Caroline sat on the couch near the lit tree. Its soft multi-colored light always made her feel young again. She lowered herself onto the couch, her cheek resting against the plush fabric. She tried to fight the tears that made the tree seem to melt away as the lights morphed into points of dizzy color. She didn’t even notice when she fell asleep.
* * *
She suddenly found herself in a dark place where she noticed a large object, which was a cutout of Santa Claus. Its height reached several stories. She could only gawk as she approached. As she lightly touched Santa’s hummer-sized boot, the giant, flat structure began to lean forward. Caroline shrieked and ran.
The cutout crashed, shooting a large puff of air that sent Caroline sprawling. She pushed herself up and realized there was something behind the cutout. It was a man. Even from a distance, Caroline could tell he was old. “Hey! Hey, you!”
The old man straightened, his eyes wide. In one hand, he held a small bag of gold coins. He sputtered, “Oh, I didn’t hear you sneak up on me. Please don’t let the secret out, I want it to be a surprise.”
“What surprise?” As she approached, Caroline had failed to notice the shoes that rested on a doorstep. He had been placing his coins into them. “Who are you?” She asked.
The man’s white hair glistened and his eyes twinkled, “I’m Bishop Nikolaos of Myra.” He gestured to the little shoes. “These little ones just lost their mother and are in need of gifts.” He slipped a coin into another leather slipper. “I give gifts in secret. Seeing their surprise is a treat.” He pointed to another house down the way.
“Some years ago, there were three daughters in that house. They were too poor for a proper dowry and were afraid they would never get married. Well, over the course of three days, I hid a gift for each daughter in their shoes. By the second day, the father had caught on and waited at the door all night to see if a present for his third daughter would come.”
Nikolaos chuckled and his laugh lines were highlighted. “You’ll never guess what I did.” Caroline couldn’t guess. The man continued to chuckle. “I dropped the third daughter’s gift down the chimney. It fell into a stocking she had hung up to dry!”
Caroline gasped. “Wait! I know you. You’re Santa Claus!”
Just like that, the old man faded away along with the doorstep and the little shoes.
She looked around, and there were more towering cutouts: gigantic presents, skyscraper-sized Christmas trees, and candy canes as thick as tree trunks. She gently pushed the mammoth Christmas tree; the lights and tinsel fell with a crash. Behind it was a scraggly evergreen tree sitting inside a house. No lights, no ornaments.
“That’s it?” Caroline protested. “This tradition is why I pay eighty dollars every year for a tree?” Her cheeks started to grow hot and her temper rose. She turned and knocked over a towering candy cane. Behind it was a German man, making the candy canes for little kids. Caroline turned and continued to shove the other cutouts over.
Little Christmas elves toppled, as did large bunches of mistletoe. Sleigh bells loudly jangled as they tumbled to the ground. Apple cider splashed to the ground, creating a small tidal wave.
Caroline was fed up with Christmas and was looking for meaning behind it all.
She was huffing angrily when she reached the final cutout. It was a little shack with two people inside. When she got closer, she realized it was Joseph and Mary. Their cutouts knelt beside a small box. If she had stopped, Caroline would have seen a soft light pouring from the box.
But she charged, her anger boiling over. Religion had caused nothing but pain in her life. She slammed into Mary, sending the cutout tumbling. She shoved Joseph, and he toppled too. She went for the manger. The little box itself flopped over like a thin piece of paper.
Then she saw the glow. It rippled and floated off the ground like a balloon. The little shack melted away and all that remained was this odd sphere of light. It irked her this thing hadn’t fallen too. She charged to push it over. But to her surprise, the thing pushed back. She put her shoulder into it and shoved. It shoved back just as hard.
She fell to her back, staring up at the light. To her surprise again, it grew rapidly. It grew until it filled the large expanse above. Suddenly from the depth of the light, a voice floated out.
“What are you doing here?”
Caroline sputtered, “I-I…who-who are you?”
The warm light flickered and she heard echoing laughter. “I’m the child they celebrate at Christmas time. I’m the one whom the angels sang about.”
“I’m God as a human. I came to earth over two thousand years ago to show the world how to know God.” The light slowly started pulling together into a form, and began to look like a man. “You asked yourself ‘Where is peace?’ I’m here to let you know that I’m peace.” From the morphing light, a hand reached out to her….
* * *
Caroline awoke to the scent of hot chocolate. She sat up and saw her husband, Clark coming over, a steaming mug in each hand. “Morning sweetheart,” he smiled. “Feeling better today?”
After rubbing an eye, everything came into focus. “Yeah, I…just had a lot on my mind.” He handed her a warm mug and slipped in beside her. “I noticed you were reading my Bible last night.”
She took in the earthy chocolate smell. It had little flecks of cinnamon on top, just the way she liked it. Clark continued, “Yeah, I always love reading about Jesus’ birthday this time of year.” The hot chocolate almost spilled as Caroline jumped. Her dream suddenly came back to her.
“Wait, Jesus was the baby?”
Clark looked her in the eye. “Yes. Christmas is about celebrating his birth.”
In that moment, Caroline knew where the peace was, it had been born in a feedbox a long time ago.
Copyright 2012 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.