Carrie settled down on the floor in front of a display case full of Christmas jewelry. She waved to her big brother, and he grinned. He was standing on the risers with other members of the children’s choir waiting to begin their Christmas concert at the mall. She thought he looked very handsome in his choir uniform. The boys in the choir were all dressed alike in white shirts with red-striped ties. The girls all wore blue dresses with lacy white collars and a red rose. They looked very dressed-up.
Carrie thought back to earlier in the day, when the choir had given a concert in a local church. The church had very tall stained-glass windows that reflected a softly-colored rainbow of light across the children’s faces as they sang. Their beautiful voices rose to the high rafters of the church. Mom had said that they sounded just like angels. Like the angels that announced the birth of Jesus Christ to the shepherds long ago, Carrie hoped.
Now the choir was giving the same concert at the shopping mall, but things felt different here. Carrie looked around. She was impatient for the concert to begin, but not if it was going to be this noisy. A nearby cash register was making loud beeps as a store clerk rang up sales. There was a person in a teddy-bear costume entertaining some giggling children. People were talking loudly around a large Christmas tree decorated with gifts that could be bought at the different stores in the mall.
Finally the concert began. A boy in the choir stepped forward and began to sing a solo with a violin accompaniment. When Carrie had heard this song in the church, it made her feel joyful. At the church, everyone had listened quietly. She had even noticed tears in the eyes of some of those in the audience. As she looked around the shopping mall now, few people were listening. Most were busy shopping or chatting or eating. She didn’t see reverent tears in anyone’s eyes.
When the concert was over, she was sad that hardly anyone had really listened to the beautiful music. Taking her mother’s hand, she walked out of the mall to meet her brother.
“Did the shepherds listen to the angels, Mom?” she asked. “Or were they too busy tending the sheep?”
Mom smiled. “They listened, Carrie. That’s how they knew where to find Baby Jesus.”
“Did the angels sing for anyone besides the shepherds?”
“I don’t know. The scriptures don’t tell us about anyone else.”
“What about all the people staying near the stable? You told me that there were so many people in Bethlehem that there wasn’t any room in the inns for Mary and Joseph.”
“The city was very crowded that night. But I suppose those people were too tired to listen to angels after their long journey to Bethlehem. Or maybe they were busy finding a place to sleep, preparing food, or thinking about the taxes they’d have to pay.”
Carrie thought about that for a few minutes, then sighed. “Mom, I hope that no matter what I’m doing, I’ll always be able to hear the angels sing.”
“Me, too.” Mom gave Carrie a hug. “Me, too.”