Isabel awoke the following morning to the sound of clinking in the kitchen. She sat up, rubbed her eyes and looked around the room. Frosted window panes pelted with sleet diminished the sleep in her eyes. Isabel jumped on her bed, singing. “It’s Christmas Eve and it’s snowing. Get up Maggie, get up and see!”
Maggie jumped out of bed and ran to the window just as Mama opened their bedroom door.
“Well, it looks like our little ladies are already awake,” Mama said with a smile. “Get dressed quickly girls, breakfast is almost ready.”
“Snow, Mama, snow!” Maggie exclaimed.
“Yes, it is really snowing and sleeting too. That means it is very cold and slippery outside. We need to hurry before Papa and the boys come in from doing chores. They must be chilled to the bone!”
Mama had both girls dressed and beds made in record time. Isabel and Maggie hopped down the steps and skipped toward the kitchen. As they passed the parlor, Isabel stopped. “Look!” She shouted and pointed to the tree before running into the room to investigate. The stable had been placed on a table in front of the tree and one lonely wooden lamb stood in front of it. “Where did that come from?”
“Oh, a lamb!” Maggie said as she gently stroked the small white figure.
“It must have walked here from Bethlehem,” Mama said with a smile. “It wasn’t here last night!”
They entered the kitchen just as Papa, Eugene and Curtis entered the back door – stomping snow off their boots.
“Papa, Papa!” the girls cried in unison. “Come and see what Jesus sent us!”
“Hold on there, gals and let me get out of these boots and wet coat and then you can tell me all about it.”
Isabel and Maggie waited patiently until Papa put on his slippers and hung up his coat before dragging him into the parlor.
“Well I’ll be! How did that get in here?” Papa said with a grin. “Guess it came early to see the Baby Jesus! Let’s go back into the warm kitchen before our breakfast gets cold.”
Papa walked with the girls into the kitchen, over to the stove to warm his hands before helping Mama carry dishes of eggs, pancakes, bacon and a large dish of grits to the table.
“If the weather gets any worse I’m afraid we won’t be able to go Christmas caroling tonight after all,” Papa said as helped Mama clear the table after breakfast.
“Oh dear,” Mama exclaimed as she pointed to the stack of packages and baskets on the work table. “We have all of these cookies, cakes and bread to deliver tonight. If we wait until tomorrow, I’m afraid it will be too stale.”
“We’ll see,” Papa said as he closely looked at the packages and picked up a basket. “Who’s this one for?”
“That one is for the Widow Barker. I heard she has been sick so I wanted to make sure she has plenty to eat.”
“Don’t know why you want to give her anything but a good tongue lashing – the way she does to every boy in the county.” Papa said as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
“That’s why we need to remember her, Papa.” Mama placed a jar of chicken soup into the basket along with a loaf of bread, jam and a bundle of cookies. “Jesus said to do good to people who are unkind to us. Perhaps she will realize that Jesus loves her too and will have joy in her heart.”
“We’ll see,” Papa said.
By lunch time, sleet had turned to light, fluffy snow. “Looks like it will be a good night for a ride in the sleigh to deliver gifts and to go caroling after all,” Papa said with a smile. “The boys and I will get the old cutter ready.”
“Girls, I want you both to take a nap today since we are going caroling tonight,” Mama said as she sat down in the rocker by the stove with baby Sylvia in her arms. Isabel wanted to protest but the look in Mama’s eyes stopped her. “Yes ma’am,” she said quietly.
At that very moment, Maggie squealed. “Look! Look at the stable!”
Isabel ran into the parlor and stopped in amazement. There were two more sheep and a cow in the stable. “It’s a miracle!”
Every time Isabel entered the parlor, a new carved animal had been placed in or near the stable but she never saw Mama or Papa go into the parlor without the children. By the time the sleigh was packed with goodies to give to the neighbors and everyone nestled under heavy blankets, Isabel was beside herself with joy. Papa had chosen her to ring the jingle bells as they serenaded their friends and neighbors with Christmas Carols. Even Widow Barker thanked them with a smile. They were invited inside for hot cocoa and cookies at the Albright home. Isabel exchanged gifts with her friend, Sally Anne. Isabel and Maggie were given paper dolls and baby Sylvia received a new rattle for Christmas. Each child gladly received a peppermint stick.
By the time they returned home, Isabel could hardly keep her eyes open. She listened as her brothers searched for the Bethlehem star.
“Alright children,” Mama said as she hung up coats on hooks in the screened in back porch. “you may place your gifts from your friends under the tree and then hurry up to bed.”
Excitement filled Isabel as she ran into the parlor, lit by the fire in the fireplace. There on the table holding the stable were three new carved items. A man, a woman and a donkey.
“Look!” Curtis said, “It’s Mary, Joseph and the donkey she rode on to Bethlehem!”
Isabel slowly walked to the stable and traced the figures with her fingers. “Where did they come from? How did they get here?”
“The donkey brought them, silly!” Eugene said with a smile before messing her hair.
“Alright children,” Mama said, “hang your sock on the mantle and then go on to bed. Morning will be here before you know it.”
“But Mama,” Maggie said with a tear in her eyes. “Baby Jesus isn’t here. The manger is empty! Did Mary and Joseph forget the baby?”
“No, dear. They are still waiting for the baby to be born.”
The following morning, Isabel awoke before the rooster crowed but she couldn’t wait to see what surprise awaited her. She ran downstairs and entered the parlor. The fire in the fireplace crackled but Isabel didn’t look at the mantle. She even notice there were candles on the tree. She ran directly to the stable. She cried out in delight as she looked in to the eyes of the Baby Jesus laying in the manger.
“He’s here, He’s here!” Isabel yelled to her family. “Jesus in finally here. Merry Christmas!”