A Christmas Song


“What’s the matter?” Phebe asked.

“Just thinking,” Sadie answered.

“About Christmas?”

“Yes,” Sadie sighed. “This morning I was all excited about the day but now it doesn’t seem like Christmas with Papa plowing, Mama milking, and us working in here just like any other day. Shouldn’t we do a little more than what Mama has planned to celebrate this Christmas?”

“Well, you know what Mama said.”

“I know. There’s too much work, not enough extra anything, so no gifts, and we’ll have a small Christmas dinner. Just an ordinary day,” Sadie repeated mechanically. “But this is our very first Christmas in the Salt Lake Valley—maybe the very first time anyone has celebrated Christmas here! It seems as though it should be special.”

Phebe lifted the black cooking kettle out of the big pot. “Then let’s make it special!”

“Sure, but how?” Sadie asked sadly.

Before Phebe could answer someone walked past the cabin whistling, “Come, Come Ye Saints.” Suddenly Sadie’s face beamed. “I have an idea,” she said and jumped up and ran to the window. “Where’s Abigail?”

“Out getting wood, why?” Phebe asked.

“To make sure this Christmas will be special!”

Phebe laughed. “And how are you going to make it special?”

“Not me, we! Let’s get Abigail!”

“But Mama said to start the bread before she got back from milking.”

“I’ll get it started while you help Abigail. Now hurry!” Sadie grabbed the kettle as Phebe shrugged her shoulders and threw on her shawl.

“This better be good,” Phebe said as she disappeared through the door.

Soon she was back carrying an armload of wood, with Abigail tagging along behind. They dumped the wood by the fireplace and turned to Sadie.

“Now what?” Phebe asked.

“Sit down and I’ll tell you. Do you remember what made the trip across the plains easier?” she asked.

“The oxen,” Phebe laughed.

“Now, be serious,” Sadie said. Then she continued, “Remember those terrible dust storms, and the times when we stumbled through buffalo tracks with the sun burning down on us? Remember how we’d all want to just give up, and then what would always pull us through?”

“Someone would start singing Brother Clayton’s hymn,” answered Abigail, whose puzzled face showed she didn’t understand what these questions had to do with Christmas.

“Right!” said Sadie excitedly. “Through the whole chain of wagons you could hear ‘Come, Come Ye Saints’ ringing out over the empty prairie.”

“What does that have to do with Christmas?” asked Phebe, just as puzzled as her little sister.

“Well if ‘Come, Come Ye Saints’ could make those hard times seem almost good, a song could surely make this Christmas special,” Sadie replied.

“What song?” her sisters asked together.

“Our song!” Sadie could hardly contain her excitement. “We’ll compose our own Christmas song and sing it for Mama and Papa after dinner tonight.” Sadie held her breath as she waited for their response.

Abigail and Phebe looked at each other, then back to their sister, their eyes brightening. “So far this has been just another Saturday, not like other Christmases,” Phebe said. “Let’s try it!”

“All right,” Abigail agreed.

Just then the door opened and Mama lugged the heavy milkpail into the cabin. “Girls, your father wants you to unhitch the oxen for him. He had to go help the Carters.”

“Right now?” Abigail asked.

“Come on,” Sadie whispered. “We can compose out there.”

Hurriedly the three girls put on their shawls and left.

“What should our song be about?” Abigail asked when they were outside.

Sadie’s eyes were far away in thought. “It has to be a song about Christmas and love.”

“Well, like Mama says, all we have this Christmas is love.”

“Then we’ll call it ‘Christmas Love.’”

“I have an idea too,” Abigail almost shouted. “We could sing our song and then tell the story of Jesus.”

Phebe’s eyes sparkled as she said, “I never thought I’d be excited about a song for the first Christmas in our new home, but I am!”

“Come on,” Sadie called as she started running. “Let’s get the oxen unhitched and put in the barn.”

After the oxen were bedded down and fed, the girls worked on their song in the barn. They worked quickly so Mama wouldn’t miss them and Papa wouldn’t find them still there.

That night when the family gathered around the table, the girls were hardly able to sit still as they ate their dinner.

“I told you this wild turkey I shot would make it Christmas,” Papa said with a smile.

“Turkey isn’t all there is to Christmas,” Abigail said laughingly.

“Then what’s causing all the excitement?”

“It’s Christmas!” they all shouted at once.

“You didn’t seem to think it was so exciting when we all had to work today,” Mama said, her eyes twinkling.

“I guess we finally caught the spirit of Christmas,” Sadie answered.

Mama wrinkled her forehead, but she didn’t ask any questions. “Let’s get these dishes —” she began, but before she could finish, Abigail, Phebe, and Sadie were busy clearing off the table.

“What about pudding?” Papa protested.

“Let’s have it later,” Sadie suggested.

“What’s going on?” Mama asked. “All through dinner you girls have been acting like bottled thunder.”

“I think it’s about to be uncorked,” their father answered with a wry smile on his face.

“We have a surprise!” Abigail could no longer keep the secret. “A Christmas surprise just for you!”

A smile replaced the tired lines in their mother’s face. “Well, what is it?” she asked.

“Something to make Christmas special. Please sit down,” Sadie instructed. “We started out with just a song, but now we have a whole program.”

Slowly the three girls began to sing their song, “Christmas Love.” When they finished singing, Abigail and Phebe went on humming while Sadie told the Christmas story.

“Once an angel visited a woman named Mary and told her that she would be the mother of Jesus. The angel also visited Joseph who was to be her husband and told him the wonderful news.

“They had to go to Bethlehem to pay taxes and while they were there the baby was born in a manger. It was such a beautiful and important event that even the angels seemed to sing.

“There were some shepherds who heard the angels and they were so excited they traveled through the night to see the little Christ Child.

“Later a star guided some wise men who went to visit Jesus. All of this was a part of the very first Christmas, a Christmas of love.”

When Sadie finished the story, the girls began to softly sing the song again.

“Christ was born in a lowly stable

But a stable filled with love. …”

Then Phebe said, “And this is a Christmas of love. We have a new, safe home and we have the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“And a Christmas song from our very own daughters,” Papa said, as he dished up the pudding.

“This is the best Christmas I can remember,” Mama said, her eyes misty.

Mama is pleased, Sadie thought, and a warm, tingly feeling tickled her spine.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch