The Sunday before Christmas Sam woke up angry. In fact, he’d gone to sleep angry the night before. Now that he was nine, he reckoned he didn’t need to write silly letters to Santa Claus. No, like a sensible person he had simply asked his parents for what he wanted, namely, the new United home strip, the one his even his pal Jimmy didn’t have yet. He knew it was a bit pricey, but after all, it was Christmas. His mum hadn’t promised it, but she hadn’t said no either, so he thought he was in with a good chance. But that was weeks ago, and although he had peeked every into the cupboard where they always hid the presents, there was no sign of the strip. All sorts of other presents for other members of the family but definitely no strip, and now Christmas was only two days away. Only two days! He’d begun to accept that they’d decided on some other stupid thing instead. So, he was angry.
And it didn’t help that he’d got to go to church for the family service where he was supposed to act the part of of Melchior, a wise man. “I bring you gold for a king,” he thought, wondering not for the first time what use gold would have been to a baby. The cat was sitting at the top of the stairs, so he gave it a week kick, which made him feel better. During breakfast the dog was under the table, so he kicked it just to be fair to the cat. After breakfast his wee brother aged three wanted him to play, so he gave him a secret kick as well, and he started to howl.
Still angry, he left the house to walk to the church, noticing that Gemma Smith aged 5 from up the street, her with the sweet smile and the beautiful singing voice, which always annoyed him, she was standing, greeting on the pavement. Somehow that made him feel good, and ignoring her, he marched to the church. He noted with satisfaction that Gemma failed to arrive to sing her solo.
Once he had knelt before baby Jesus and said his line, he took his place just to the right of the crib, which meant that as everyone was singing Away in a Manger, he was able to give the holy crib a good nudge with his right foot. Immediately after, he felt a sharp tap-tap at his ankle, and looking down, saw that the baby Jesus was holding up his hand towards him. As he hesitated, the baby nodded, and he grasped the baby’s hand with his own.
Afterwards he would have liked to be able to describe what happened next. It was like a journey, yes, but a journey through nothing, through no space and no time, so that immediately he was in another place, a bit like a huge garden in the middle of which was a wooden bench, on which was seated the baby Jesus, looking remarkably, well, remarkably in charge of everything.
”Hello, Sam,” said the baby Jesus.
”Where am I, please?” asked Sam, feeling a little scared as well as daft to be talking with a baby.
”Beyond the universe,” the baby Jesus replied, “You can see if you look down.”
He did look down then at the millions of galaxies with their billions of suns and their trillions of planets, spinning in dazzling light for ever and ever and ever. In an instant he panicked and turned to run, but quicker than a thought a creature with wings picked him up, and placed him safely on a soft surface. The baby Jesus laughed, “Don’t be afraid, you’re on my hand.” Sam looked and it was true. The baby’s hand was larger than he was. Somehow he was still able to be angry.
”I’m not staying here!” He shouted, kicking the hand, and jumping over what seemed to be a wall. He ran like the wind for minutes, then stopped to look, and saw that he was not pursued. Ahead of him was a mighty mountain. If he got over that to the other side, he’d safe from that baby and his hand. Oh the climb was hard, rough rocks, tangled heather, steep ridges, terrible cliffs, but at last he gained the summit, and was able to take his time descending the other side. He’d done it.
”Well done, Sam” the baby Jesus said.
Sam saw that he was back on the baby’s hand. “The mountain,” he gasped, “What happened to the mountain?”
”In all that time,” the baby told him, “and with all that effort, you have climbed from one wrinkle in my hand to the next.”
Sam knew that the baby was speaking the truth. He was silent.
”I want to tell you two things,” baby Jesus said.
“Firstly, the creatures you sometimes think are small and unimportant are bigger and more important than you can imagine.
”Secondly, all gifts are good gifts.
Do you agree?”
”Yes,” said Sam, “I’m sorry about the kicking.”
”We all get angry sometimes,” the baby Jesus said smiling. “See you in church.”
Again he journeyed through a dark nothing, and came to, suddenly awake, in his own bed. It had been a dream, he realised.
He was careful to stroke the cat, pat the dog, play with his wee brother, before leaving for church. But there, standing greeting on the pavement was Gemma Smith.
”What’s wrong, Gemma?” he asked, laying an awkward hand on her arm.
”I fell and twisted my ankle, and I can’t walk properly and I’ll never get to church to do my solo!”
”If I kneel down,” Sam said, “You can climb on, and I’ll give you a piggy back to the church. Can you manage?”
He felt a bit daft in front of his mates, arriving with a wee lassie on his back, but he wasn’t too bothered. When he knelt before the crib with his gift of gold he remembered his adventure, and maybe so did the baby Jesus, who gave him a big wink.
”What are you hoping to get for Christmas?” the minister asked him as he prepared to carry Gemma back home.
“The new United strip,” he said confidently, “but all gifts are good gifts.”