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A Little Girl Celebrates Christmas | Jeanne Peck
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It was 7 AM Christmas morning. A light snow had fallen during the candlelight service the evening before — just enough to look like Christmas, but not so much that it would interfere with the arrival of the congregation for the 8AM service this morning. Traditionally, only the Junior Choir sang at the early service on Christmas Day. The Choirmaster, anticipating an even more spirited group of youngsters than usual (due to the occasion), had asked that the children arrive early (to allow for some “settling-down” time. The parents obliged, and were presently in the Parish House having coffee with Pastor and his wife. The Choir Room (so called because the robes and changing areas were located there) was in the basement of the church and was always chilly and musty-smelling — assuring that the singers would gown-up quickly and get upstairs to the main floor. This morning though as had been expected, the children were in no hurry. They were talking, giggling, being silly and making noise, as any group of children would be wont to do on Christmas morning. All the children, that is, except for one 7 -yr. old little girl. She seemed to be preoccupied as she hurriedly donned the long black robe, slipped the white cotta over her head, and prepared herself for the very most troublesome and difficult piece of the outfit — the white celluloid collar. Sometimes it seemed that it took forever to get the collar-button through the holes in both ends of the stiff, starched collar. Once that feat was accomplished, the long, soft red fabric scarf had to be slipped up under the collar and tied in a big puffy bow with both sides ending up even. Sometimes each step took multiple attempts. This morning though, it all came together perfectly the first time. “Probably,” she thought, “because it’s Christmas”. So far, everything was going according to her plan and she was properly dressed before the rest of the children. You see, she was on a special and very secret mission and she was afraid that if others knew of her intent they would laugh at her. She would so hate to be laughed at. She now allowed herself a smug moment of self-congratulations on being able to keep her secret. She smiled as she thought, “Nobody in the whole world knows about it but me”. Then, because she knew that God was always with her, and not wanting to offend Him by leaving Him out, she hastily amended her thought, adding “except for God, of course”. She slowly edged to the door and the stairs leading up to the church, with a glance around to make sure she was unnoticed, she lifted up the skirt of her robe so as not to trip hurrying up the steep wooden stairs. Sometimes her feet got all tangled up in the long gown when negotiating the stairs — in either direction. It always seemed to her that going down was the trickier. Going up, she would just tip forward and catch herself with her hands. But going down could result in a tumbling fall. “So far, so good,” she thought upon reaching the top of the stairs and looking down the aisle at the empty pews and vacant altar. “I’m still all alone,” quickly adding her tag-line, “except for God, of course”. Now she really had to hurry. She knew some of the congregation would be arriving very soon. Once again, she picked up the hem of her gown and ran down the aisle as fast as she could, trying very hard not to make any noise as her feet landed. Finally she was at the altar rail. She took a deep breath, and exhaling, settled to her knees and began to sing in a clear, loud voice, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Dear Jesus, Happy Birthday to you. As she finished the last Happy Birthday to you, she wondered if she should add an “Amen,” but since she had never heard and “Amen” at the end of the Birthday Song, she decided it was unnecessary, even though she did sing it in the church. Holding her breath, she stood and faced the pews, and was relieved to see that she was still without an audience. Retracing her route, she returned to the Choir Room, without incident — or detection. She was smiling now as she joined the chattering group of her peers. Mission Accomplished. No one had even noticed that she was gone. Except for God, of course.