“I hate Santa Claus!” I exclaimed, glaring at the jolly old elf painted on a mall window.
Mom looked at me with raised eyebrows. “You certainly have the Christmas spirit,” she said.
I hurried with her to the car, trying to find the words to explain how I felt. “It’s just that I’m sick of Santa and Rudolph and Frosty and all that,” I said, as I put my shopping bags in the trunk. “I mean, aren’t we supposed to be celebrating the birth of the Savior?”
“I agree. Christmas is getting too commercialized,” Mom said.
We drove past the town hall. A poster told people to bring their Sub for Santa goods in. “And that’s another thing,” I blurted. “I hate the way people feel a tug of guilt on their heart strings at Christmas time and donate all their old stuff to charity. Why can’t people be generous all year long? As if they’re fooling anyone.”
Mom smiled. “Christmas is a good time to start.”
But I didn’t care what she had to say. Before long I was mad at everyone, and by the time we pulled into our driveway I had made up my mind that I wasn’t going to act any different just because it was Christmas. I wasn’t going to be hypocritical like the rest of the world. And as for the Savior’s birth, I’d just celebrate that in April.
After dinner we cleared the table and sat down to do homework. “Hey, help me with this algebra problem,” my brother Tom said.
“I’ve got homework to do,” I snapped.
“C’mon, it’s Christmas,” he pleaded. Boy, was that the wrong thing to say. I told him I didn’t care if it was Christmas. “Ask someone who has time,” I said.
“How about someone who needs blessings because she’s acting like the Grinch.”
“All right!” Mom’s stern voice cut in. “That’s enough you guys. I’ll help you Tom. Your sister’s carrying a grudge against Christmas this year.”
“I think her shoes are too tight, or her head’s not screwed on just right, or maybe her heart is two sizes too small,” Tom said as my mom dragged him to the other side of the table.
It was hard to concentrate on my homework because the ugliness inside me was growing. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling worse instead of better. After all, I wasn’t being a Christmas hypocrite, pretending to be jolly when people the world over were starving and suffering.
Just then the doorbell rang. Mom looked at me then quietly walked to the door. Her surprised gasp brought the rest of the family to her side, including me.
There stood our home teachers dressed as shepherds. They waited until everyone had gathered around, probably waiting for some of the shock to dissolve too. “We’re on our way to Bethlehem, and we thought we’d stop by and tell you what’s happened. You see, we were watching over our flocks when suddenly an angel appeared to us. At first we were terribly afraid, but the angel said, ‘Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord’” (Luke 2:10–11).
There was something about the simplicity and sincerity of their message that got to me. My lip started quivering and I quickly bit it to keep it under control. I didn’t hear any more. I was too busy remembering how awful I’d been, all because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. Tom was right. I had been the worst kind of Grinch, griping about how horrible everyone is, when I wasn’t willing to change myself for the better. At least the people I complained about were generous and kind part of the year. I certainly wasn’t.
“We’re going to see this miracle which has come to pass,” one of the shepherds said. With that they disappeared into the night, leaving us stunned into silence, meditating on their wonderful message.
Then it hit me. They were going to share this marvelous event with others, to help them feel the true spirit of Christmas.
I wiped my eyes and cleared my throat. “I’ve got some Christmas messages of my own to deliver,” I said. “I’ll start with you.” Turning to Mom I gave her the biggest hug I could manage. “I’m sorry for all I put you through. I know I can be a real pain sometimes.”
Mom smiled. “I guess part of being a mother is learning to take a lot of frustration.”
I looked at Tom who was grinning triumphantly.
“Probably the hardest thing I have to do is apologize to you, Tom,” I began. “But if I didn’t, you wouldn’t believe me when I tell you that my heart has really grown tonight.” He shrugged his shoulders and brushed past me. I noticed the reddening of his ears, a sure sign he was embarrassed.
I followed him to the kitchen table and sat down. “Tom,” I asked, “can I help you with your algebra?”