It was only three days ‘til Christmas! The tree had been decorated and every day there were more presents under it. Autumn Rose could hardly wait for Christmas to come so she could see what was inside all those brightly wrapped packages. She was that age where you were almost done being little and just starting to be big.
This year she decided she was big enough to make Christmas presents all by herself. The only problem was Christmas was very soon, and she didn’t have any ideas. While she helped roll out cookie dough and decorate the already cooked cookies to give to the neighbors, she thought about it. She thought when she was staring at the Christmas tree during dinner. She thought when she was listening to a tape of Christmas carols. She tried not to think when Daddy was reading part of the Christmas story aloud and lighting the Advent candles; she thought some more when she was brushing her teeth before bed.
But by bedtime she hadn’t thought of any ideas and she was starting to get worried. Finally, she decided to ask her older sisters.
“Summer Lily,” she began, “do you have any ideas for me to make for Christmas presents?” Summer was six and that was two whole years older so she was sure to have some ideas.
Summer shook her head and said through her toothpaste, “Ask Prairie Grace or Savannah Mae, they are sure to know.”
Even they didn’t because everyone had already used up their own ideas. Heather Leigh was too little to even know what presents were, and Morgan was very busy in the shop—too busy to answer questions.
So Autumn Rose went to bed very sad. And she woke up very sad. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve. She decided she would ask Daddy and Mommy—after all they always seemed to have millions of ideas.
The perfect time to ask Mommy came when Daddy and the others were delivering cookies to the neighbors; Mommy, Autumn Rose, and Heather Leigh had stayed home since it was very cold outside.
“Autumn Rose, I just had the perfect idea. While lunch is cooking, let’s make a pie!” Mommy said putting Heather Leigh in her highchair nearby.
They played the Christmas carol album again, and soon they were humming happily and preparing apples together. Autumn Rose washed the apples, and Mommy peeled them while Heather Leigh looked on and smiled.
“Mommy, I have a problem,” Autumn Rose began.
“Oh? What sort of problem?” Mommy asked peeling her apple in one big, long string.
“I don’t have any Christmas presents made for anybody and tomorrow is Christmas Eve,” she replied looking very sad indeed. “Do you have any ideas?”
“Autumn, what is Christmas about?”
“Jesus and presents.”
“Yes, and which of those two things do you think is more important?”
“Jesus. But I’m supposed to make presents, aren’t I?”
“Autumn, do you know why we make presents?”
“Well,” Mommy said chopping her apple up into little pieces and putting it in the bowl, “because we want to celebrate how the wise men gave Jesus gifts and how God gave us the perfect gift—His Son Jesus.”
“So, I don’t have to make presents?”
“No, but you can if you like.”
Autumn was silent awhile watching Mommy peel and chop the last apple. What could she do to celebrate the Perfect Gift?
“Mommy, if you wanted to make something that really celebrated Jesus being born, what would you make?” Autumn Rose asked getting out the ingredients as Mommy directed her.
“Hmmm, I’ll have to think about that. You know, you should ask Daddy, he always has good ideas,” Mommy said with a smile.
When the pie was finally put together it looked so beautiful, and Autumn Rose helped Mommy cut hearts out in the top of the crust before they put it in the oven. When it had begun to cook it smelled like sugar and cinnamon, so Daddy and the others came home to a house that smelled exactly the way Christmas should.
“Lunch is ready, whenever you are,” Mommy told Daddy as she met him in the mudroom and helped Summer Lily take off her coat.
As usual Autumn Rose was very surprised at how much the big kids could eat, and even more surprising was how they could have room afterward for pie.
“Autumn Rose helped me make this,” Mommy told everyone as she cut the golden brown pie.
“It looks so good!” Morgan exclaimed, and Prairie Grace said, “Good job, Autumn!”
That made Autumn smile and feel shy, but she soon forgot that and began to eat the pie crust Mommy had put on a plate for her.
“Did you have a good time delivering cookies?” Mommy asked when everyone had been served.
“Yes, we did,” Daddy replied. “Savannah Mae, why don’t you tell Mommy about what happened to you.”
Savannah nodded and finished chewing her bite of pie. She was twelve, and very proper. “It was my turn to present the cookies at the house at the corner, Mrs. Cumberton’s house, you know, and I was feeling really scared. I rang the doorbell several times, and she didn’t answer so I thought she wasn’t home. I was turned around to leave when the door opened so loudly I almost jumped out of my skin it startled me so badly.” Everyone started laughing a little when she said this. She went on, “It turns out she had company so she didn’t notice the doorbell, but she was very nice and thanked us for the cookies and tract. She even gave us apple cider.”
Morgan smiled at the memory of the cider and dove deeper into his piece of pie.
After lunch Autumn Rose waited for a time to talk to Daddy. He was very busy so this was very hard to do. Finally, he decided to get the mail and asked if she wanted to go with him. She put on her mittens and bundled herself up in her favorite pink coat and snow boots.
As they trudged through the snow together, she finally decided to ask her question. “Daddy, if you wanted to make a present that celebrated Jesus being born, what would you make?”
Daddy didn’t talk for a while but then he said, “I think I would draw a picture of baby Jesus in the manger.”
Autumn thought about this a little and looked around at the snowflakes falling down around her. “I can’t draw very well.”
“The point of a gift is the love behind it,” Daddy said speaking in a big way but she understood.
When they had returned to the house, Autumn Rose collected the supplies she used for preschool and shut herself in the kitchen with Mommy. “And nobody else come in,” she declared, “please!”
It took her quite a while, but finally she had finished every single present and triumphantly carried them out into the living room to arrange them under the tree.
That night the family snuggled together in front of the fireplace and listened to Daddy read the next part of the Christmas story. The lights on the Christmas tree cast a beautiful golden light on the family, and the room was warm and cozy. Heather Leigh even fell asleep on Mommy, but it had been many Christmas times since Autumn Rose had done that. Still, she did feel sleepy.
Christmas Eve seemed to be the longest day in the world. It was so close to Christmas, but so far away too. They were kept busy though with getting Christmas dinner ready for when Grandma and Grandpa came the next day. There was, of course, pie, and Autumn was again the special helper on that job.
Daddy was very busy with his sermon, but he peeped into the kitchen once in a while to chat with his busy, happy family all working there.
Finally it was again bedtime and Autumn Rose hung her stocking in the row with the others, right between Summer’s and Heather’s. It looked nice there hanging empty and very red in that long, happy row; she remembered it still when she snuggled into bed. She was wearing her special nightgown from last Christmas, but even this didn’t help her sleep for what seemed a long while.
And then the sun was shining on the snow that was heaped up like the mashed potatoes they would eat later. The girls scrambled down the stairs, the older ones helping the younger ones so that they could go faster. And the stockings! They were even prettier this morning than last night! They were still very red, but not so very empty; and Autumn could see candy canes peeping out at her.
Daddy, Mommy, Morgan, and Heather soon joined them and the squealing and the laughter and the thanks went on and on. The tree was seen to next, and Autumn looked with shining eyes at her stack of presents. Savannah and Prairie had teamed up to make her doll clothes, and Morgan had made a pair of shoes! Her gift from Summer was a pretty little doll shawl, and Daddy and Mommy gave her a new picture book with beautiful pictures that made her want to stare at them whether or not it was Christmas. She also received a new dress sewn by Mommy. Grandma and Grandpa sent a little music box.
“Autumn,” Mommy said causing her to look up. They were opening the presents she had made. Very flat presents they were, but beautiful with the hearts drawn all over the envelopes.
Each person’s picture was almost the same—a picture of baby Jesus in the manger and everyone looking at Him. And each picture had the words “the best gift” penciled on it to remind them all the Perfect Gift was Who they were really celebrating.
“Thank you, Autumn,” they all said, and she felt very happy indeed.
Breakfast was very good, but they were all so excited for lunch that no one really thought about it much. After that, Grandma and Grandpa came and a whirlwind of wonderful things happened before it was time to go to church.
Daddy stood up front (reminding Autumn very much of her stocking because he was wearing a bright red sweater) and led them in prayer. Then he told them the Christmas story again, and they sang several more Christmas carols.
“Daddy,” Autumn Rose said slipping her mittened hand into his big one as they walked out of the church and to the van.
“Yes?” he said looking at her with a smile.
“That was a very good Christmas,” she said looking up at the twinkling stars.
“Yes, and we remembered again the Perfect Gift, didn’t we?”
She nodded and smiled.