The Christmas Star…Part I

December 23, 2016


As Christmas rapidly approaches, you, my friends, are difference makers…you who teach, who lead, who love, who parent, who reach out and into lives, who encourage strangers, who embrace loved ones…You, who shine the Light of God’s love…Although, you may not be aware of this, You are a difference maker.


The Christmas Star

 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. Matthew 2:10

In the darkness came the Light; they followed the Christmas Star.
It led them to the Child of Hope, the wise men from afar.
Oh Star of Hope, please shine on me, Your Light from Heaven above…
Oh Christmas Star, please lead the way, to find your peace and love. 

The Christmas Star

 The clock on the wall seemed to stand still as Sarah tried to focus on the instructions, but her excitement interfered with the familiar voice of her favorite teacher.  Finally, she could hear the count-down as the students in the class across the hall began their daily ritual, “Five, four, three, two, one”, and then the shrill ring of the bell ending school the day.   No one in Sarah’s class dared to move until they were dismissed.

Sarah heard Mrs. Beacher’s final sentence, “Class, this assignment is due next Friday before we leave for the holidays. Make sure that you plan accordingly, and please do not wait until the last minute.  You are dismissed!”

The scrambling of the chairs began immediately following the teacher’s final words. Sarah found herself trying to remember what assignment was due?  She briefly entertained the thought of going to Mrs. Beacher’s desk to ask for some more detailed explanation of the homework, but decided to worry about it later.  She would call her best friend over the weekend and ask for clarification.  She was just too excited to concentrate and could not bear the thought of spending any more time than necessary in the classroom. And truthfully, she did not want to admit that she had not been listening.  She should be at her locker by now gathering her textbooks for the weekend and she should be outside waiting on her mother’s car.  Her parents had promised that this evening would be a family night and they would decorate the bare Christmas tree that had been standing in their living room for the last week.

Sarah pushed her way through the crowded hallway and opened her locker and quickly gathered her books and notebooks and shoved them into her back-pack.  The zipper stretched as she forced the contents into place and slipped the strap across her shoulder.  She hoped that one of her gifts would be a new pack-back like her best friend Emily’s. She exited the front door of the school building and ran down the stairs and the walkway to the curb where her mother would be waiting by now.  As she leaned past the line of students, she saw her mother’s light blue car parked against the curb.  She ran down the sidewalk past several cars and waved as she hopped into her mother’s car, hoping that her mom might be able to pull out and bypass some of the wait.

Her mother laughed as Sarah settled into the car for the ride home. Sarah anticipated her mother’s question, “Well, how was your day?”  Sarah knew that she was expected to first report the academic outcome of the day, homework assignments, and then if time allowed, she could report the ‘social news of the day.’ Most of the time, their conversation never made it that far.  And today, she rushed through the first two reports, being cautious about the new long-term assignment since she really had no idea what it was.  Then instead of telling her mother about the argument between some of the older girls at lunch and the detention that followed their behavior, she began to talk about the event she had looked forward to all week.

Sarah raced into the house and unloaded her books at her desk, convinced that she would have time later in her weekend for the homework assignments.  Her mother reluctantly agreed to let her procrastinate and invited Sarah into the kitchen for the molasses cookies she had pulled from the oven before leaving to pick up her daughter from school.  Mrs. Harper adored her only child and always loved their time together.  It was hard to imagine that her little curly headed daughter was growing into a beautiful young woman.  Could it be possible that she had only three years left with her before she chose a college and moved away?  She quickly dismissed the thought as it brought a tightening in her throat… “What would she do when Sarah left?” she almost said out loud.

Sarah was thrilled that her mother had thought to make her favorite cookies.  After all, this was a very special occasion.  She could not remember the last time that she and her parents had celebrated a family night.  Not since the argument…Sarah tried not to think about the night that had changed her life and the life of her parents.  She recalled that she had been in her room working on homework when they had come in from a late night dinner with some of her father’s clients.  She did not know what happened, but she heard her parent’s voices grow from casual conversation to loud and hysterical yelling and screaming.  Horrified she turned off her bedroom light and crawled into her bed, seeking the only refuge she knew.  The screaming intensified until doors slammed and something was hurled against a wall and shattered leaving an eerie silence.  Then she heard the sobs of her mother.  And the heavy footsteps of her father…and then silence again.  Sarah had been terrified to move and she found herself cowering under her pillows trying to make the angry voices stop.  But the silence was almost more frightening.  Unable to move, she had cried herself to sleep.

The next morning, life was different.  Something dark and sad hovered over their home.  She had awakened to silence and dressed quietly in her bedroom.  She saw her mother slip from the guest bedroom, making her way to the kitchen to prepare Sarah’s breakfast before driving her to school.  She never saw her mother go back into what had been her parent’s bed room; instead, it became her father’s room.

And now, Sarah sat in her kitchen, hopeful that tonight would be different.  They were going to decorate the Christmas tree, just like they did when she was a little girl.  Her memories were so wonderful.  Her mother would make cookies, and her father would set up the tree and place the twinkle lights on the branches.  She giggled at the recollection of his precision, as he insisted that all lights must be equally distributed.  Then she and her mother would place the ornaments on the tree and reminisce about each one.  Her favorite ornaments had been the ones that she had made as a little girl.  When they finished the task, her father would place the star at the top of the tree.  Then, they all three would step back to admire their work as her father switched the lights on.  Each year, Sarah thought that there could not be a tree more beautiful than theirs in the entire world.

Her father came home as he had promised, promptly at 6:00p.m.  They ate dinner in the dining room, as they had done in years past, using the Christmas dishes which had been Sarah’s grandmother’s favorite ones.  She loved the way the table looked; her mother had taken great care to replicate the traditions.  Her father ate in silence.

Sarah decided to share the news about the girls’ fight at school, hoping to lighten the mood.  “You would not believe what some of the sophomore girls did at lunch today!   A group of them would not let a new girl sit at their table.  Then another table of girls started arguing with them and calling them rude.  Then the new girl started to cry and by now the monitor came over and gave them all detention except for the new girl. Can you believe how mean people can be?  That poor girl, if I were her, I would not come back to school, ever!”

Sarah’s mother began to gather the empty dishes. “Sarah, did you try to befriend this new girl?

She thought for a moment before answering her mother, “No, but I should have.  Maybe next week I can invite her to sit with me at lunch.” Sarah’s father agreed.

The table was cleared and the little family decided that it was time for the tree decorating!  Sarah could not believe that they were actually going to do this together.  She had been afraid to imagine these moments for fear that they would not happen.  And here they were! She began to imagine that they were a real, happy, family as her father began the ritual of placing the lights on the tree.  She laughed at how funny her father looked as he practically measured each space between the lights, making sure to fill in all the gaps.  Her mother even found humor in the process and giggled at the sight of her husband’s hair catching in the branches of the tree, causing his hair to stick up.  Sarah drank in the vision of her parents, and her Christmas tree, daring to think that perhaps everything would be okay.

Sarah’s dream ended abruptly as a disagreement broke out between her parents, gentle and controlled at first, but within minutes, anger erupted and tempers flared as the lights were yanked from the tree and thrown on the floor.  Ornaments toppled to the floor as the box was dropped or perhaps thrown down.  Sarah could not bear what was transpiring in her home, in her heart.  She darted from the living room, leaving her parents in their anger and ran to her bedroom and slammed the door.  She lost herself in her sobs and her tears.  Her heart felt as if it would break into pieces…she crawled under her sheets, pulling them over her head, pulling the pillow close to her heart to keep it from pounding out of her chest…

She had not planned on having so much time for her homework that weekend.  What she thought would be a jolly happy time, had morphed itself into a silent and morbid Saturday…then Sunday.  She had called her friend Emily to get the homework assignment for Mrs. Beacher’s class.

Emily read Sarah the instructions: “Write a poem reflecting your thoughts of Christmas and your favorite Christmas item.”

Sarah was silent.   “Hello, hello, Sarah, are you there?”

She almost forgot to speak, “Yes, Emily, I’m here…just thinking about the assignment.”

Emily complained, “Gosh Sarah, I just hate writing poetry.  It just doesn’t seem to matter and Mrs. Beacher is so into it.”

“Emily,” Sarah began, “Poetry can really speak from the heart.  I think Mrs. Beacher is a great teacher.  I’ll see you on Monday.”

“Sarah, you okay?” Emily asked, but Sarah just said good- bye and ended the call.   No, she was not okay.  Nothing was okay anymore.

Sarah thought about the writing assignment, about Mrs. Beacher, about her dreams, about her reality.  She loved sitting in Mrs. Beacher’s class.  There, she could lose herself in the lessons and read stories about people and places…She loved to read about the lives of the writers, the novelists, the poets. Emily Dickinson had become one of her favorites.  Sarah often thought about her words,“Not knowing when the dawn will come, I will open every door.” She loved the poetry unit and now Mrs. Beacher had given them an assignment.  “Write a poem about my thoughts of Christmas and my favorite Christmas item”…..Sarah’s eyes filled with tears as she thought of her Christmas tree in her living room with its mostly bare branches, and the decorations strewn on the floor, and the beautiful silver star now laying on the floor in the corner….She cried for herself, for her parents, for her Christmas…

Sarah sat for hours in her room, at her desk for awhile, then on her bed.  She thought about her parents.  She knew beyond a doubt that they adored her; they loved her.  They had worked so hard to give her the home they had.  Her mother sewed beautiful clothes for her and worked at her part-time job to help provide the extras.  She knew that she was their world, and perhaps she thought, that was part of the problem.  She was surprised that she found no fault in them because she believed that they were doing the best that they could do or that they knew how to do.  But, that did not change the pain in her heart and the sadness that she felt each time she heard the deafening silence in her home; she felt the pain each time she walked by her Christmas tree.

She walked back to her desk and sat down.  Hadn’t Mrs. Beacher said that out of pain, some of the greatest literary works were created? Even though she knew that she was not great, she was hurting.  She was in pain; her heart ached and burned.  She had always loved the Christmas story…about the sweet baby Jesus…and the star that had led the magi to the Christmas miracle.  She took her paper and her pen and began to write:

In the darkness came the Light; they followed the Christmas Star.

It led them to the Child of Hope, the wise men from afar.

Oh Star of Hope, please shine on me, Your Light from Heaven above…

Oh Christmas Star, please lead the way, to find your peace and love.


She finished her thoughts and set her pen down.  Her thoughts about Christmas…a time of hope….her Christmas star lay on the floor…Her tears emptied onto the paper…onto her words….