The Christmas House
Elly and Isaac ran to the corner of their street, jumping through the snow as they went. It was cold, so they were well wrapped up in coats and hats and mitts with warm snow boots on their feet. They met their friends Josue and Mercy.
“Are you ready?
“Yes, we’ve got everything.”
“Snacks and drink?”
“Check – but why do need those, we’re not going for very long?”
“Just in case,” said Elly efficiently. “You never know what’s going to happen when you go on an adventure.”
Just then Isaac’s Mum shouted from their front door.
“I know you’re going to play over by the old house, but I’ve got lots of work to do here. Can you take your little brother with you please?”
“Ok Mum” said Isaac, rather reluctantly.
Seconds later little Micah appeared, already dressed up and clutching his special teddy bear.
“You won’t be needing the teddy bear” said Elly.
“He goes with me,” Micah replied defiantly as he wrapped his mittened hands tightly round the brown stuffy.
“Ok, ok,” said Isaac. “But you hold him close ok, we’re not going back for him if you drop him.”
“Ok, won’t dwop him pwomise.”
The little group huddled together and walked the two blocks past the farmer’s field to the old house. It was a strange place. It wasn’t quite a ruin, it all looked very strong, but it was certainly very old and nobody had lived there for a very long time. It had been there before any of the rest of the houses in the little town. Nobody knew who had built it or even owned it. It had always been the place to play. It was safe enough. There was nothing broken or dangerous and the doors seemed to be locked so tight that no one had ever been able to get inside the place.
It looked a bit creepy. What looked like vines had grown over the house, like big cobwebs and everywhere it looked dusty and gloomy, yet somehow it wasn’t scary.
The kids had played around the house before, but today felt different.
They gathered on the porch as usual and Josue put down his bag. Mercy went over to the door.
“Not again,” said Elly, “there’s no one home.”
“I know,” said Mercy, “but it’s always polite to knock, just in case.”
She reached for the old door knocker and banged once, twice, three times and on the third knock something quite different happened. The door gave a little squeak and opened, just a tad.
Mercy jumped back. “Well what d’yer know!” She exclaimed.
“What is it?” said the others.
“The door. Look at that. It just opened when I knocked.”
“Wow, let’s go in” said Josue, who didn’t normally say much, but he was always up for a bit of extra excitement.
“No, no, best not to,” replied Isaac who was always a bit more cautious.
“Come on,” Josue insisted, “pleeeease.”
“We can’t,” said Elly firmly, “besides we have little Micah with us, it won’t work.”
Just then, Micah saw a familiar figure walking along the street.
“Grandpa” he shouted and ran over to meet him.
Grandpa came up to the porch.
“Now what are you young adventurers doing today?” He asked kindly in his deepest, warmest most grandfatherly sort of voice.
“We’re playing by old house” Micah said brightly.
“And Mercy knocked on the door and it opened, for the first time ever,” said Elly.
“So please can we go in?” said Josue. “Pleeeease, it’s never been open before.”
Mercy was getting excited about the idea too.
“Please Grandpa Wiebe, if you come with us, it’ll be alright.”
“What will your mothers say?” said Grandpa wisely.
“They’d be ok if you came with us,” replied Mercy.
“Please Grandpa, pleeeeease.”
Grandpa had never been much good at saying no to the children he loved so much.
“Ok then, but I am going first, we need to make sure everything’s safe before we all go in.”
Grandpa went up to the door and was surprised to find it swing open easily as he pushed it. He took the flashlight that Josue eagerly pushed into his hand and went inside.
After a few moments he came back out to the porch.
“Well I’ve had a look around and it all seems very safe and solid, so you can come in after me this time. But it all seems a little strange, so don’t touch anything and if I say we leave then we leave ok?”
“Ok” said Mercy and Josue.
“Alright” said Elly and Isaac a bit more reluctantly.
“Let’s go,” said little Micah and before they could stop him he had marched into the house holding his teddy tightly to his shoulder.
“Hold on there son,” said Grandpa, but it was too late. They all quickly ran into the house after him.
Inside they stopped and shone the flashlight around. All they could see was dust and cobwebs.
“You can’t see much in this light,” said Elly and she was right.
“Open curtains!” said Micah’s little voice and before they could stop him he had grabbed the nearest drape and pulled it to one side. Light came into the house, the fading light of a fading day, and for the first time they could see what it was really like.
“Wow,” said Mercy, “it looks like someone was getting ready for Christmas.”
Everywhere underneath the shrouds of dust and cobwebs there were waves of tinsel and strings of lights. A big Christmas tree stood proudly in the corner covered with ornaments and surrounded by presents. Logs sat in the hearth waiting to be lit. It looked as if everything was just ready for Christmas.
“It’s like a Christmas that never happened,” said Isaac.
“A looong time ago,” said Elly dramatically.
“I wonder if these lights still work?” said Mercy as she took hold of the nearest string of Christmas lights and followed them towards the wall socket. When she got there, she discovered they were already plugged in.
“Power must be off,” said Josue.
“It’s been off for a verrrrry long time,” said Elly.
“I wonder if we can get it going again, Grandpa, it would be great if we could,” said Isaac. “It would just light the whole place up, we could clean all the cobwebs and dust away and we could make it like Christmas again.”
“I don’t think that will work,” said Grandpa, using his wise voice again. “There’s been no power to this house for years and, even if we could I bet these old lights are long since broken.” He picked up the string right where the first light was, “look at this they’re all rusted in.”
He was right, there was so much rust that it looked like they would be stuck there forever.
“That’s a pity,” said Isaac.
“This one comes out,” said Mercy. She had gone up the line looking for loose ones. “They are all badly rusted in, but some of them can be turned.”
“Just leave them in,” said Grandpa, “maybe they can be turned but none of them are going to work unless this first one gets fixed.” He showed them the first light on the string which was already cracked and beyond repair. “None of the other lights will work unless this one does.”
“Hey look at this!” came a shout from the next room. It was Josue, he had gone into the big kitchen and opened the shutters. It was nearly dark outside now but there was enough twilight to see a table, fully laid, with all the food on the plates and the cups already full of juice. In the middle of the table was a big plate with a cooked turkey sitting in it. Again it was all covered in dust and cobwebs.
“Yuck!” said Micah loudly.
“Dirty and horrible,” agreed Elly.
“Wow!” said Mercy, “that’s quite some feast they were about to have.”
She was right, the children had never seen so much food on a table before, even for Christmas.
Just then they all heard, at the same time, the sound of wind, blowing outside the front door, which still stood open.
“What was that?” said Isaac, a little concerned.
“Just the wind getting up,” said Grandpa reassuringly. “You know how it can blow on the prairies. Come on, we’d best be going.”
But as they walked towards the front door the wind got louder and seemed to be coming right at them. They huddled together at the bottom of the stairs and watched with amazement as the wind blew through the front door, bringing with it a person, a strange person, because you could see right through him, and yet you knew that he was there. He was being carried in the wind, in fact it seemed that he was the wind. They could make out his form; a head, his arms and his hands and there in his hands he was carrying something very small and very beautiful.
“What’s that?” said Micah. The person didn’t seem to hear him, or anything else they said.
“Sush, look,’ said Mercy holding Micah close.
They all watched with amazement as the person blew over towards the string of lights, right to the wall socket that Mercy had looked at. He went to the first light on the string. With a deft twist of his free hand he twisted off the old light, it came away easily in his grip. Then he took what was in his other hand and twisted it into the open socket.
“It’s a little light!”said Mercy.
“It’s beautiful,” said Elly.
It was indeed beautiful, intricately crafted with a deep deep red colour like crimson.
Then an even more amazing thing happen. The person in the wind moved over to the wall and reached his long fingers towards the wall socket.
“Don’t do that” said Isaac. “Isn’t that what you told me, Grandpa, not to put your fingers in the wall socket.”
“Sush, there’s no power in there silly,” said Elly.
The person in the wind didn’t seem to hear. He put his hands into the socket in the opening underneath where the string of lights were connected. First he put his fingers in, then his hands and then he seemed to become incredibly small and thin and he squeezed Himself bit by bit into the socket until he had completely disappeared inside.
“Wo!” said Josue, “that’s awesome.”
“Not as awesome as that,” said Mercy pointing at the string of lights. The instant that the person in the wind had disappeared into the socket a little miracle happened. The beautiful new light that he had brought into the house suddenly and wonderfully came on.
Micah took in a sharp breath, “That’s dutiful,” he said.
“It’s beautiful, silly,” said Elly correcting him. But then changing her voice she said, “and it really is.”
Something went on in their hearts as the children looked at the light. The dust and the gloom of the rest of the house suddenly didn’t seem quite so miserable and depressing. They all held their breath in wonder.
“Such a tiny light, so precious,” said Isaac.
“But so amazing,” said Mercy.
“Look,” exclaimed Josue. The others followed his pointed finger. They saw that now some of the other lights, closest to the first one, were beginning to flicker, just softly as if they were trying to come on.
“Come on li’l lights” shouted Micah in encouragement. But all of a sudden there was another sound.
“Thunder!” said Elly.
“No that can’t be,” said Grandpa, it’s winter.
They listened and soon there was another rumble, louder than before, getting closer.
“That’s definitely thunder, Grandpa” said Isaac, “a storm must be coming.”
Before he could reply there was another closer clap of thunder. Grandpa quickly gathered the kids close to him into the living room by the open curtain, he didn’t think to close the door.
They all looked out of the window just in time to see a huge flash of lightning streak across the sky. It seemed to come flying straight towards the house and in an instant it came crashing through the front door and smashed into the beautiful little light, shattering it all over the floor.
“Noooo” wailed Micah and they had to stop him from running over to the wall socket.
As quickly as it had come the lightening was gone and they were back in the dusk and gloom. The lights had all gone out only it was darker now then ever before.
“Shine your light” said Grandpa. Josue switched his torch back on and pointed it towards the wall. There in the light string was just the broken shell of the beautiful light. Scattered over the floor beneath it were tiny shards of deep red crimson glass.
They sat in silence for what seemed like an age, but it was probably only two or three minutes. Micah started to cry.
“Wait a minute, look,” said Mercy pointing back towards the socket.
Josue shone his light in that direction and they were amazed to see a thin whisper of wind beginning to come out of the socket. It slowly took the form of fingers, followed by hands and then arms and then the whole of the person in the wind emerged. He stood tall, looking out over the shattered glass. Then, stooping low he took the shell of the broken light out of the light string and laid it gently in the palm of his hand. In an instant he was up and gone. Blowing back through the front door he rose into the outside air. They looked out of the window in time to see him lifting the palm of his hands to his mouth and he blew on the broken shell of the beautiful light. It wafted off his hand and then up and up and up in a blaze of ever increasing light. The person in the wind followed swiftly after it as it soared up into the night sky exploding into blazing radiance and becoming the highest and greatest star in the heavens.
Grandpa and the children raced out onto the porch to get a better look at it and they said afterwards that they could feel it’s heat even though it was so far away. The whole earth had instantly become warmer.
And then another wonder happened. As the star continued to explode and shimmer with breathless light, it sent sprays of golden dust up into the atmosphere which came down on the snow like rain. The children watched in awe.
“Presents” said Micah. And he was right. Each little drop of golden rain was a little gift wrapped present. The children raced to get them and eagerly opened them without stopping to think. Grandpa did the same, he felt that he lost 75 of his 80 years in that moment. When they opened them they were astonished to discover what was inside.
“Christmas lights” the children cried in one voice. Every gift had a little Christmas light in it, each with unique designs and an amazing array of colours.
It was Elly who, as always, knew what to do.
“Let’s put them in the Christmas light string,” she cried out excitedly.
They all ran into the house and discovered, as Mercy had said earlier, that not all of the lights could be turned, but those old broken lights that could be turned were taken out and replaced with these new wonderful lights from heaven.
Mercy went to put a light in the first hole, where the beautiful light had been, but there wasn’t a hole there any more, it had been covered over.
Then suddenly they realised what they were doing. They stopped.
“There’s no power is there!” said Isaac and almost instantly their joy turned to sadness. They sat down on the floor. All except little Micah who got up as if to leave.
“Where are you going?” Said Elly strongly, “come back here.”
“I’m going to talk to Mr. Wind,” said the little boy clutching his Teddy, “I’m going to ask him to come back.”
They were all too emotionally spent to argue with him, so he made his way alone out onto the porch and he looked up to the heavens and the star that shone brighter than all the rest.
“It’s sad down here,” he said quietly, “there’s no sparklies. Please send Mr. Wind back.”
Whenever he told the story afterwards, Micah insisted that the star smiled at him, shook His mane like a giant lion and opened His mouth and blew.
As soon as the kids heard the noise, they got out of the way of the door. Mr. Wind came flying through the cold night sky with a blaze of fire in His wake. He came rushing through the door and straight back to the same socket, disappearing into it in an instant. In that moment the room came alive. The lights that had been replaced blazed with great glory. Wherever they shone, dust and cobwebs ran away. The tree became a glistening glow of sparkling joy. The fire came alive in the heart of the hearth and the room blazed with warmth and happiness.
They followed the Christmas lights as more and more began to come on. The string ran round the room and out the hallway and into the kitchen. They gasped to see what was on the table. The food was all clean and fresh and the cups were overflowing with sweet juice faster than they could drink it.
“Keep going!” shouted Josue.
They followed the trail of lights as more and more flickered into life, up the stairs down the hallway and into the Master Bedroom where there were more lights than could be counted. They climbed onto the big bed and bounced up and down for sheer joy at it all.
It was Mercy that suddenly brought them back to earth. “Where’s Micah?”
In all their excitement they had forgotten him. They raced back downstairs to the door and stopped on the porch. He was half way across the yard staring back at the house.
“Look,” he said, his two hands pointing up to the house as his teddy now held on to him.
They ran out to stand with him and together looked back. There were lights twinkling radiantly all over the outside of the house too. Those weren’t vines after all.
“Look at the roof, I think they say something!” At Elly’s command they took a few more steps back to get a better view and discovered that she was right. The lights on the roof made letters. They shone bright red under the smile of the brightest star of them all, so that all the world could read their message.
They simple said; “MERRY CHRISTMAS”