I was walking along with no place to go.
No invitation. No gifts to bestow.
I wouldn’t be seated at a table of friends?
My purpose in life seems a means to their ends.
“Come to the stable.” I heard a child say.
“I’ll be the Mary. I’ve a big role to play.
My costume’s pale blue, but the fabric’s quite plain.
Come to the stable, by the tall candy cane.”
So I changed my direction toward a noisy downtown.
Families and lovers. People mulling around.
The darkness between all the lanterns and lights.
Made my path to the stable on that chilly night.
No one seemed to notice, or they just didn’t care,
That I’d no invitation. No right to be there.
The wind brushed my face and I stopped where I stood
To close my coat tighter and pull down my hood.
I pass “Santa’s Village,” fake toys and fake sleigh.
Fake beard and fake laughter give the fat man away.
Crying toddlers, stressed mothers, bored fathers in line,
Adhere to tradition! Afraid to decline.
A man rings a bell near a bucket for change.
I drop in a coin for a smile. He refrains.
I don’t see a good reason for all of the fuss,
And my lips turn slightly to utter a cuss.
“Come to the stable,” the sweet girl had said.
But where is the show. I believe she misled.
Some pallets of wood shape a child-sized barn,
Held together with rope and pieces of yarn.
I tuck in my chin. The crowd dawdles around.
The actors move little without making a sound.
A farmer’s provided a couple old sheep.
A porcelain baby's pretending to sleep.
What is the attraction? What is the worth?
Oh, I’ve heard the story. A virgin gives birth?
I know about Santa. I sat on his lap.
And what did I get but a boat load of crap!
This Christmas is turning out much like the others.
Cold in a crowd and looking for cover.
My friends behave friendly without letting me in.
My family is busy. No time for their kin.
I’m longing for solace, not vain, empty chatter.
A real conversation before everyone scatters.
But this group, I'm sure, plays the same sly con game.
They want what I give without knowing my name.
I take a step back and then head for the street,
When the girl begins waving and shuffling her feet.
“Hey Lady! Don’t leave! You’ll miss the best part!
I’m telling the story. It’ll tug on your heart.”
Well the girl is a stranger. She don’t know what I’ve done.
Her parents look proud. I should high-tail and run.
When I was her age, I had what she’s got.
But a few short years later, my future was shot.
A part of me fears that she’ll end up like me,
But mostly, my thoughts are of how I can flee.
I should’ve known better than to follow her voice.
But something inside me won’t give me that choice.
Every part of my being says, “You don’t fit in.”
So I try. Appear casual. And put on a grin.
I stare as the snow falls and melts on my face.
Then I slide back my hoodie, defying my place.
These people will think I belong to someone.
A mother, a sister, an aunt who has come.
At the end of her story, whether Seuss or Shakespeare,
I’ll applaud and shout bravo, then quick disappear.
The microphone squalls when she clears her scared throat.
Her hands to her ears wrinkle pages of notes.
But her eyes keep on glancing and twinkling at me.
Enough that the guilt on my face she can see.
A few feet away, Santa shouts “Ho Ho Ho!”
All the children go silent and street traffic slows.
The girl gains composure and the kid’s play begins.
So sad the performance. “No Room at the Inn.”
The story? I’ve heard it. I’ll hear it once more.
Her voice pure and honest, like others before.
“It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas,” I say to myself.
Remembering the words from a book on some shelf.
She’s reading the lines of a well-written part.
When her gumption kicks in with fervor and heart.
Her hands drop to her side with her shoulders upright.
She recites from her memory to the audience’s delight.
Is that moonlight and glitter, that make her face glow?
The young girl was right. She’s the star of the show.
I forget that my own feet and hands have a chill,
As the moment waves through me with comfort and still.
I’ll be honest. The story? While good, can’t be true.
That babe? He ain’t done what a savior would do.
Where’s the peace? The good will? He's had two-thousand years?
It’s a scam. A bamboozle for my cash and my tears.
Yet my hands come together for earnest applause.
And my heart skips a beat, for no reason. Just because.
“Halleluiah,” yells a man from the back of the crowd.
There’s a word I’ve not heard—in person, so loud.
I don’t understand what is happening tonight,
But I’m lingering. Content, with no urge to take flight.
“There’s coffee and cookies. ‘Cross the street,” the girl begs.
Her parents both nod, and I drop my head.
My senses return. I remember my place.
I’m the oddball. The weird one. A human disgrace.
“No thank you,” I say, without explanation.
The innocent girl too excited to listen.
“I’m drinking hot chocolate. It’s still got caffeine.
There’s no school tomorrow and it gives me good dreams.”
She assumes I am joining the cast and her crew.
Her eyes are stuck on me like paper to glue.
“Are you married? Did you put up a big Christmas tree?
Did you know that your eyes are the same color as me?
Do you have a job in a school or a store?
If you want extra cookies, I can get you some more.”
Between all her queries I barely catch breath,
But this child, with ease, grabs my soul at its depth.
This mini-adult says, “We’re so glad you came.
I’m Gracie Marie. Won’t you tell me your name?”
Well that was the Christmas my life took a whirl.
When I went to the stable and followed that girl.
I’m changed, now and forever, by a Savior, through grace.
I’m still odd. Still the weird one, but the Lord changed my face.
So come to the stable. Downtown ain’t the same.
But we’re easy to find, near the tall candy cane.
There’s coffee and cookies. Hot chocolate if you like.
It’s become my tradition. I’m the one to invite.
So come to the stable. Dress warm. It might snow.
I know it seems corny, like it’s put on for show.
But the Spirit of Christmas breaks through and brings cheer.
My daughter’s the Mary at “The Stable” this year.
A few people have asked if this story is true. Well, it's almost true. Her name isn't Gracie Marie, although I love that name, and the setting was not exactly as I described. What happened, in fact, didn't take place at Christmas time, but for sure, the girl, the lady and what they mean to each other are real. The story that would have been told in the stable that night can be found in the 2nd chapter of Luke. We’ve let the reading of the Christmas Story become nothing more than tradition—a ritual without remembrance of what actually took place. A promise made to us, from the moment we chose to sin, is fulfilled. So, go to the stable. You never know who you will meet when you get there.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen …
Luke 2:1-20 (KJV)