(Photo by Tony Ross on Unsplash)
It’s Christmas Eve, but Merriam feels all alone. The warm feelings of comfort and joy she usually feels during Christmas are far from her grasp. When circumstances turn even worse, how will she be able to trust that God is working things out for her good?
Merriam sipped the steaming hot cocoa, letting the warmth and sweetness fill her chilled body.
Laughter rang through the night as she trudged through the snow with her group of friends on a neighborhood street, taking in the lovely Christmas lights adorning the houses.
Olivia slowed down to talk with Merriam, a glow of joy shining in her crystal blue eyes.
“It’s beautiful here, isn’t it?”
Merriam avoided eye contact, as sadness washed over her. “It’s-it’s lovely.”
It was a wonder they hadn’t plowed the snow off this road by now. Couldn’t they give a girl peace of mind on the anniversary of her father’s death? As snow crept into her boots, Merriam wrapped her scarf tighter around her neck.
Olivia was breathing heavily beside her, the cold air a visible cloud as she exhaled. “What’s the matter, Merry? It’s Christmas Eve—we’re supposed to be happy. Please, just tell me what’s on your mind.”
Merriam forced back tears. “Nothing, Liv.”
Trent hollered back over his shoulder, “You two all right?”
Olivia smiled. “It’s all good. You guys can go on ahead—we’re gonna hang back for a while.”
Merriam gritted her teeth, just wanting Olivia to leave her alone.
Trent and the rest of the group kept on, while Olivia urged Merriam to sit down on a nearby bench.
“Please, Merry, you’ve been sulking all evening. You can’t keep things away from me. Me and the rest of us aren’t spending Christmas with our families either, so we understand. I’m… I’m here for you, and they are too.”
After a pause, Merriam reluctantly sank down to the bench beside Olivia. “It was last Christmas… I don’t know if you remember.”
Olivia’s hands flew to her face. “Oh, it’s about your father! That’s right, that happened around Christmas time.” She surrounded Merriam into a loving embrace. “I’m so sorry.”
The tears fell from Merriam’s eyes as she released the aching gloom she’d borne on her shoulders ever since Black Friday.
She’d tried to forget about him as the year went by, but it was impossible now. Memories flooded Merriam as she wept on Olivia’s shoulder, her tears freezing in the cold frosty air. Her father had always placed the star on top of the tree, in such a precise way that he often had to fix it whenever the cat started messing with the ornaments. He and Mom would kiss under the mistletoe like new lovers. And she couldn’t forget how he’d worn the Santa hat at the church holiday parties, letting the little kids sit on his lap to tell him what they wanted for Christmas.
Olivia gave a sympathetic sound. “I didn’t realize… and this happening right after your breakup with Drew must be even harder for you!”
The mention of Drew further crushed Merriam’s spirit. He had been a jerk, no doubt about it. And she had broken up with him herself. But she still missed that bit of goodness within him—that kind, gentlemanly manner about him, and his joyous brown eyes. If only he loved Jesus as much as she did. If only God had worked it out between them somehow.
“You’ll be all right,” Olivia said softly.
The words brought no comfort to Merriam. How would she ever be all right? How could God possibly fix her shattered heart?
“Come on now, let’s catch up with the others,” Olivia said gently.
Merriam squeezed her eyes shut, trying to keep the tears from escaping. “I don’t think I can handle it right now. I’m going home. You go on ahead with them, Liv.”
Olivia looked hesitantly at her. “Are you sure?”
“All right then. Good night, Merry. And Merry Christmas! We’re meeting at my house at ten tomorrow morning. I’ll be praying for you.”
Merriam watched Olivia trudge off through the snow to her group of friends.
Merriam couldn’t imagine what kind of help God could give her. Gazing up at the sky, she whispered, “Can You bring my father back?”
As snowflakes fell into her eyes, she blinked them away, shaking her head glumly. God didn’t do things like that. Can You give me a new boyfriend that has a heart for You, like Dad?
She laughed silently to herself. That wasn’t happening either. Well, what can You do?
A cold wind cut through her coat as Merriam noticed carolers singing joyfully “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” to nearby houses: “…good tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, good tidings of comfort and joy.”
She frowned. She didn’t feel either comfortable or joyful.
Taking another sip of hot cocoa, Merriam turned and began trudging homeward through the snow, glad at least that she lived only a few blocks away.
Suddenly, she looked up to see a truck plowing the snow off the street and coming close to her, so she rushed over to the sidewalk to make room for it. In her haste, she stepped on a slab of ice, sliding and falling flat on her face into the thick snow covering the sidewalk, her cup of hot cocoa flying out of her hand. She uttered a cry of pain and lay still for awhile, feeling lifeless and not wanting to move. When she did try to move, a wave of fear came over her. Her body was numb from the cold, and her fingers frozen.
She imagined icicles sticking out of her body and grew more afraid. Dear Jesus, please help me! I’m sorry for scorning You. I’ve been so terribly wrong. I shouldn’t blame You for all that’s happened to me. I need to trust in You. Help me to do that. And please get me out of this-this c-cold!
“Are you all right?”
The male voice was hoarse in the crisp air.
Merriam tried to move a little in the snow. But she couldn’t see anything. She felt blind and paralyzed.
Suddenly, the man was pulling her up from the snow and carrying her in his arms.
She tried to open her eyes but they were frozen shut, so she just clung onto the man and drew in his warmth, even as her body trembled.
“I’m taking you to my house to warm you up. It’s not too far off now. Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you.”
His voice was gentle yet firm, somehow assuring her that he meant what he said.
When they arrived at the man’s house, he dusted the snow off her and laid her down on some cushions, wrapping warm blankets around her.
In the warmth of the house, Merriam was now able to blink open her eyes and look up at her rescuer.
The man sucked in his breath when they met eyes.
Merriam whispered shakily, “Are-are you Jesus?”
The man narrowed his eyes, but then laughed. “No, I’m Anthony. Jesus is going to be born tomorrow. It’s Christmas Eve, you know.” His expression was filled with confusion. “Why were you out in the cold?”
“I-I fell.” Merriam felt color burning in her cheeks, as her brain started clearing up. She couldn’t be in this strange man’s house—especially not tonight. “I’m sorry to ruin your Christmas Eve. I better be going. My house isn’t too far off.”
Anthony shrugged. “I’m not having much of a Christmas. I go to the university here and my family is back in California.”
“I go there, too… and I… I chose not to celebrate with my family this year.”
Not with Dad gone. She couldn’t bear it without Dad.
Merriam rushed to change the subject: “Oh, I should be thanking you! You probably saved my life.”
“Probably.” Anthony grinned, making Merriam laugh unexpectedly. She hadn’t laughed aloud all Christmas season.
The man went back to another room for a moment. “Thank you for this answer to my prayer, Jesus!” she heard him whisper loudly in amazement, as metal clinked against metal and he poured some liquid substance into a container.
Before Merry could figure out what he was talking about, he reappeared with some chicken noodle soup.
“Here: eat up. This will really warm you.”
“Thank you again. I wish I could repay you, but—”
“—don’t think of it.” Kindness lit his handsome features. “I would never have seen you there if God hadn’t told me to walk along that street and look at Christmas lights for a few moments. And I… I’ve been praying for an opportunity to help someone.”
The idea seemed absurd to her. “What do you mean?”
Keeping his eyes on Merriam, the man sat down on a cushioned chair. “I feel like I get too comfortable with my life and get so self-centered sometimes. There’s so many people out there who need help. Often I’m not willing to help even one person, but Jesus helped all people by coming to earth to reconcile us to God.”
As Merriam noticed the passion in Anthony’s voice, she pondered his words in her heart. It was baffling that her despicable situation in the snow had been an answer to his prayers. She’d heard that God brought blessings out of pain, but she never had witnessed it with her own eyes. Could He do the same with the grief she held up for her father?
She sipped the soup, letting its warmth fill her insides.
“What was your name again?” she asked quietly.
“Anthony. And yours?”
“Merriam, but most people call me Merry.”
Anthony grinned again, the creases in his cheeks lighting up Merriam’s heart. “Well, Merry, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.”
She chuckled. “I hope you do too, Anthony.”
Merriam was filled with wonder, as he helped her to her feet and led her to his car. So, her icy condition had been the answer to this man’s prayers. Was he God’s answer to her prayers?
She didn’t know, but as the young man drove her home, Merriam at last felt comfort and joy revive her weary soul, melting the frozen walls around her heart.