A Short Story for Christmas-Time Reading
Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Ps 30:5b NIV
CHAPTER THREE (click here for earlier chapters)
Well sir, in the morning, Christmas morning, everyone was up and at ‘em, bright and early. As was typical on Christmas morning, everyone attends the Christmas morning ten o’clock church service down at the North Pole United Elf Church. Now if you’ve ever been to a Christmas morning church service, you know there is usually a lot of joy and celebration and of course, music. But I don’t think I would be exaggerating one bit if I told you that the music at the North Pole United Elf Church was the best around. Being at the top of the world and all, there was every kind of music one could imagine.
What kind of music, you ask? Well to begin with, there’s the more traditional church music people come to expect at church. Music with an organ and a choir. And oh my, how Deborah the Elf can make that massive pipe organ at the back of the church sound like a symphony of brass and strings. The choir, under the direction of Jennifer the Elf, has three hundred members on normal Sundays, but on Christmas morning, just about everyone at the North Pole joins the choir, so when they sing Handel’s Messiah, the entire village begins to sway with the music.
At this point in the story, just to remove any confusion, I should mention that every elf at the North Pole has a first name and a last name. While the first names are all different, like yours and mine, everybody’s last name is ‘the Elf’. So when I tell you about Sam the Elf, or Deborah the Elf, or Jennifer the Elf, I’m not being nasty in stereotyping them as elves, but only giving you their proper full name so that you don’t get them mixed up. Not that elves look alike, mind you.
Sam the Elf, Santa’s head elf for example, is rather tall for an elf. He stands all of four feet-two inches, which in elf measurements is quite unusual. Sam also wears a set of black horn-rimmed glasses and a silly little grin, just in case you need a bit more information when identifying him in a crowd. Elves, by the way, do visit down here on occasion, evaluating each child’s naughty or nice rating, so in case you see him, you’ll now know him by name.
Now, back to the Christmas morning service at the North Pole United Elf Church. While Deborah’s pipe organ and Jennifer’s choir get the service off on the right foot, keep in mind, that’s just the beginning. After the church mice light the nearly two thousand Christmas candles that are scattered around the church, Pastor Jack the Elf reads a bit from the scriptures and then the Northern Lights Gospel Choir takes the stage. Under the fine leadership of Herbie the Elf, the band consists of Herbie on keys, Jimmy the Elf on lead guitar, Billy the Elf on drums, and Sam the Elf, Santa’s head elf, on bass.
Some say that Sam plays bass simply because he’s one of the few elves who stands tall enough to master the instrument. But discerning musicians know that Sam has that uncanny knack of finding the right notes just at the right time, synchronizing his plucks perfectly with Billy on drums. When teamed with Herbie and Jimmy, this quartet can rock the house for hours and provides the musical undercurrent for sixty of the finest voices of soul you’ll find anywhere north of Atlanta.
Now I should also tell you that Santa loves the Northern Lights band so much that he often hops out of the church pew and right onto the stage, joining the band whenever they play one of his favorite carols. When someone asks Santa why he does this, he often tells them it’s because he wants to give Sam the Elf a little break from playing the bass. Being only four feet-two inches can make it difficult to play the upright bass for nearly an hour, especially when everyone in the band is choreographed to move to the music. While Sam is very reluctant to give up his bass (Sam insists that he taught Santa everything he knows about the instrument), ‘ole Santa can be pretty insistent at times. So seeing that Santa is the boss around here, Pastor Jack usually allows Santa to strum on Sam’s bass for at least one or two Christmas carols before asking him to take his seat.
I’m sure you’re familiar with most of the tunes the band plays. But you’ve just never heard Joy to the World until you’ve experienced Herbie’s Northern Lights arrangement for jazz swing choir! For centuries now, it’s usually this tune that gets Santa to relinquish the bass back into Sam’s hands, stepping off the stage to invite Mrs. Claus out onto the dance floor of the church. Now maybe in your church this might seem unusual, but at the North Pole United Elf Church, the ballroom dancing can literally go on for hours.
Finally around five o’clock on Christmas Day, the worship service starts to wane and everyone walks over to the North Pole Civic Auditorium for the annual North Pole Christmas dinner. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to say that the after-dinner desserts and conversations continue in the auditorium well into the wee hours of December 26th.
Well, as I mentioned before, this year is quite different. Mrs. Claus awoke on Christmas morning around eight o’clock with the hopes that Santa’s sour mood would have dissipated with a good night’s sleep. But unfortunately, Santa rolled out of bed in much the same manner he went there. It was only after much coaxing by Mrs. Claus that Santa reluctantly agreed to even attend this year’s Christmas morning church service!
Now it didn’t take long for most of the North Pole community to see that something was drastically wrong. Santa never once got out of his seat to play the bass, nor did he even ask Mrs. Claus to dance during Joy to the World. At the Christmas dinner over at the Civic Auditorium, Santa sat very quietly, playing more with his food than enjoying it. By about eight o’clock, Santa got up, stretched a bit and placed his napkin neatly over his dessert plate. Looking around the room, he smiled briefly at Mrs. Claus and Sam, and then quietly walked toward the big front door. Mrs. Claus, quickly excused herself and began to follow, but before she could get her warm coat over her shoulders, Santa had already gone outside, leaving his coat, hat and gloves behind. Mrs. Claus and Sam peered through the frosted pane of the auditorium door, only to see poor Santa, shuffling his boots through the fresh layer of white snow that had fallen throughout the evening meal. No one had ever seen Santa this low. No one knew how hard this next year would be. Not even Sam or Mrs. Claus.
I won’t take too much of your precious time telling you all about the details of the next twelve months. Suffice to say that it was one long year at the North Pole workshop. While Santa did occasionally make his way over to the assembly room to see how the elves were doing with the new work orders, everyone could tell that his heart was just not in it at all this year. Mrs. Claus was her ever-cheerful self and Sam, being the level-headed elf that he is, kept the work force together, focusing everyone to keep their eyes on their ultimate goal of making Christmas all it’s meant to be.
I should tell you as well, that behind the scenes, there were numerous attempts to help Santa get out of his funk. Mrs. Claus probably played the biggest role in keeping Santa from falling into a deep depression. It was Martha, (that’s Mrs., Claus’ first name, by the way, in case you didn’t know) that kept reminding Santa of all the good his work had accomplished over the last seventeen hundred years. Sam, on the other hand, convinced Santa to make several appointments with Dr. Weinstein the Elf. As the North Pole’s only resident psychiatrist, Dr. Weinstein was able to walk Santa through some of the really hard emotional issues surrounding this difficult season in his life.
In June, Dr. Weinstein and Sam arranged for Santa and Mrs. Claus to take a short sabbatical to Florida. This time away from the North Pole proved to be very beneficial for both of the Claus’s and for a few weeks after their trip, it actually looked as though Santa might be turning the corner.
By September however, the number of pre-Christmas orders at the workshop was running over 50% behind last year’s already dismal figures. Sam tried to put a positive spin on the numbers, but Santa saw right through them and by October, his spirits had dropped lower than the temperature found atop North Pole Majestic Mountain on New Years Day.
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