26: A Place for Christmas

26: A Place for Christmas

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic

A Place for Christmas

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.

~Roy L. Smith

“Joy to the World,” blared on the stereo, filtering through the closed door of the guest room. I sat on my borrowed bed, wiping a tear that slipped down my cheek. What was there to be joyful about?

My mom came into the room where I stayed. “We’re getting ready to play Yahtzee. You coming?” She saw that I was upset and sat down next to me. “What’s the matter, honey? Aren’t you having a good Christmas?”

There wasn’t a lot to celebrate that year. We’d just moved away from my hometown. My mother and stepfather were out of work and we didn’t even have our own house yet. We were staying with our friends, the Allens, for the holiday season while looking for jobs and a house in a nearby town. It was the first Christmas I wouldn’t be able to celebrate with my dad, stepmom, and little sisters—not to mention grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

“I just miss everyone back home, that’s all. I’ll be out in a while.” It wasn’t the whole story, but Mom hadn’t had an easy time either. I didn’t want to bother her with all the rest. She patted me on the shoulder and told me she’d see me later.

I thought of all the Christmases in the past when we crammed into Grandma’s house in rural Wyoming. My cousins and I gleefully slept in a “tent” under the big dining room table while all of the adults slept in the beds. During mealtimes, we’d crowd around the table and devour homemade holiday favorites like turkey with all the trimmings. There was raucous laughter and singing around the piano. We all pitched in, washing and drying dishes.

That seemed worlds away from Amity, Oregon. Rain poured down constantly, and there was not a snowflake in sight. None of our decorations were on the tree—those were packed away somewhere in a box with the rest of our stuff. Mrs. Allen’s tree was beautiful, but I missed the special ornaments I looked forward to every year.

I imagined all of my relatives celebrating without me while I sat here, in another place. It was a nice place, just not the place for Christmas.

I picked up my Bible, long-neglected since I’d found out about the move. As I thumbed through it, I thought I might as well read “The Christmas Story.” Even though I’d heard the Bible story of Christ’s birth many times before, a new understanding dawned on me. Mary and Joseph were homeless, far from home, away from the comfort of family and friends. The smelly, dirty manger was no place to celebrate the birth of any child, let alone the Christ child—and yet it turned into one of the most memorable celebrations ever—announced by a whole host of angels and attended by shepherds and even a few Kings from the Orient. The very first Christmas was celebrated far away from home, family, and comfort.

Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I shared something in common with Mary. Besides, I did still have my immediate family and even some friends with me. I washed my face and appeared in the kitchen. Soon I was caught up in a rousing game of Yahtzee—not exactly a teen’s dream activity, but it was better than feeling sorry for myself.

Later that afternoon, preparations for the next day were well underway. “Mrs. Allen, can I help you bake the pies?” I asked.

“Sure, we’ve got lots of them to make.” She set out the big pie plates and several individual pies. I helped roll out pie crusts and peeled apples. Soon the house smelled of cinnamon, cloves, and apples baking. We even found a lot to laugh about as we pitched in to help each other make preparations for the day ahead. When everything was ready, we pulled out the Yahtzee game again and played long into the night.

The next morning, as we gathered I looked around the dim living room, lit with only the lights from the tree. The tired but eager faces of the Allen children shone with expectation, awaiting their turns to open gifts. It wasn’t the place I’d envisioned celebrating Christmas, but then again, a manger wasn’t the place Mary and Joseph envisioned welcoming Jesus into the world either. I discovered that Christmas isn’t about a place or traditions; the place where Christmas lives is simply in our hearts.

~Lynetta L. Smith

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners