From the Children’s Friend, December 1952 –
Marie and the Christmas Story
By Winn Alford
The members of the Redcliff Junior Red Cross were having a stormy meeting. The classroom sizzled and sputtered with angry words. Marie Conn, the cause of the trouble, stretched her long legs under her desk waiting for her classmates to quiet down. Marie was new to Redcliffe but she was using her old method of getting what she wanted. It wasn’t making her popular.
“I’m sure Daddy would be sorry if I didn’t play the part of Mary in the Christmas story.” Marie knew that her father would let them have his storeroom if she was in the play or not. Jennie and the rest of the children didn’t know that.”
“You’re so tall, Marie,” protested Jennie. “I’ve never seen a picture with Mary a head taller than Joseph.”
“I’ll sit down all the time,” said Marie, agreeably.
“You can’t. This isn’t a tableau. You’ll have to move around,” said Jennie.
The rest of the children grumbled at Marie having the part. “You play the part, Jennie, and we will have it here in the classroom,” said Dennis, who was taking the part of Joseph.
“It isn’t big enough. After all, we are putting on the story to get money for the Children’s Hospital. The more tickets we can swell, the more money we will make.”
Dennis frowned at Marie, who was carefully balancing a ruler on the tip of her finger. “Well, if we have to,” he said. “I still think Jennie should play the part.”
“I don’t want it for myself,” said Jennie, trying to prevent more quarreling. “I love the Christmas story. I don’t want it to look silly.”
Marie stood up. “It won’t look silly. Daddy let me pick out the material. It’s a lovely shade of blue and it’s going to be made just like Mary’s dress in the picture in the art store window.”
They stopped arguing. Marie couldn’t be talked into changing her mind.
“I’ll get a pair of stilts,” Dennis said gloomily. “You’ll look like a beanpole draped from head to toe in blue.”
Marie was satisfied now she had what she wanted. The effect on the Christmas story didn’t worry her. After all, it was just a part in a play. But she didn’t like it when the children paired off and left her alone. She wanted to be friends with Jennie and the other children.
On her way home, Marie stopped to look at the picture. It was of Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. Mary’s face was beautiful. Joseph’s face was tender. All Marie saw was the blue of Mary’s costume, the sandals on her feet.
The winter after school hours were spent in rehearsing. After two weeks, Jennie was ready to drop the whole thing. They started quietly enough, but quarrels popped up like corn tossed into a fire.
“Will we give up the play or have Miss Stoner direct you?” asked Jennie. ‘You aren’t doing a thing for me.”
“We don’t want a teacher,” said Marie, knowing that the dramatic coach’s first act would be to put Jennie in as Mary. “We want to do it by ourselves.”
“You mean you want to do it by yourself,” Jennie flashed back. “You want to crowd everybody off the stage. You want to outshine the star!”
“I only suggested that you have the Wise Men cut their speeches. They are long and preachy.” Marie thought she was defending herself. At the looks of amazement on the children’s faces, she knew that once again she had said the wrong thing.
“You take a lot on yourself, Marie, criticizing the Christmas story. Have you heard the story of Jesus’ birthday?”
Marie tossed her head impatiently. “Of course. Everybody knows that the Babe was born in a manger in Bethlehem on Christmas Day. That Mary is his mother.”
“You know the story, Marie, but it doesn’t mean a thing to you in your heart. That is why you are spoiling it with your silly ideas,” said Jennie sadly. “We’ll try again on Monday. If that ends in quarrels we will have to think of some other way to earn money.”
Marie hated the thought of giving up the Christmas story. That evening she hunted out her Bible. Perhaps if she knew it as well as Jenny did, the rehearsals might go better.
She tried to read it quickly, skimming over the pages as she did her story books. Marie found the Bible wasn’t to be read in a weekend, then to be put back on the shelf to be forgotten. It had to be ready carefully. She read it slowly, and thought about the story and its meaning.
Jennie was right. it wasn’t just any old story. It was a story that brought comfort to people. A story that would keep on giving comfort. A story that mustn’t be laughed at.
Monday, before rehearsal, Marie found Jennie alone for a few minutes. “Jennie,” she began slowly, for it was hard giving up something she still wanted so much, “Jennie, I’ve been thinking. I am too tall for the part of Mary. Will you change with me?”
Jennie’s small face gleamed with pleasure, then sobered. “You won’t try to change the script, will you, Marie?”
“Not one word,” promised Marie. She felt a thrill of happiness as Jennie linked her arm through hers as they walked toward the classroom.
The cast, with Marie urging them on instead of quarreling with them, worked hard. As she watched the dress rehearsal, Marie knew they were all wholeheartedly living their parts. Even Smoky, the little donkey they had borrowed, seemed to know he was re-enacting a great role. He walked sedately across the stage, carrying the small, blue-clad Jennie on his back.
Marie was late leaving after the dress rehearsal but she took time to go past the Art store. She loved the picture now. She loved Mary’s sweet face and Joseph’s tender look. The picture wasn’t in the window.
Marie had felt it so much hers that the chance of anyone else wanting it hadn’t entered her head. She turned slowly homeward. She was going to miss that picture very much.
Christmas Eve was clear and cold. The stars seemed to shine brighter than ever. The large storeroom was crowded with relations and friends of the children.
A burst of applause greeted Jennie and Dennis when they appeared. Marie gave a silent little prayer of thanks that she wasn’t out there in Jennie’s place, towering head and shoulders above Dennis.
The play ended with the children singing “Silent Night, Holy Night.” Everybody joined in and the music filled the room and overflowed into the clear, frosty air of the street.
Then Jennie led Marie out onto the stage.
“Marie directed the play,” she told the audience. “We want her to know how much we liked working for her. Merry Christmas, Marie, from us all,” said Jennie. She handed Marie a square parcel. The sound of clapping almost drowned out Jennie’s last words. “We hope you will like the picture as well on your bedroom wall as you did in the store window.”
Marie smiled her thanks. She stood hugging her picture and the knowledge that the children had bought it because they liked her. Deeper still was the wonderful certainty that Someone – Someone she had come to know recently – liked her, too.