The Christmas Angel Tree Topper
Christmas memories are oftentimes so clear, so powerful, so immense. Each Christmas, when I unwrap my Nanny Mae’s Christmas Angel (which I’ve inherited), swirls of color, voices and heavenly vibrations enter my head and my home. Although her lights have not worked for some time now, my Christmas Angel still dazzles the room with the brilliant light that comes from the place where memories are born. And I know that this cherub becomes brighter and brighter each time I share Nanny Mae’s story; the story of how she became a Christmas Tree Topper. This is her story!
It’s Christmas Eve and as usual there is a great deal of bustle in Nanny Mae’s household,- especially with us five grand-children running around looking for wrapping paper, which is in great demand. It is important to us little ones to have all our gift preparations completed and the presents tucked under the tree.
“Everything is done, I believe,” I announce after supervising and helping my younger siblings: Bertha, Charles, Frederick and James.
“And only think, Nanny Mae, none of us have lost a single thing!” exclaims Bertha eagerly. “Don’t we deserve shortbread cookies for being so careful?”
“I think you do, my dears,” says Nanny Mae cheerfully: “And judging by your shouts of laughter bouncing throughout the house, I am pretty sure that none of you lost your magical feather- even for a moment.”
“A magical feather! What does that mean?” several little voices cry out.
“It must mean we are tickled pink with Christmas,” replied Frederick.
“No,” says Nanny Mae, laughing as she shakes her head. “That is not it at all Frederick. You must guess again.”
“I cannot guess what the magical feather is, but I think I know where to find it,” I whisper: “May I get the Christmas book, and let us see if it is there, Nanny Mae?”
“Oh, yes,” cries Charles, who overhears my request: “please, Nanny Mae, read us one of its many stories!” This request is warmly seconded by the rest.
Nanny Mae premises that the story is but a short one, and bids us her auditors to listen attentively, as she will expect the explanation from us. As you might have guessed, this drew us in to cuddle close to her, so as not to miss a word.
The Christmas Angel Tree Topper
Christmas Day was fast approaching. It was a time that Ryan and his two best buddies, Benjamin and Zak, usually looked forward to. This year though, there would be no Xmas Tree, no fancy food, no gifts but for a miracle, because this year no family had any money to spare on things like that. The three friends couldn’t bear the sadness of their houses, and the more they tried to be cheery, the more they missed the Christmas Spirit. You see, the Christmas Spirit had been crushed by the huge lay-off at the town mine.
On the morning of December 22nd, while Ryan was walking to the snow fort to meet up with his buddies, he spotted something very bright floating down from the sky. He hastily scooped it up before it landed on the ground and saw that it was a beautiful white feather, curiously bright. Delighted with his find, he ran quickly to show Benjamin and Zak.
The threesome deemed the finding of the feather to be a lucky omen, and carefully tied a string to it. They then hung it about Ryan’s neck and charged him with its safekeeping.
The next day it was a very cold day, and on the way home as they sped over the frozen ground with their well-worn boots, they saw a very old woman sitting wearily by the roadside with her head bowed down in her clasped hands. She was poorly dressed, and seemed very frail.
They felt sorry for the poor woman. Benjamin approached her and said softly: “What is the matter? Can we help you?”
The poor old woman looked up. “I’m very tired,” she answered feebly, “and have a long way to go, but I cannot walk alone. I am not able.”
“We will help you,” replied Benjamin quickly; “You don’t look very heavy, and I think we can support you if you lean on us.” Then Zak added: “even though we are little, we are pretty strong.”
“You are good children,” replied the old woman, and with their assistance she rose from her seat on the bank; “but I walk so slowly, you will perish from the cold.”
“Oh, never mind us,” said Zak, cheerfully; “we are used to the cold, and I can spare you my scarf and mitts too, for you need a warmer covering.” He threw his scarf upon the aged stranger’s shoulders as they waddled over the frozen ground.
As they walked on, the boys told her the simple story of the town’s misfortune and their eagerness to be able to help bring back the Christmas Spirit to the townspeople. The old woman listened attentively. After they had walked some distance, she complained of fatigue, and sat down on a log to rest. As the boys placed themselves at her feet, the aged woman drew from inside her faded coat a small box. She handed the box to Ryan, and said: “You children deserve a reward for your kindness, and all I have to give- is this empty box that may be useful to you if you are ever fortunate enough to find an angel’s magic feather to put inside.”
Ryan was unwilling to take the box, but the old woman pressed it upon him, and when Ryan found that she was resolute in her decision that he should accept it, he remembered his feather. He quickly removed it from his neck and gently tucked it inside the mysterious box.
No sooner had he closed the box, than the lid flew open. Out came a small looking-glass, a wooden staff, and a silver lamp of dazzling brightness. The boys did not know the use of these things, but were delighted with their novelty. As they looked up to thank the old woman, they beheld a beautiful lady instead.
They uttered an exclamation of surprise, but the beautiful lady smiled kindly and said: “You behold me now in somewhat my true form, and as you have proved yourselves worthy, I will help you in find the Christmas Spirit for your town.”
“I am able and willing to do anything to secure the Christmas Spirit. Our town constantly sighs in its absence,” answered Ryan.
“Well, then listen to me,” said the lady. “Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, you three must gather all of the town’s children and make your way to the valley over the hill, north of town. There you will find the Great Pine.”
She then took the looking glass, handed it over to Benjamin, and said: “You will need strength to fulfill this undertaking. Whenever you are in doubt about which way to go, look through this looking glass; it will point out your path.”
She then gave Zak the lamp, and placing the staff in his hand continued:“This staff will support your steps when you are weary, and the lamp will light your path. Tomorrow, go onward, and do not fear the enemies who will present themselves; armed as you are, you can overcome them all. When you have reached the Great Pine, Ryan, the keeper of the feather, must lay the box under its boughs. Then you shall be rewarded for all you have undergone.”
The threesome felt awed at the importance of their position. They lowered their eyes toward the ground, and when they raised them, the beautiful lady had disappeared.
The next day when Christmas Eve was upon them, Ryan, Benjamin and Zak -with their precious gifts- gathered all the town’s children and went resolutely forward, for they felt strong and able to perform the task.
The way was very desolate; the snow lay deep upon the path and the leafless branches sighed in the wind. Still, they pushed on patiently, through the drifting snowbanks, and over the frozen brooks. They had but one thought: to reach the Great Pine and obtain their Christmas Spirit.
The group of children came to a point from which two roads diverged. One appeared to be decked in the beauty of Christmas feasts, gifts, and decorations. The other was bleak and dreary. At the entrance of the beautiful path stood Jolly Old Nick. He invited them to take that road, and claimed that it was the shortest way to the Great Pine. Benjamin hesitated an instant, then remembering the beautiful lady’s advice he peeped through the looking glass. He saw that the pleasant path was filled with snares and pitfalls, while Jolly Old Nick appeared hideous and distorted. Benjamin stepped decidedly onto the dreary path, and the rest swiftly sped along following him – some of them in disbelief.
Soon after they started down the path Zak took the lead, so that his silver lamp could emit its brilliant light and cheer their weary steps. He often was beset by forms who whispered to him of the terrible difficulties he would meet upon his path, just as the beautiful lady had warned him, but he leaned firmly upon his staff and continued on his journey. As he saw the silver beam from the lamp he bore shining far before him, he led on inspired and comforted.
At last the Great Pine rose before them; they had found their way. With a cry of joy they sprang forward and stood upon its threshold.
Ryan, with eager but trembling hands, carefully laid the box under the Great Pine. Just then a miraculous light beamed down upon all the children, and as it caressed their bodies, they felt a glow of joy pass through their veins. They heard the song of this bright light, and began to dance, laugh and sing to its mysterious music. Full of wonder at this event, Ryan, Benjamin and Zak looked up and noticed that on top of the Great Pine stood an Angel who looked just like the beautiful lady Her hair flowed down upon a robe of rosy satin and creamy velvet, and as she stretched out her gigantic feathery wings to address the group, the whole tree swayed, sparkled, and glittered in the radiance of her light.
“Dear children, I’ve come to share the simple gift of a feather from my wings, as there’s plenty to go around. In return you must remember your Heavenly Father’s precious gift to us: His beautiful son Jesus. I’ve been sent to remind you of this and of the many gifts you can give each other each and every day. The simple gift of a smile gladdens a heart in a most amazing way, and any kind gesture is a worthy gift for it allows us to experience life together in love, compassion and harmony. Our Heavenly Father has given each and every one a special gift to share; some of you have the gift of song, of art, of dance and only by sharing with others do they become great gifts. Some of you children will only know your true special gift later in life, for your gift is the gift of being a parent, a pastor, a teacher or a doctor. These gifts attend to the needs of others, and by sharing cheerfully you not only have a great gift, you will also give a great gift. Ryan, Benjamin and Zak- congratulate yourselves. Give yourselves a much deserved hurrah, for you have shared your special gifts of compassion, love and strength.” With all that being said, feathers from the Angel’s wings snowed down on all the children.
In the meantime, the parents had heard the cheers of their children and had followed the bright light to the Great evergreen. As they approached, their arms flung open to embrace their children and their neighbors, and all were overcome by emotion. Then, they all heard the Angel’s voice again:
“Ryan, Benjamin and Zak,” the Angel called. Everyone circled the Great Pine, holding hands and staring with glowing eyes at the Angel. All was silent!
With a smile the Angel whispered: “ When Christmas Spirit is misplaced in your minds, remember it can always be found in your Hearts,” and with that said the light within her dimmed to nothing while the light around them got ever brighter, for everyone had received a magic feather.
Nanny Mae closed the storybook, and looked around inquiringly.
“And now, I want your explanation of my little story,” she said.
“I think the looking glass which Benjamin possessed must have been Truth,” I said, as Nanny Mae’s gaze rested upon me.
“And the Jolly Old Nick that tempted them into another path was, perhaps, Falsehood,” added my sister Bertha.
“The wooden staff was Faith, of course,” continued Charles, “as it supported Zak through all his trials.”
“Ah, really, I thought the lamp represented Faith,” replied Frederick, “but the staff is more appropriate; the lamp then must be Hope, because that shed light over their path and so enabled them to persevere, despite the fears that attempted to discourage them. Is it not so, Nanny Mae?”
“You have thought it through very well thus far,” she said, “but all is not explained yet.”
“No,” cried young Charles, “we have not yet discovered what the magical feather means.”
“I have it!” exclaimed James, exultingly: “I have found it. The magical feather represents the virtue of Love.”
“You have found it, indeed,” said Nanny Mae, approvingly;” and as you possess it James, I hope you will remember to share its valuable qualities.”
“Nobody has figured out who the Angel is,” chimed in little Bertha; “but I know, — it is Nanny Mae herself.”
“Not exactly, my dear,” replied Nanny Mae, kindly. “I do not have the power to endow you with the precious gifts that the Angel possessed. I can only pray that the giver of all good may bestow them upon you, but shall be happy if through me you have learned Love. Love is the one truth which may help you to walk securely in the path that leads to peace in the present, and happiness in the hereafter.”
“Now it’s bedtime my sweeties, and don’t forget to give thanks in your prayer to our Divine Father for His beautiful gift to us – His precious Son,” said Nanny Mae, kissing each of our cheeks.
That Christmas was a long time ago, but I’ve since realized that there was something else beyond the lights I had captured from Nanny Mae’s story of the Angel — it is my memories. I have a kaleidoscope of memories of each Christmas, and with Nanny Mae’s Angel as my own, the Christmas tree centerpiece continues to shine brightly with the light of all of my Christmases and the magic around it. When I look at the Angel, I can remember, share, and discover this Christmas and all the others over and over again.
Merry Christmas, Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men.