration.
Ready for Christmas
Kaitlin looked out of her window. The sky was a wash of navy blue and deep purple, with swishes of white paint around the moon. However it was not this large silver sphere that caught her attention.
It was the star.
It was so bright, so certain. It appeared as if it was placed there for a reason. Kaitlin couldn’t help feeling it was meant for her, to be reflected in her eyes particularly. She gazed at it longingly, hoping for an explanation.
Eventually she pulled herself away from its magnetic hold and shut it out behind the curtains. But it remained, there, in her eyes, her head, her body. She felt a shiver creep up her spine as she lay in bed, waiting for the next morning to arrive.
Trying to distract herself, she thought about the events of the day. This Christmas Eve she had been invited to spend the afternoon at a party with some friends. After she had carefully chosen her outfit (sparkly silver top, black skinny jeans and obviously her Christmas jumper) she applied her make-up, during which her mum entered the room, making her jump and spoil her eyeliner.
‘You’re making a nice effort this year!’ said her mum, showing a glimmer of pride at her daughter’s keenness.
‘Well, all the others will dress up and I don’t want to be the only one at the party who hasn’t made an effort,’ Kaitlin had said, fumbling in her draw for the make-up wipes.
‘Party? What do you mean, party?’ said her mum, anger starting to appear in her voice as her eyes flashed and her neck became lined with tension.
‘My friends invited me. I’m being picked up in half an hour,’ replied Kaitlin, keeping her eyes down away from her mum’s unnerving glare.
‘But Kati, it’s the crib service this afternoon. We always go, or have you forgotten? In fact, have you forgotten the whole point in this celebration? You will have to ring them and tell them no,’ stated mum.
‘But I want to go to the party!’ whined Kaitlin. ‘I don’t want to go to the stupid service and sing happy birthday to a stupid baby who isn’t even there.’
‘Of course He’s there! Kaitlin, how could you say that! I thought your faith was important to you?’ Her mum waited, anxious for what the answer would be.
‘No mum, my friends are important to me. Christmas should be about having fun, not standing around holding nativity figures. But mostly, not being late is important to me, so can you leave me to get ready now?’
‘I can’t believe how selfish and disrespectful you are being Kaitlin. Those figures are a symbolisation – a symbolisation of people who put how they felt aside in order to make a long, selfless journey: physically and spiritually. Think about Mary, Kaitlin! Do you think it was fun for her?’
Hearing the car wheels on the gravel outside, Kaitlin grabbed her bag and got up without speaking. Strutting out of the room, Kaitlin already hated herself for doing it… but she had made up her mind and she wasn’t going to let her mum wreck her plans.
The party had been okay, but thinking back on it as she lay in bed now, she couldn’t help think that it was empty pleasure. She thought about what she had got out of it and couldn’t think of anything, except for a cool reception from her mum. She thought about the church service she had missed for the first time in her life: the way they go through the nativity story, and how it is all leading to something. She remembered the warm feeling she had on leaving the church, with an understanding which increased the excitement for the next day. She thought about the joy at seeing all the community together, young and old, all ready for Christmas.
But what exactly was this feeling of being ready for Christmas? She had wrapped all her presents and sent all her cards, so why didn’t she feel prepared in the same way? She rolled onto her side, and thought that she must just be tired and not thinking straight. After all, what kid in their right mind doesn’t enjoy a good party?
She woke up, rubbing her eyes at the piercing light streaming down over her head. She felt the goose bumps on her arms as the bitter wind whipped around her and wished she had a coat or blanket. She stood up, her feet sliding around on the slippery grass. Where am I? she thought as she pushed her windswept hair out of her face in order to look around. She appeared to be on the side of a hill, with no walked paths in sight. The only thing she could see in the cocoon of darkness around her was the dazzling star above her head. It appeared to be moving. Terrified of finding herself enveloped in darkness she stumbled forward, following the star.
After a while, Kaitlin’s stomach rumbled fiercely. Her feet hurt from the rough ground beneath her. She felt abandoned and alone. ‘Why me? What have I done to deserve this?’ she shouted, but only her own voice echoed in reply. She felt a tear slip down her cheek, and then another, and another. I can’t go any further, she thought despondently as she saw the star slipping from view behind the top of the hill. All around her was dark, inside and out. She fell forward in the grass, at the very peak of the hill.
And then she saw it. A town! A town full of light! A town full of people with food and water and warm beds! Up above was the star, brighter than ever and it lit up one particular house. I’ll go there, Kaitlin thought to herself. With new energy she got up and ran so fast she ended up tumbling down the hill. She strode through the streets, being careful to keep her eyes on the star to guide the way without crashing into anything or anyone. Eventually the star stopped moving and the light was so intense she realised she had arrived.
She was surprised to find that it wasn’t a house after all. It was a small wooden stable, with a donkey standing patiently outside. It wasn’t what she had expected to want to find, and yet it felt right. For the first time she felt in the right place. She patted the donkey on the head before apprehensively pushing open the stable door…
Kaitlin woke up, surprised to find herself in her own comfy bed. She shut her eyes again, desperate to complete the dream and see what was on the other side of the door. And yet, she knew deep down that she didn’t need to see what was there. She already knew what she would find.
And somehow, however frustrating it was, the anticipation was good. It was good because Kaitlin now knew what it was to be ready for Christmas:
It was to be ready to welcome the Christ child into our homes.