The bitter cold stung her nose, as the tears that formed threatened to make tracks down her frostbitten face. Her threadbare coat, struggling to keep her warm, hung loosely on her frame. She was grateful for the used boots she had found in a garbage can. Hardly a hole in them, she could easily overlook the fact that they pinched slightly.
She hoped to find some comfort here, in the center of this little town, cozily nestled at the base of the mountain. She had traveled a long way, looking for acceptance, for love.
She gazed up at the Christmas tree, grandly displayed in the town square. Soaring over 10 feet in height, the live evergreen was gaily decorated for the season. Lights, ornaments, garland, and beads helped show everyone that this town knew how to celebrate Christmas.
Surely a town that celebrates Christmas to this degree could help a poor, half-frozen young woman. All outward appearances showed that this place was the place to be for the holidays. Perhaps she had finally found what she was looking for.
Her attention was drawn to the nativity scene, nestled below the massive tree. Its dark, muted colors contrasted the brightly lit tree. Mary and Joseph stared, without actually looking, at the tiny baby laying a manger. The shepherds and wise men looked on, as if merely passing the time before being stored away till next year. The hay looked as if it had been there for more than one season of Christmas. The baby himself seemed to want to lay somewhere else even.
She still maintained the hope she found while gazing at the tree. Perhaps the little nativity scene needed some tender loving care, but at least the tree stood proud. These wise men didn't seem to be interested in worshiping the Christ-child, but the star at the top of the tree still shown brightly. Mary and Joseph's smiles may have dimmed over the years, but surely the brightness of the lights would compensate. The baby, wrapped in.. well, what used to be swaddling clothes.. lay hidden beneath the enormous boughs of the evergreen.
She longed to hold the dear baby, to wrap her own cloak about his cold shoulders. But, she herself was cold, freezing in fact. She had no extra garments to lend to this child, this baby whom the town forgot. Once again, it seemed there was no room for the baby Jesus. She then realized the truth. There would be no loving acceptance here. This town loved Christmas, with its lights and splendor. But, they neglected the reason for the season. Behind those locked doors, where the townspeople kept warm while anxiously waiting to open their gifts, there was bitterness and strife. Arguments and jealousies ensued where bitter, anger words were given more abundantly than forgiveness and acceptance.
Still cold, she chose to stay with the Christ-child. Here, tucked into the scene at the base of the tree, was the one place she would feel acceptance. Jesus Himself would hold her close this night. She felt a calm spread over her, like warm honey. She nestled in closer to Mary, who seemed to smile a little brighter. Joseph sat up a little taller, along with the wise men and shepherds, seeming to enjoy sharing this moment with someone. Even the Christ-child, lying in the manager, looked happier.
Soon after, a young boy and his mother were passing by the magnificent tree. Normally, the boy would gaze above, trying to see the star at the very top. But not this night. Instead his gaze was drawn to the manager, where the young woman lay, sound asleep. It appeared as if she belonged, as if she was a part of the nativity scene. Her smile shone brighter than any of the lights blinking on the tree. Her arm was outstretched, so that her hand could hold the tiny hand of the Christ-child. Her threadbare coat helped to cover the baby. Mary and Joseph seemed to be gazing at her, and not the baby. Their expressions shown a heavenly love, accepting one of God's own. She had come home. She found her acceptance, her love, and went home to be with her Heavenly Father, whose arms would continue to hold her, forever.
The townspeople gathered around, in awe of the quiet scene beneath the boughs of the tree, located in the center of the town, nestled at the base of the mountain. A peace settled upon them, as tears silently coursed down their cheeks. This is the reason for the season. Not the tree, not the lights. Not the garland, not the star. Not even the gifts. Love, in its simplest form. Love, giving of oneself for another.
Slowly, families searched each other out, asking forgiveness and mending hurts. Tears of sorrow turned into tears of joy, as cutting words became words of encouragement, as jealousies became acceptance, where hatred turned to love.
This Christmas, the townspeople learned how to be accepting, how to forgive, how to love. The young woman, unknown to anyone, had taught them the reason for the season.