An Early Christmas Gift

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Hannah Maria Estevez didn’t even hear Mama come into the bedroom. She jumped when Mama touched her shoulder.

“You need to turn your music down,” Mama said. “I just put Baby Paulo in his crib for a nap.”

Hannah reached for the volume knob on her CD player. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know it was too loud.”

Mama smiled. She sat down on the bed. “I’m glad you like the Messiah. It’s one of my favorite pieces of music too.”

“I just love the ‘Hallelujah’ part,” Hannah said. “It reminds me of the angels that sang to the shepherds. I like that other part, too, that goes like this.” She turned off the CD and began to sing. “ ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.’ ”

“You have a beautiful voice,” Mama said softly when she finished.

Hannah’s face turned pink.

“You know, I heard on the Christian radio station today that one of the local churches is going to have a Messiah sing-a-long. Would you like to go?” Mama asked.

“What is that?” Hannah asked.

“Well, everyone who goes can sing the Messiah along with the church choir. It will be one whole church full of people singing the Messiah together. Sort of a giant choir of Messiah lovers.”

“I don’t know all the words to all the songs,” Hannah said.

“We don’t have to know all the words,” Mama answered. “The church will pass out the music. We can read it.”

“That sounds like fun,” Hannah said. Then she frowned. “But do you think Baby Paulo will like it? What if he cries and we have to leave before we get to sing the ‘Hallelujah’ part?”

“Maybe Papa will stay home and baby-sit Baby Paulo,” Mama suggested. “This could be a special outing just for the two of us.”

Hannah beamed. She didn’t get a chance to do things alone with Mama much anymore since Baby Paulo was born.

“It’s amazing to think about what a great impact the Christmas story has made on the world,” Mama said after a minute. “I wonder how many songs and poems have been written about Jesus’ birth. I wonder how many paintings and drawings have been done.”

“And stained-glass windows,” Hannah put in.

“And stained-glass windows,” Mama repeated with a smile. “If we pay attention to all the art, and music, and sermons, and such that surround us each Christmas, we should learn more and more about Jesus every year. In fact, it seems to me that a person would have to plug his ears and shut his eyes at Christmas time to keep from learning something new about Jesus.”

“That’s what I would like to do someday,” Hannah said dreamily. “I would like to make the most beautiful stained-glass window in the world! I would make the wise men worshiping Jesus and giving Him their gifts. They probably had very beautiful clothes, and that would look good in a stained-glass window.” She stopped. “But Baby Jesus should be the most beautiful part of the window. He is more important than the wise men. I wonder how I could show that?”

“All artists have a lot of decisions to make,” Mama said, standing up.

Hannah opened a drawer of her desk and pulled out a piece of white drawing paper. “Maybe I’ll work on my window design right now,” she said. “I wish I had something better than crayons to use though,” she added. “I wish I had something to make really bright colors like real stained glass.”

Mama slipped out of the bedroom, but in a moment she was back, holding something behind her back. “Would you like to have an early Christmas present?” she asked. Her eyes danced. “It’s not wrapped, but I don’t want to wait to give it to you.”

“What is it?” Hannah asked eagerly.

Mama held out a long flat box.

Hannah squealed. “Oil pastels!” she exclaimed. She opened the box and gazed at the 24 brilliant colors inside. They were absolutely perfect stained-glass colors. She picked up the bright purple. “Thank you!” she exclaimed. “I love them!”

Mama patted Hannah’s shoulder. “When you finish your window design, we’ll put it in a frame,” she said. “That will keep it safe, and we can enjoy it until you are old enough to learn how to work with stained glass.”

Hannah smiled at Mama. Then she shut her eyes and tried to picture the scene. Baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph. The wise men, bowing low, presenting their costly gifts. Camels waiting outside the house. A deep, black sky and a bright, bright star.