Sara slipped into the long, soft, blue robe that she was to wear in the Christmas program. Pulling the matching hood over her brown curls, she turned to Jennie. “Do I look like Mary now?”
Jennie grinned. “You sure do, except for your size. It won’t matter, though, because Joseph is only eight too.”
Sara giggled at Jennie’s joke, then sobered. “I really wanted to be Mary in the program, but now that it’s time, I’m kind of scared.”
Jennie reached out to straighten the folds on Sara’s robe. “You’ll do just fine. Everything went well at rehearsal this morning.”
Sara’s stomach gave a little lurch when she heard the organ begin playing “Silent Night.” That was her cue to go on stage.
Sister Perkins came over and smiled at both girls. Looking at Sara, she said, “The curtains will be opening soon. It’s time for you to take your place.”
Sara hurried to her spot and sat down on a bale of straw. Eric, who was playing Joseph, was already there beside the manger. As Sara bent to arrange the blankets around the doll representing Baby Jesus, she heard the music change and the gentle strains of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” swell.
The curtains slowly opened on the quiet scene. A single spotlight highlighted Mary and Joseph admiring the Baby Jesus. Neither Mary nor Joseph had to say anything. Brother Egger stood out of sight with a microphone and told about the events of Jesus’ birth as they were silently portrayed on stage. The organ played softly while he spoke: “And it came to pass in those days, …”
Sara was distracted by something moving just below the stage. She moved her eyes carefully, trying not to turn her head and spoil the scene. There, climbing the stairs to the stage was her four-year-old sister, Katie.
Sara’s heart sank as Katie came toward her. What shall I do? she wondered. Why isn’t Katie sitting with Mom and Dad? Sara sneaked a peek at her parents. Her mother wore a stricken, helpless look. Sara felt Katie brush against her knees as she bent to look into the manger. Katie’s going to ruin the Christmas program! Why did she have to do this?
Sara was startled out of her thoughts by Katie’s awed “Oh! He’s beautiful!”
As Katie continued to just stand and intently watch the doll in the manger, Sara swallowed and felt calm. There was something about the spell around Katie that Sara couldn’t bring herself to break. I think the best thing to do is just let her stay, Sara decided. She’s being quiet.
So Sara reached out and slipped her arm around her sister’s shoulder and nestled Katie next to her on the bale of straw. Katie relaxed against Sara, still gazing lovingly at the Baby Jesus.
Katie sat watching quietly as the shepherds came. The organist played “The First Noel,” and Brother Egger read from the Bible about the shepherds coming to see Jesus. Even after the shepherds had left and the Wise Men had entered, Katie leaned against Sara, enraptured.
Katie really loves Baby Jesus, Sara thought. I don’t blame her for wanting to get close and see better. She gave Katie a little squeeze. I’m really glad now that she came.
When the curtains closed, Sara gently whispered into Katie’s ear, “It’s time for the next scene, so you must go back to Mommy and Daddy.”
Katie looked at her sister. “OK.” She started to leave, then paused and turned. “Thanks, Sara. I liked looking at Baby Jesus with you.”
Sara smiled. “I’m glad.” She led Katie to the side stage door. “Now go back to Mom.”
After the program the students looked through the crowd for their families. Just as Sara found her parents, she overheard an elderly man speaking to her mother. “I’m so glad I came. Because of your girls, I caught a glimpse of the Savior tonight that I’d never seen before. Thanks.”
Nobody at home said anything about Katie’s unexpected appearance in the program until Mother tucked Sara into bed. “I didn’t want to say anything in front of Katie,” Mother said, “but I’m really sorry she barged in on your program. She’d slipped off Dad’s lap, and by the time we realized what she was doing, she was up in front, and it was too late to stop her.” Mother sat down beside Sara on her bed. “I hope it didn’t ruin things for you.”
“No. It was fine, Mother.” Sara squeezed her mother’s hand.
“I really admire the way you handled it,” Mother continued. “It’s hard to know what to do at times like that. What you did was beautiful. Usually people giggle when something unplanned happens, but people got especially quiet after Katie said how beautiful the baby was.”
“At first I was really worried,” Sara admitted. “I didn’t know what to do. Then I realized that the real Mary would have wanted her sister, as well as shepherds and Wise Men, to see her baby. Anyway, there was something special about Katie tonight. It was as though she really understood about Baby Jesus somehow.”
“You’re right, Sara.” Mother’s voice was soft. “Several people came up to me afterward and said the same thing. Even though Katie’s part in the program wasn’t planned, I think it touched people’s hearts. I think a lot of people will never forget tonight’s program.”
Sara settled back on her pillow. “I’m glad.”
Mother bent to kiss Sara. “I think you’re really special too. You taught us older folks a lot in the kind way you treated your sister. I’m sure Jesus was pleased with how you represented His mother tonight.”