A literary journalist and publicist since 2003, Dee Stewart's writings have appeared in Precious Times, Romantic Times, Spirit Led Woman Magazines and on The Master's Artist Blog. She is also the owner of DeeGospel PR (www.deegospelpr.com,) Christian entertainment PR boutique located in Atlanta, GA. Visit her Christian Fiction Blog, which turned 6 years old in July at http://christianfiction.blogspot.com. Her debut novel "A Good Excuse to Be Bad (Kensington/Dafina) releases Summer 2011. Talk to her in real-time on Twitter at @deegospel.
Two Five-Minute Christmas Stories
Nativity by Chris Mikesell
The box and its contents had been a birthday gift from his father. Handmade wooden figurines: a man, woman, infant, three shepherds, six sheep (mostly still intact), and an angel. A year later he painted the inside of the box, a child’s rendering of a stable, complete with a lop-eared donkey and a horse whose facial expression indicated intestinal distress.
For the past three years his parents had recited the story to him. This year it was his turn.
“When the time came to have her baby, she wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in the manger because there was no room in the inn.” He placed the man and woman beside a hollowed-out block and put the baby figurine inside it.
“If everyone from the household of David was in Bethlehem, why didn’t a relative—”
“It’s complicated,” his dad interrupted.
“That means I’m too young, doesn’t it?”
His mom caressed his hair. “Sometimes families don’t see eye to eye.”
“I don’t like it when families fight.” He made the man and woman talk above the baby; their agitated movements suggested bickering. “Is the fight over?”
“Mostly. Please continue with the story.”
“In the same area, shepherds watched over their flocks.” He picked up a three-legged sheep, its sides scarred with teeth marks, and leaned it against a shepherd. “Even the damaged ones.”
“That’s not in the story, son,” his dad said.
“No, but it’s true.” He hovered the angel overhead. “Then an angel appeared and the glory of the Lord shone around and they were filled with fear.
“Have mercy,” squeaked a shepherd.
“‘Don’t be afraid,’ said the basso profundo angel. ‘I bring good news of great joy. Today in Bethlehem a Savior was born, Christ the Lord. And here’s how you’ll know it’s him: look for a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’”
The boy placed the angel on the box and toddle-walked the shepherds and sheep over to the manger. “And when they saw the baby, they told everyone they could about him.”
He moved the shepherds out of the box and had them talk to invisible townspeople. “Guess what? . . . I just saw the Savior.. . . An angel told us.. . . No, really.. . . In a manger.. . . Over there.. . . No, really!”
“And everybody who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” Those sheep that could stood on their hind legs acted the role of bewildered townspeople. “Do you think it’s true? I wonder.. . . Maybe.. . . No way.. . . Really? I wonder. . . .”
“Then the shepherds returned, praising God for everything they’d heard and seen.”
The boy picked up the figurines of the man and woman, made them kiss each other, then the baby. He looked up at his parents. “Did I tell it right?”
“You told it perfectly.”
“In fact,” his dad said, pulling a smaller box from behind his back, “I think you’re ready for more of the story.
The boy took the box and opened it. Inside were five new wooden figurines: two camels and three men with painted purple robes, each holding a small, intricately painted box.
“Three wise men,” his dad said, and laid out the new story of midnight visits and angels and early-morning escapes. The boy’s eyes widened with each cross and double cross of the tale. At the end, he took the new figurines and turned them over and over in his hands, inspecting his father’s fine craftsmanship. The boxes matched three he’d seen high on a shelf in his parents’ bedroom.
“Thank you,” he said.
“Happy birthday,” said his mom.
The boy continued playing with the little wooden people and animals, doing his best to remember both stories, but eventually just trailed off. He picked up the baby and examined it in the palm of his hand.
“Mama, I was littler then, wasn’t I?”
“We all were, honey.” His mom kissed the top of his head. “We all were.”
Chris Mikesell lives near Dallas, Texas, where he teaches freshman and sophomore English. His work has appeared in several publications, including The Wittenburg Door, DKA, Ray Gun Revival, and Coach’s Midnight Diner. He has just begun a new blog project: Reading Moby Dick in Dallas (http://readingmobydickindallas.wordpress.com).
Warmth from a Window by Kathleen E. Kovach
Sleet pelted the concrete as she walked toward the old church. Her fingers clutched her coat collar to keep the cold from invading. She hadn’t been to worship in years, but something about the solid stone building beckoned her.
This Christmas Eve she’d never felt more alone. She had relocated because of a new job. Old friends were far away. She had no family.
But the old church smiled at her one day as she walked by on her way to work. How else could she describe it? Its double doors were open wide and she heard laughter coming from inside.
A smiling church that laughs. Yes. Perhaps there she would be welcome.
She left the dreary day and walked up the steps to the church. Its doors seemed to open wider for her. Hands drew her in, human hands that greeted her, often clasping both their palms around hers.
But this was not what she wanted from the church. There had to be more. Something deeper than friendly faces and handshakes.
Someone led her to a wooden pew where a family welcomed her to join them. She stood for the first hymn, an unfamiliar carol. By the third verse she could follow the tune.
But this was not what the church wanted for her. It had not drawn her in to sing hymns.
A man stood to speak. He told of shepherds in a field long ago. While going about their business of tending sheep, the Lord spoke to them through an angel.
“‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’”
The man continued talking, but all she remembered were the words I bring you good news of great joy.
A glowing ray from the stained glass window to her left caressed her head and warmed her cheek. As it grew in intensity, she shed her coat.
Becoming increasingly uncomfortable, she glared at the window and dabbed her upper lip with a tissue. The scene in the stained glass was of the baby in the manger. A portion of the verse she’d just heard was drawn in leaded black toward the bottom. I BRING YOU GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY.
I bring you . . . I . . .
The next window grew brighter, claiming her attention. Jesus on the cross, His imploring eyes looking into hers. Scrolled in black were the words I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE.
I tell you . . . I . . .
The third window lit up. The risen Jesus in a pure white robe—His perfect glowing face a direct contrast to His nail-scarred hands. I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, TO THE VERY END OF THE AGE.
I am with you . . . I . . .
She fanned herself with the visitor’s card. Had it been the church that drew her through those doors, or God Himself?
The light from the stained glass windows gradually faded. The sky must have been clouding over again. But now, the light seemed to be within her. It radiated in her heart as she thought of God seeking her out.
The service ended and with promises to return, and she stepped outside. What awaited her beyond the church doors made the glow in her heart more intense than when it had burned through the windows.
Snow—fluffy, perfect, glistening snow—as white as the robe Jesus wore coated everything. The snow must have fallen heavily for the last hour. From where, then, had the light come through the stained glass?
She remembered the words on the third window. I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS.
I am with you. . . I . . .
I am with you . . . always.
Scripture references from the Holy Bible, New International Version of the Bible: Luke 2:10–12; 23:43; Matthew 28:20b.
Kathleen E. Kovach, a Colorado seminative, (missed it by six months!) spent much of her childhood fishing and camping in the Rockies. Pine sap is in her blood and writing about her beautiful mountains is a blessing. After traveling for twenty-three years with her Air Force husband, and holding several truly “odd” jobs, Kathleen now writes full time in her little town in northeastern Colorado. Her current novella anthology Oregon Weddings is published through Barbour Publishing. Visit her at http://www.kathleenekovach.com.