This Christmas, we’re sharing again a special Christmas story written by Vicki Krehbiel, PWUMC counselor. A few words of introduction from Vicki:
I sat quietly at the Traveler’s Christmas Eve worship service last Sunday evening. A toothache and sinus infection had left me weary. Physically my energy was drained. Emotionally, 2021 had taken its toll as well. Too many people lost. So many changes to adjust to.
I listened as Pastor Yvi shared her sermon about that first Christmas night. She suggested imagining that night from Jesus’ perspective: looking up. “He sees you,” she said. My breath caught.
And then, the soloist sang, “Oh Holy Night.”
A childhood memory washed over me. I can still hear (and see) perfectly the Christmas Eve I sang in the children’s choir and listened to Anna Fern Lakin, a member of the adult choir, singing that hymn. I remembered what it feels like to be 5 and beginning to understand what Christmas is really all about.
From being 5 years old to becoming the me I am today, the me Jesus would be looking up at from his manger crib, well let’s just say a lot has happened!
As I held my candle and sang Silent Night, the message began to sink in.
Jesus still loves me.
It’s a message I share with you now in my own unique way. I share the following story with you once again as a reminder. Yes, Jesus, still loves you. Whether you are 5 or 95, you are loved. You are loved by God, who takes delight in each and every one of us!
Enjoy the story and Merry Christmas!
Did the Angels Sing?
by Vicki Krehbiel
Sunshine tickled Joseph’s nose. He wiped the sleep from his eyes and looked around the room. “Oh yeah: I’m at Grandma Hazel’s and Grandpa Ted’s,” he thought. He had almost forgotten he was staying there for a few days, just until his baby sister was born.
Now that he remembered where he was and why, he had to figure out what that awful scraping noise was. There was a steady scraping and swooshing that came from outside. Suddenly Joseph remembered. It was supposed to snow last night! He popped out of bed and ran to the window. He pulled back the curtains and grinned. A soft November blanket of snow was everywhere. The funny noise was Grandpa Ted shoveling the snow from the driveway.
Five-year-old Joseph ran over to his suitcase and pulled out some clothes for the day. He found the angel his mother put in the suitcase to remind him to pray. The angel reminded him of something else too. It reminded him of the big question he planned to ask Grandma and Grandpa. But questions could wait. He quickly said his prayer. “God bless Mommy and Daddy. And God be with my new baby sister. Please make her come quick. And thank You for the snow!”
Once he was dressed, Joseph ran downstairs to the kitchen, where Grandma was waiting to fix him a bowl of oatmeal. She smiled as they chatted about their plans to play in the snow. Joseph could hear Grandpa put the shovel away in the garage and stomp the snow off his boots before he came inside.
“Who’s ready to play in the snow?” Grandpa shouted.
“I am, I am!” Joseph almost bounced off his chair without any breakfast.
Grandma scolded them both. Grandpa just laughed so Grandma turned to Joseph and said, “Now be careful with this oatmeal. It’s hot. You need a nice warm breakfast before we go outside.”
Joseph grinned. Grandma knew how excited he was.
Since everyone was smiling, Joseph decided it was the right time to ask his question. “Grandma and Grandpa, when I was born did the angels sing?”
Grandma looked at Grandpa. They smiled. “Do you mean like they did when Jesus was born?” Grandma asked.
“Exactly,” Joseph said.
Grandpa was silent a moment. Then he suggested, “I think we need to play in the snow first. I can answer your question better that way.”
Joseph wondered what snow angels and a snowman and riding on a sled had to do with angels singing, but he knew Grandpa was a man of his word so he decided to wait. Grandpa Ted was tall and looked like a grizzly bear sometimes, just like Grandma said. But he could make Joseph laugh no matter what.
“Did you bring over all your snow gear?” Grandma asked.
Joseph prepared to argue, “Do I have to wear all that?”
“It’ll keep you warm so you can stay out longer.”
Joseph agreed with a grin and tugged on his snow suit, gloves, scarf and hat. He laughed as Grandma put on a man’s snow suit, big boots, and her gloves and scarf.
When they were all outside, Grandpa watched as Grandma and Joseph laid down on their backs in the snow. They swished their arms and legs up and down to make the wings. Then, carefully, Grandpa stepped in their footprints and lifted first Joseph and then Grandma up out of the snow. They all carefully stepped into the driveway. Joseph smiled at the sight of one big and one smaller angel in the snow. In spite of the cold on his cheeks he felt warm inside. “Look, I could be the big one and my baby sister the small one.”
“That’s right,” Grandma smiled.
Then they made their way into the backyard. It was a flat backyard so Grandpa would have to pull the sled. “Now hang on tight,” he warned. Joseph gripped the sides of the sled as Grandpa pulled him across the yard in a straight line. Then he started zigzagging back and forth. Joseph giggled with glee. He had to hang on so tight just to stay on that his fingers got sore. Grandma clapped her gloves together in the background. Joseph forgot all about babies, and his big question.
After Joseph was tossed off the sled for the fourth time, Grandma said it was time to go in. Grandpa’s cheeks were red from the cold but there was a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eyes.
While they were warming up with hot chocolate, Joseph decided it was the right time to remind Grandpa of his big question. “Grandpa,” he started, “when I was born did the angels sing?”
Before Grandpa could answer Grandma asked, “Why would you ask, Joseph?”
“My Sunday School teacher says the angels sang when Jesus was born and the shepherds heard them while they were in their fields tending their sheep.”
“Wow, you know the whole story, don’t you?” Grandma sounded proud of him.
“It’s in our Christmas play too. I get to be a shepherd. You have to take me, remember? Mommy will be busy with the new baby. But, did they sing when I was born? Will they sing when my baby sister is born too? My friend Tommy is a wise man and he thinks I’m a dork because I want to know. Susie is an angel in the play and she says angels only sing for Jesus. But I think angels sing for all of us. Aren’t we all children of God?”
Grandpa and Grandma exchanged a look. Grandma got up and quietly closed the curtains over the front picture window. She sat back down and took a long drink of her hot chocolate and smiled at Grandpa. He smiled too.
“Joseph,” he started, “Remember the snow angels you and grandma made in the front yard?”
“The curtains are closed now. Can you see the snow angels?”
“Nooo?” Joseph’s answer was more of a question than a real answer. Why was Grandpa asking such a goofy question? Of course he couldn’t see the snow angels. The curtains were closed.
“So, are the snow angels still out there?” Grandpa asked.
“Of course!” Joseph was getting irritated now. He began to think maybe his grandparents thought his question was silly just like everyone else. “I’m not a baby,” he growled. “I’m not asking about the snow angels,” he finally snapped. “What about the angels that sang for Jesus?”
“I’m getting to that,” Grandpa replied calmly. “Just because the curtain is closed doesn’t mean the snow angels are gone, right?”
“Right,” Joseph replied.
“Well it’s the same thing with the angels that sang for Jesus. Since Jesus was the Son of God and a son of man both, when he was born it was a very special time. God allowed the curtain between heaven and earth to be opened ever so slightly and the shepherds happened to be right there. They witnessed what happens every time a baby is born. Do you remember what the song was they sang for Jesus?”
Joseph smiled. He had been at practice once a week for five weeks now preparing for the Christmas play. He knew most of the story by heart. “Yes, they sang ‘Peace on Earth. Good will toward man.’ Then the head angel told the shepherds not to be afraid.”
“You do know the story very well,” Grandpa agreed. “The angel had to tell the shepherds not to be afraid because most of the time we don’t get to hear the song that is sung when we are born. It was such an unusual thing that the shepherds were frightened by what they saw. Most of the time the curtain is closed. But, just because we don’t hear it doesn’t mean the angels aren’t singing. It’s just like the snow angels in the front yard. They are still there even though the curtains are closed.”
Joseph walked over to the window and peaked behind the curtains just to be sure. Indeed, the snow angels were still there. Even the sun shining on them had not melted them away.
Grandma could not be silent any longer. “Joseph, my dear, do you really think the only time the angels sang was when Jesus was born? Are they quiet all the rest of the time? Of course not!”
Grandma talked about the angels as if she knew for sure what went on in heaven. Joseph had no idea how she might know but he liked her explanation better than his friends’.
“Why, those angels sing and dance every time a baby is born! That’s their job. They rejoice in heaven every time a new life begins here on earth. Rich or poor. No matter what country. Each new life is a possibility filled with promise and hope. That’s how the angels worship God.”
Joseph really liked what he was hearing. He sat quietly thinking about what his grandparents had said and sipping on his now cool chocolate with gooey melted marshmallows in it. It was a lot to consider. The angels sing for each one of us but we cannot hear it because the curtain between heaven and earth is closed. In that moment, Joseph wanted more than anything else to hear the angels sing for his new sister. He understood that the only reason the shepherds heard the angels singing was because Jesus was special and the curtain was pulled back for ever so small a moment. But he wondered if he asked God politely if maybe, just maybe God would pull back the curtain ever so slightly and let him peek through. He just wanted to hear the angels sing.
That night Grandma and Grandpa tucked Joseph into the cozy bed they kept just for him when he visited. Joseph wondered where his new baby sister would sleep if they stayed at Grandma and Grandpa’s together. He didn’t bother to ask Grandma though as she kissed him goodnight. He had other things on his mind. As soon as Grandma closed the door he closed his eyes and put his hands together and prayed. He prayed with all his might.
“Oh God, I know I am just a little boy. I know Jesus was special. I just want to hear the angels sing. Please let me hear the angels sing when my sister is born. Please pull the curtain back so I can peek in. Please.”
Even in November, it was just like Christmas night for Joseph. He tried to stay awake as long as he could just like when he was waiting to see Santa Claus. Sooner or later, though, sleep overtook him. He sighed and rolled onto his side dreaming about shepherds and wondering what sheep smell like.
A glowing light tickled Joseph’s nose and he woke with a jerk. He looked around the room. He remembered he was at his grandparents’ house, but the light flowing from the window onto his nose and cheeks did not look like sunlight. Joseph was afraid. Then a soft gentle voice whispered in his ear, “Be not afraid Joseph. Behold, the curtain is open.”
Quietly Joseph crawled out of bed and tiptoed to the window. There, in the dazzling light he saw on the front lawn two angels, one big and one small. At first he could see their mouths moving but he could not hear a sound. “It’s the angels,” he thought. “My sister is born. Oh Jesus thank you, thank you for letting me see this. Please let me hear them singing.” He prayed.
Then he heard a faint scratchy noise like a radio signal that was not coming through very well. He pressed his ear up against the cold window pane. He strained as hard as he could to hear. He tried to open the glass but it was locked. Suddenly, he heard. Voices as clear as the trumpets in the Christmas play. Two voices singing clearly and beautifully. Joseph stood still and watched and listened. His heart almost burst with the treasure of the moment. He was hearing angels sing. And even though this song was for his sister, he knew in his heart the angels had sung a song for him just like this when he was born.
Then the vision began to fade. First the angels disappeared. Then the bright light softened and went out. All that was left was the silver light of the moon. Joseph remained still for another moment not really sure what to do. When it finally sunk in what this all meant he shouted to no one in particular, “Molly is born!”
He ran to his grandparents’ bedroom and burst in without knocking. “Molly’s born,” he shouted again. Grandpa sat bolt upright in bed and looked like he was ready to growl like a grizzly. Grandma groaned and rolled over. Joseph ran over to his Grandma and shook her. “Molly’s here. Molly’s here.” His excitement was real.
Grandma opened her eyes with alarm. “Honey, who is Molly?”
“That’s the name my parents said they were going to give my baby sister.” Joseph danced with joy around the bed.
Grandma looked at the alarm clock and groaned again. “What makes you think she’s been born at three o’clock in the morning?
“I saw them. I heard them. They told me.” Joseph twirled around the room doing a dance just like the angels had.
“Who did you see? Who told you?” Grandpa was more than a little alarmed now.
“The angels told me. Grandpa, Grandma, I saw them. They danced and sang in the front yard! It was so beautiful. I know they sang when I was born too. They even sang for both of you.”
Grandma took a deep breath and slid herself up to a sitting position by the pillows. She had a look on her face like she was trying to decide whether to let Joseph dance the excitement out of himself or to scold him for waking them.
Before Grandma had a chance to say anything more the phone rang. Grandpa picked up the phone and looked at the caller ID. “It’s Joseph’s father,” he said quietly and handed the phone to Grandma.
“Hello,” Grandma said. By now her voice was shaking and Joseph heard her clear her throat. Joseph stopped dancing. It made him nervous to see his grandparents looking so alarmed. “Is everything okay then?” Grandma asked. “I see. Okay. We’ll be there first thing in the morning. Okay. We’ll call first. Congratulations, dad. Give mom and baby a hug for us. Thanks for calling.”
When Grandma hung up the phone she clapped her hands with joy. “That was your Daddy, Joseph. You were right. Your baby sister, Molly, came a little earlier than expected. Your mother is fine. They are both sleeping though, so when we get up in the morning we’ll have breakfast and go see them. Joseph, why don’t you crawl up here on the bed and tell us both about these angels? Then we need to all try to get some sleep. Tomorrow will be a big day.”
Joseph snuggled in between his grandparents on their big bed. He felt warm and cozy and loved inside. He told his grandparents everything he saw and heard. Then Grandma followed him back to the guest room and tucked him in all over again.
The next morning before breakfast, Grandpa went outside to shovel the snow off the driveway. Another two inches of snow had fallen overnight. He was not outside long when he came back in and said, “You both need to come see this.”
Grandma was puzzled, but followed his lead. Grandma and Joseph put on their coats and boots. Grandpa led them into the driveway. “What is it?” Grandma asked, looking around to see what might be so special.
“Look around,” Grandpa said. “At least two inches of snow has fallen everywhere else. All of our tracks from yesterday are covered up except … ”
“The snow angels,” Grandma said with a gasp.
Grandpa was right. None of the tracks from the previous day were visible anymore. Soft new-fallen snow covered the drive, the bushes, their tracks, everything. Everything, that is, except the snow angels. The very s pot where Joseph and his grandmother had made their snow angels the day before was the same place the two angels had danced and sung Molly’s song. The outline of the snow angels was as crisp and clear as it was when Grandpa had pulled Joseph and Grandma out of them. They were two inches deeper, but just as clear. It was a long moment before any of them moved.
Later, at the hospital, Joseph bounced around the room. He stopped only long enough to touch his baby sister’s hand. He told his mother and father the story about the snow angels and the real angels and Molly’s song. His mother and father looked surprised. Grandma told them Daddy’s phone call had come moments after Joseph had awakened them by shouting, “Molly’s here.” The grownups just looked at each other in amazement. Joseph just went back to his baby sister and held her hand. He smiled.
“Guess what,” he said. “The angels really do sing.”
A note from Vicki: Yes. The Angels sang when you were born. I pray you may enter the New Year embracing the fullness of God’s love for you.