A Short Story for Christmas-Time Reading
Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Ps 30:5b NIV
CHAPTER FOUR (click here for earlier chapters)
Well, that brings us once again to Christmas Eve. As usual, the elves have outdone themselves in bringing together all the many details that make Santa’s annual visit all it has been for so many around the world. By noon on Christmas Eve day, the sleigh was decked out with fresh holly, the reindeer brushed and groomed, and the countless toys and gifts all wrapped, packed and stacked in zip code order. The stage is set, but unfortunately this year the only missing piece is Santa himself. There he sits, all morning long, staring out the frosted window of his study on the second floor of his home. Mrs. Claus came in several times throughout the morning to freshen up his coffee or to offer him a mid-morning snack, but each time Santa seemed oblivious to Martha’s loving touch.
Outside the main office, Sam is pacing the floor, wondering silently to himself if this will finally be the year he won’t be able to pull the whole thing off. For nearly five hundred years now, Sam has served faithfully as Santa’s head elf, and not one time has a disaster caused the show to be canceled. Heaven knows, each year has had its’ own set of massive headaches that come close to shutting down the whole operation. Why in ’76 (1876, that is) Sam thought the blizzard that hit most of the country might just keep Santa from visiting over 100,000 homes. Then of course, there was ’39 (1939, that is), the year of the soupy fog that nearly shut down even the North Pole. Without Rudolph, who knows how Sam would have dug his way out of that one.
But this year is totally different. Never in all of Sam’s days has he ever seen Santa be this close to not making the trip. Why just think. In just a few hours, Santa needs to be dressed to the hilt in his Christmas attire and right now, he’s sitting in his study, wearing his winter nightgown, and from what Mrs. Claus says, he’s not even shaved or showered in three days!
The dinner hour is now approaching and it’s time for all the elves to gather in the town square. The weather at the North Pole is picture-perfect. Thirty degrees below zero with strong gusts of southerly winds blowing light and fluffy snow across every sidewalk in town. Yet tonight, no one in the crowd has their mind on the weather. Everyone has their eyes focused on the Claus residence. Mrs. Claus is in the kitchen, preparing the traditional community-wide farewell dinner. Sam stands by the sleigh, readying the reindeer with their traditional sleigh bell harnesses.
But then it happens. Santa, dressed in his red work slacks, suspenders, and an old white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, swings wide the doors of his second floor study, and steps out on the balcony. With a flair for the dramatic, Santa calls out over the courtyard to Sam.
“Sam, my dear friend. I want you to know that I truly appreciate all that you and the team have done this year to ready us for yet another Christmas. Your work is impeccable and your spirit’s commendable. I know you won’t understand what I’m about to say, but friends, I can no longer go on with this charade. I’m no longer needed in this world of Christmas present and can’t see how Christmas future holds anything better for me. I thank you all for your loving support of me over the years, but as of tonight, I will no longer be traveling outside of the North Pole to offer Christmas to others. Good night, my friends. I will see you tomorrow morning at our Christmas service.”
With that, Santa quietly walked back into his study, closing the balcony door behind him. Sam, without that silly little grin for the first time in his life, ran quickly into the kitchen. Mrs. Claus had a solemn look on her face as she took off her apron, and put her arm on Sam’s shoulder. “Sam, Nicholas told me about an hour ago that he wasn’t going to make the trip this year. We’ve been working hard all year to get him to change his mind, but you know as well as I do, that once that man sets his mind on something…”
Sam interrupted, “Martha…” (I believe this is the first time Sam the Elf has ever called Mrs. Claus by her first name) “What should we do? Should I go up there and try talking to him again? Should I go in his place? Should I…”
“No, Sam.” Mrs. Claus replied. “Let’s let this thing take its’ course. Every fragrant flower has its’ season in the sun. Maybe our season is over. Maybe there is something new and different coming for Christmas. Let’s wait and see what happens. There have been far too many miracles around here over the years to try to make something happen now. Let’s get a good night’s rest and see what the morning brings.”
“Alright, Mrs. Claus. I’ll dismiss the elves,” Sam explained, “But believe me, if you or Santa need anything… anything at all during the night, just call. We’ll be there for you.”
“Good night, Sam,” sighed Mrs. Claus. “…and Merry Christmas.”
Mrs. Claus turned down the lights and went slowly up the spiral staircase. The door to Santa’s study was wide open. She peeked inside to find only a candle burning on Santa’s desk. She went in, snuffed out the flame, closing the door to the study as she went back into the hall. As she entered the bedroom, all the lights were off. Santa lay quietly in bed, breathing deeply, the warm down blanket covering him from head to toe. Martha assumed that he was sleeping, so she said nothing as she slipped into bed aside her husband. She thought it best to not disturb him right now with a lot of talking. Quietly, she whispered her evening prayers, only this time she added one additional phrase at the end.
“God, please encourage Nicholas tonight. Give him Your peace. Amen.”
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