“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths.
1 John 5:11
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
The song All I Want For Christmas blast through the foster home. Today is the day that the Berkshire County Christmas Committee comes by and asks every child what they want for Christmas. I’ve known what I’ve wanted for Christmas for months now but asking for it is a risk. I could get it but chances are that I probably won’t. I don’t want to be the only child without a present to open on Christmas morning.
I quickly dress. I only have one outfit. A black, knit-like shirt, black leggings, and an clear umbrella skirt is what I’ve warn everyday for the past year. The foster home has a closet full of new and used clothes, but almost none of them fit me. I’m much smaller than the rest of my peers. I’m the size of a ten year old at the age of fourteen.
“Morning, Vera,” Mother Jane says without looking my way.
“Morning, Mother Jane,” I say taking my place at the table.
Mother Jane is not my mother nor is she Catholic. I don’t know why everyone at the foster home calls her that and I’m too afraid to ask why. I do know that Mother Jane is also a social worker to some of the kids here so that could be the reason why she gets the title of mother.
“Do you know what you’re going to ask for?” Mother Jane asks as she flips pancakes.
“Yes…maybe…I don’t know.”
“That’s a very interesting answer,” Mother Jane chuckles. She places a plate of bacon and blueberry pancakes in front of me.
“I just don’t want to ask for too much and not get a present on Christmas,” I say.
“How big is it?” Mother Jane’s brow furies.
“Not big in cost, hypothetically, but big in meaning and size,” I say.
“Knowing you, Vera Fleming, I’m sure you’ll get whatever it is,” Mother Jane says. “BREAKFAST IS READY! IF YOU SNOOZE YOU LOSE!”
I say my prayers before anyone can make it downstairs and gobble my breakfast before anyone can try to steal a piece of bacon from my plate.
The bus ride back to the foster home is a long one. The foster home is the bus’s last stop. The bus goes through the historical and vast neighborhood of Willowfield Falls for the majority of the trip. On most days, and especially during the holiday season, I don’t mind spending almost an hour of my life looking at all the beautiful, old houses but today I just want to hurry up and get back to the foster home so I can put in my wish.
As we get deeper and deeper into the community, the houses get more festive but no house in the neighborhood could ever top the Willow Estate. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some kind of law against any house being more covered in lights and merry than the house of the founder of Willowfield Falls descendants. The house has everything from a manger scene to Santa’s sleigh on top of their house. I would take a picture of it if I had such a device.
The bus stops one house behind the Willow Estate. Two boys, one tall with curly, floppy hair and the other short with straight, floppy hair, always get off here. A boy with blonde hair and a black lab is usually waiting for them at the stop but the boy is absent today. I’ve always wondered who that blonde boy was. He didn’t look like their brother and he looked old enough to be in high school. Did he go to a different high school? Was he homeschooled? A lot of Willowfield Falls families taught their children at home. Did he live in the Willow Estate house?
I shook my head at my thoughts. I would never know who that boy was, where he went to school, and where he lived. It would be a miracle alone if I ever found out what his friends names were.
I try to focus on the less spectacular houses but I can’t get that blonde boy or his friends out of my mind. Maybe one day I’ll manage to muster the courage to talk to the two boys…when I’m ninety-five. I sigh. I’m short and shy, and I’ll probably stay that way until I die.
The bus turns out of Willowfield Falls and keeps going for a few blocks before it pulls into the driveway of the foster home. All the remaining kids stand up and get ready to dismount. I stay put in my seat because I just now if I stand I’ll get trampled. After everyone else exits the bus, I stand and slowly walk down the aisle.
“Today’s the day,” My bus driver, Sam, says.
“Yes, sir,” I say stopping in front of his seat.
“I pray you get everything you want for Christmas–even if it’s a million dollars!” Sam smiles.
“A million dollars wouldn’t be so bad to have,” I mutter as I walk down the steps. I decide to watch the bus leave today instead of running inside like an impatient child. Sam closes his doors, looks towards the sky, and starts to drive out of the driveway.
“God bless Sam,” I pray under my breath. I reach to open the door of the foster home, but someone on the inside beats me to it. Our eyes meet and I gasp. The boy that stares back at me is none other than the blonde boy with the black lab.
“Sorry,” He mutters. He brushes past me hastily and knocks me down.
“Rude!” I shout. That gets his attention. He turns around on his heals and looks at me with a look of distaste.
“I said sorry, little girl,” He grumbles.
“I will have you know that I am fourteen and in the ninth grade,” I said.
“Congratulations.” The boy rolled his eyes.
“I know where you live,” I say. That wasn’t exactly the whole truth. I speculated that he lived in Willowfield Falls. I just didn’t know the address.
“How do you know anything about me? I’ve never seen or met you in my entire life!” The boy shouts.
“I ride the bus with your friends, Curly and Floppy,” I say.
“Austin and Ben?” The boy asked. I only nod.
The boy stares at me for a second and then starks off to where ever he was going.
“Jerk,” I mumble as I walk through the front door.
“There you are Vera!” Mother Jane shouts. “No one saw you come in or recalled seeing you on the bus!”
“Sorry,” I say. “I just had an encounter with one of the rudest boys I’ve ever met.”
Mother Jane looks at me and then shakes her head.
“You’re up next to make a wish,” Mother Jane says.
My heart starts to pound. Can I do this? Can I ask for what I truly want for Christmas?
“Vera Fleming!” A young girl, who couldn’t have been more than twelve, shouts. I give her a quick stare before I walk into the main office where the head of the Berkshire County Christmas Committee awaits.
Make that heads. A man and a wife sat down behind the desk Mother Jane usually spent her days. They gave me one of those fake, practiced smiles that everyone who has to deal with foster children learns. In the two years, I’ve lived here I’ve learned to spot the smile well and every time I see it something inside of me cries.
“Hello, Vera,” The woman fake smiles. “My name is Mrs. Amy Willow. My husband and I are the co-heads of the Berkshire County Christmas Committee and every year we try our best to make children’s Christmas wishes come true. We can’t make any promises, but we do promise to try to help make your Christmas special.”
I had heard this speech this last year. I had been so scared that I blurted out that I wanted a Barbie doll. I got it too. I shutter at the thought of last years flub.
“Are you cold?” Mrs. Willow asks. “Do you need a blanket? A coat?”
“I’m fine.” My voice squeaks a little.
“So what would you like for Christmas?” The man, who I guess is Mr. Willow, asks. His voice is impatient and his eyes are focused on the clock.
“A family,” I blurt in one of the firmest tones that has ever been spoken.
They both look at me with shock, surprise, and disbelief.
“Let me rephrase that,” I say. “All I want for Christmas is to be able to spend the season with a family. Even spending it with a dysfunctional Stewart family would be better than spending it here at the home. I spent last Christmas curled up in a corner wishing for Christmas to end–and never come back again.”
Mr. and Mrs. Willow’s eyes stay glued on me. I’m surprised myself at my little speech.
“I..I…,” I stutter. Drat, I’m back to old, short, shy self.
“We’ll see what we can do,” Mrs. Willow says. I bolt from the chair and burst out of the room. I run into the bathroom, lock the door, and burst into tears.
I’ve ruined my one wish.
I’ve lost my one chance to actually have a good Christmas.
I’ve just done the bravest, dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
I push my way through the crowd of teens celebrating the start of Christmas break. I of course get shoved and pushed, but I don’t say anything. I take my punishment for being short and get on the bus.
“Excited about Christmas?” Sam asks as I get on the bus.
“Yes,” I lie. The truth is, I can’t wait for Christmas to be over. All week, presents have been mounting under the tree…and none of them had my name on it. That was understandable considering I didn’t even ask for something that could be wrapped and placed under the tree. I shake my head at my foolishness. Even wishing for a Barbie doll would be better than wishing for a ‘family’ for Christmas.
The bus pulls out of the school and soon starts its journey of dropping off the Willowfield Falls kids. I try to focus on the houses and gulp to keep tears from running down my face. I can feel people’s eyes staring at me, but I chose to ignore them.
It takes everything within me not to look and see if the boy with the black lab is waiting for his friends to dismount from the bus. The enjoyment I once experienced looking for him is now all gone. He’s a weird, ignorant jerk that not’s worth my eye time.
I do sneak a look at the Willow Estate. Nothing’s changed. It’s still as beautiful, magnificent, and festive as ever. I sigh at it’s beauty and reluctantly look at the other mediocre houses.
The bus pulled out of Willowfield Falls and within minutes pulled into the foster home’s driveway. Once again, I wait for everyone else to leave before I decide to make my exit.
“Merry Christmas, Vera,” Sam says. He hands me a clear, plastic bag filled with gummy bears.
“Thank you,” I smile. “Merry Christmas.”
“And a Happy New Year,” Sam says as I walk off the bus. I turn around and start to give him a smile. I soon find myself with my arms around Sam.
“You’re a good girl, Vera. Quiet but good,” Sam says.
That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me.
I run off the bus and burst through the door with one thing on my mind. Eating the gummy bears.
“Vera!” Mother Jane shouts. I stop, sure I’ve left skid marks on the floor.
“Vera, you’re Christmas present has arrived,” Mother Jane smiles.
“What?” I ask.
“Your Christmas break family awaits in the office,” Mother Jane says.
I run into the office and stop myself just before I burst through the door. I take a moment to pat down my hair and
“You!” The blonde boy shouts.
All I can do is stare at him. Mr. and Mrs. Willow and the girl who shouted my name stare back at me. Lord, this CAN’T be my temporary family!
“You’re Vera Fleming?!” The boy shouts.
“You’re the blonde with the black lab who’s friends are Austin and Ben!” I shout.
“I see you two have already met,” Mrs. Willow says.
“Barely,” The blonde boy. “This girl stalks me.”
“I do not!” I shout. “Noticing someone who waits for his friends every day is hardly stalking! I don’t even know your name!”
“Jonathan Willow the Second,” The blonde boy grumbles.
“And this is my daughter Lizzie,” Mrs. Willow says. “And you’re coming home with us for Christmas!”
I don’t know what’s worse. No presents under the tree or spending Christmas with Jonathan Willow the Second.
Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noël. Buon Natale, andFrohe Weihnachten.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Coming Soon: Willowfield Falls-All I Want For Christmas
“All I want for Christmas is to be able to spend the season with a family. Even spending it with a dysfunctional Stewart family would be better than spending it here at the home. I spent last Christmas curled up in a corner wishing for Christmas to end–and never come back again.”
All Vera Fleming wants for Christmas is to spend it away from her foster home. When the Berkshire Christmas Committee comes to take everyone’s one wish, Vera wishes to spend it with a family. Vera gets her wish, but a damper is put on her Christmas when she learns that the family she’ll be spending Christmas with is the prestigious Willow family.
Note: Willowfield Falls does not follow the same timeline as the BCC books that take place in Florida/North Adams. All I Want For Christmas does not take place at the same time as Natalie: Part 6.
How can a person not be excited about Christmas when their name is Natalie?
My name means “born on Christmas day” but I was really born on November 25. Both my mother and my father loved Christmas just as much as I do and most of my siblings have Christmas themed names. We keep up our decorations and a gold, fake Christmas tree all year long. In my house, it’s basically Christmas every day minus the presents.
Some of you may have already read a story that I previously wrote. In that story, I chronicled a year and a half of my life. In that year and a half, I moved from Miami, Florida to Florida, Massachusetts, I discovered that my father was basically murdered, my mom got remarried and I got two older sisters, my older sister, Abby, got married, we moved to New York City, my mother faced her past and I got two more older siblings–this time a brother and a sister,I became a paraplegic, we moved back to Florida, Massachusetts, my mother had triplets, and my older sister, Jaci, got married.
It was a rather busy year and a half, and life didn’t stop moving fast just because I felt like I needed a break.
The summer I wrote that story, I met the girl who asked me to write it. Her name is Charlotte Lily King, but almost everyone calls her Charlly. She just happened to be the stepdaughter of one of Mr. Stewart’s nephews. She also just happened to be moving to Florida, Massachusetts and be a paraplegic. Charlly moved in with me and my family since there is really no other wheelchair friendly house in Florida. While I would like to write about Charlly’s move to Florida and all the craziness her life brought, that’s Charlly’s story to tell. All you need to know is that her stepdad’s name is Laz, Charlly’s biological father’s name is ‘Lou’, Charlly has a younger sister named Becca Lou, a half brother named Jacob or ‘Mini-Lou’ as she likes to call him, and a stepbrother named Matt.
Life did start to slow down a little only to get more crazy. Then the craziest of all seasons arrived. Christmas.
As you can probably guess, Christmas is a big deal in my family and this Christmas would be particularly special. It would be the first we would spend at our new home, Drury Hall, and it would also be the triplet’s first Christmas. My mother invited every one in our family to come even my grandparents, who live in England. She was determined to make this Christmas special.
But this Christmas would be special and would be remembered for different reasons than what everyone had in mind. This Christmas would prove that there was still good in the world and that miracles really do happen.
And that hope helps bind us all together.
“Natalie?” My mother asked walking into my bedroom. “Do you know where I placed the ‘Baby’s First Christmas’ ornaments?I bought three for the triplets in September and now I can’t find them.”
“I haven’t seen them,” I said without taking my eyes off the sky. The weathermen had said there was a good chance that we would get a fresh snow this weekend and I desperately wanted to go sledding.
“Did you hear a word I said?” Momma asked.
“You asked if I had seen the triplets Christmas ornaments,” I said pulling my eyes away from the window and onto my mother. “I’ve never seen them in my life.”
My mother gave a mixture between a snort and a laugh and walked towards the door.
“Steve! Have you seen Avery, Love, and Emanuel’s ornaments?”
“It feels like snow!” Charlly squealed as she rolled into my–our bedroom. Charlly had opted to room with Noel and I. The experience was…interesting. Life left like one big sleepover with Charlly living in the house.
“You’re becoming a true Floridian,” I smiled. Charlly laughed.
“I can’t believe that Christmas is less than two weeks away,” Charlly said more to the window than to me.
“Why not? It surely feels like Christmas in this household,” I said.
“It feels like Christmas, but it just isn’t,” Charlly answered.
“How is that possible?” I asked.
“I just have this feeling,” Charlly trailed off.
“What kind of feeling?” I asked.
“It’s probably nothing,” Charlly said shaking her head. “Forget I ever said anything.”
“Charlly, if something is bothering you…,” I started.
“Charlly,” Momma said interupting me, “have you seen three ‘Baby’s First Christmas’ ornaments?”
“I thought I saw the new ones on the tree this morning,” Charlly said. Momma leaned against the door post and put her hand to her head.
“Forgive me, girls,” Momma said. “Christmas always gets me out of sorts. But I still love the season!”
“Let’s go to the B&B,” Charlly said before I can bring our previous subject back up. “The boys are about to return with the Christmas tree any moment now.”
“What happened in here?” I asked as Charlly and I rolled into the restaurant. The entire room was covered with tinsel.
“This is what you get when you give a four year old a box of tinsel,” Lou said as he started to clean up the mess.
“Why does that not surprise me?” Charlly asked as she pulled some tinsel through her wheel.
“I got this mess here. Why don’t you help Donna get ready for the tree?” Lou said taking the tinsel from Charlly.
“How come you didn’t go on the tree chopping trip?” I asked Lou.
“Don’t really my kind of thing,” Lou shrugged.
“Translation: Lou is lousy with a saw,” Charlly said.
“What can I say?” Lou asked. “Give me a saw and lose your eye.”
“Ok…,” I said. I quickly rolled into the family room.
“Where’s all the tinsel?” Ms. Donna asked as she rummaged through her box of Christmas decorations.
“Strewn all over your restaurant,” Charlly answered. She sent Jacob a look.
“Here!” Lou shouted. He threw some tinsel from the restaurant into the foyer.
“Oh my goodness,” Ms. Donna said as she walked towards the restaurant.
“We’re BACK!” Mr. Drew shouted as he and the rest carried the tree into the restaurant!
“We saw some flurries on our way back,” Darcy said as he helped up the tree in the holder.
Charlly squealed and rolled to the window.
“It’s snowing!” Charlly shouted.
“Someone’s excited,” Leo laughed. Charlly smacked him and Leo smirked.
I guess I should tell you this now in the story rather than later. Leo and Virginia ‘broke’ up this summer after Charlly came to town. Leo started liking Charlly and ever since their relationship has been…complicated. Also, Virginia refuses to speak to Charlly. Virginia hasn’t spoken a word to her since August.
“You guys can go play in the snow after we finish putting up the tree,” Charlly’s mom, Mrs. Jennifer Gray-Stewart, said as she hung the first ornament on the tree.
Soon everyone was busy hanging ornaments and stringing tinsel around the tree. By the time we’re finished, the ground was covered in snow, but sadly not enough to have impromptu sledding day.
“We’ll just have to have a Marshmallow Day tomorrow,” Darcy said as Charlly and I prepared to go home.
“Tomorrow,” I promised. “We’ll go to The Hill straight after school.”
Darcy nodded and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.
“We might come for dinner,” I said. “Momma’s been a little frazzled lately.”
“Understandable with the triplets and you to take care of,” Darcy said. I shoved him just as Charlly rolled up.
“I’m not even going to ask,” Charlly said as she rolled out the door.
“Bye,” I waved as I too rolled out the door.
“I really hope it keeps snowing,” Charlly said. “I really want to sled on the legendary Hill.”
“From the looks of it, tomorrow is going to be an awesome snow day,” I said looking at the clouds.
We would never get to go to sledding on The Hill the entire winter season.
The day started off wrong.
The triplets woke up around five A.M. screaming their lungs off and waking everybody up, snow had turned into rain, I woke up with an upset stomach, Noel had slept in the panic room and refused to come out, and Charlly didn’t speak a word the entire morning.
I could tell that she could feel it too.
Something terrible was going to happen.
By the time lunch came around, I was just about a nervous wreck. I kept telling myself that nothing that bad could possibly happen, but my emotions wouldn’t listen.
I was just about ready to snap when I saw Darcy leaning against a red trashcan, waiting for me and other friends to show up for lunch. I don’t know why it bothered me so much that Darcy leaned up against that silly trashcan. All I know is on that rainy December day, it infuriated me.
“Why do you lean up against the trash?” Those were the first words out of my mouth when I rolled up to him.
“I don’t know…,” Darcy stared at me. I could tell that he was caught off guard by the question.
“It’s disgusting!” I shouted.
“What?” Darcy asked. “Natalie, where is all of this coming from? You’ve been on edge all morning.”
“I just think that its a little disgusting that you’re leaning up against a trashcan!”
“It’s not like people barfed in it!”
“You don’t know that!”
“Fine!” Darcy shouted throwing his hands up in the air. “I’ll move!”
Just seconds after Darcy stepped away from the trashcan, the trashcan exploded, sending fire and something hard onto my face.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered thehe has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty. proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him. And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high. to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.