MERRY CHRISTMAS! I hope all of you have a wonderful day, remembering Jesus’ birth as you spend time with friends and family. In honor of the day, here’s a short Christmas story. Enjoy!
Home for the Holidays
Hannah Madison dashed outside, shrugging into her coat as she raced across the cul-de-sac. Her feet crunched on the freshly fallen snow, and her breath came quickly from excitement as she skidded to a stop in front of a house and knocked rapidly on the door.
A woman opened the door with a smile. “Hi, Hannah. Kara’s in the kitchen.”
“Thanks, Aunt Jean.” Hannah hurried to the kitchen, where she found her cousin Kara placing groceries in the cupboards. “Kara!”
“Hey!” Kara said, looking over her shoulder with a smile. “What’s up?”
“Have you checked your messages?” Hannah asked.
Kara frowned a little. “Not since I went to the store. Why?”
“Check them again!” Hannah exclaimed.
“Okay, okay,” Kara said, laughing. Pulling her phone out of her pocket, she went to her messages. After a few seconds, her mouth fell open and she looked up in surprise. “Seriously?”
“Yes!” Hannah gave a squeal of excitement. Glancing over her shoulder, she lowered her voice. “Let’s go outside.”
Kara nodded. Stepping outside, she and Hannah raced to the bench swing in the backyard and collapsed onto it.
“Let’s read it again!” Hannah giggled as she opened her own messages and selected one. Kara looked over her arm as they read together.
“Hey, girls! Looks like I’m going to be home for Christmas this year. A couple of other guys and I are being shipped back for leave. I should be home on Christmas Eve. I’m flying into Memphis at 2 PM; maybe one of you could pick me up. Oh, and let’s see if we can keep this a secret from everyone else. It’ll be fun to surprise them on Christmas Day. Can’t wait to see y’all! Love, Sean.”
“I can’t believe it,” Kara breathed. “How long has it been since his last leave?”
“About five months,” Hannah answered. “He doesn’t like leaving unless he has to, you know. Mom’s going to be so excited! How are we ever going to keep this a secret? I don’t see how we can get to the airport without anyone knowing, much less hide him for a whole day.”
“We’ll figure something out,” Kara assured her. “Maybe we can put him in a hotel?”
“There’s no way you and I can afford that. And besides, the poor guy will have had a long trip. We can’t just drop him off somewhere.”
“Hmm…” The girls thought in silence for a moment. Suddenly, Kara’s eyes widened. “The basement!” she exclaimed.
Hannah looked at her in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“You remember how we used to have sleepovers in your basement? There was a nice little hideaway that was just right to sleep in. We can put Sean down there, and no one will ever guess. It would be perfect!”
Hannah giggled excitedly. “That’s a wonderful idea! Mom and the kids have a church program that afternoon, so we can easily smuggle him into the house.” She grinned. “This is going to be great!”
Hannah scanned the airport monitor nervously. “Rats,” she muttered. “Looks like Sean’s plane is a little late.”
“It’s okay,” Kara said. “We’ll still have time. He’s only about twenty minutes late.”
“Yeah.” Hannah exhaled slowly. “I just really want to be able to surprise everyone.”
“And we will,” Kara assured her. “Trust me; it’ll be fine.”
The two loitered around the baggage claim area, periodically scanning the crowds of new arrivals. Finally, Hannah bounced on her toes and squealed excitedly. “There he is!” she exclaimed.
She and Kara hurried forward. A young man was walking towards them, and they met in the middle. Hannah threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. “I’m so glad you’re home!”
“So am I,” Sean answered with a grin. “It’s so good to see both of you. Sorry I’m late.”
“That’s okay,” Kara told him. “We’ll still be able to get you inside without anyone knowing. Do you have any bags?”
“Just these,” Sean answered, holding up two small duffel bags. “Let’s go.”
“Okay,” Hannah muttered, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel of her car. “Mom’s already home. This is going to be harder than we thought.”
“We can still get Sean in; we just have to be careful,” Kara said.
“Right.” Hannah stepped out of the car, closing the door quietly. “Stay down, Sean.”
The three crept towards the house. Squeals from the backyard assured them that the younger kids were outside as Hannah quietly opened the door. “Okay, go, go, go!”
“I’m supposed to be on leave from the army, Hannah,” Sean joked. Hannah made a face at him.
“Hannah? Is that you?”
Hannah gasped and pushed Sean back out the door. “Hey, Mom! Yeah, I’m home.”
“Where did you go?” her mom asked, coming down the hall. “Is Kara with you?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Hannah answered, nonchalantly shutting the door. “We had to pick up something for Christmas.”
Her mom laughed and rolled her eyes. “What have I told you about last-minute Christmas shopping?”
“It had to be picked up today,” Hannah explained. “Special delivery, you could say.”
“Ooh.” Her mom wiggled her eyebrows. “I hope it’s for me.” She retreated back down the hall as Hannah and Kara sighed in relief.
“That was close,” Kara whispered.
Hannah nodded and cracked the door. “Coast is clear,” she whispered, and Sean snuck inside. “Kara and I already fixed up the basement for you. You should have everything you need.”
“Thanks.” Sean smiled at the girls. “This is going to be fun. See you in the morning!”
That night, the Madison family sat in the living room as Hannah’s dad read the Christmas story. Then, over cups of apple cider, they chatted about their hopes for the following morning.
“It doesn’t look like you’ve added anything to the presents, Hannah,” her mom teased. “What happened to that special delivery?”
Hannah gave her mom an innocent smile. “It’s there. Everything I have for y’all is under that tree.”
Her mom laughed. “If you say so.”
Hannah smiled to herself. This is going to be the best surprise in the world.
Early Christmas morning before anyone else was awake, Hannah woke up and snuck out of her room. Waking Sean, she brought him into the living room, then hurried to rouse the rest of the family. The younger kids rushed into the room, followed by their parents, but they all halted when they saw Sean. Their mom gasped and clapped her hand over mouth as tears welled in her eyes.
“Hey, everyone,” Sean said, standing up with a smile. “Merry Christmas!”
The family rushed forward, all trying to hug him at once. Hannah stood to the side, laughing happily at her family’s excitement.
“But how did you get here?” their mom asked.
“I conspired with Hannah and Kara,” Sean answered. “I flew in yesterday, and they hid me in the basement. The tree’s standing right over my hiding place, actually.”
“Like I said,” Hannah said with a laugh, “everything I had for you was under the tree.”
Their mom laughed. “It’s the best present ever!”