Mary walked the mall, listening to Christmas carols as she enjoyed the festive decorations.,“June, isn't this cool? Oh, check out that sweater sale over there. What a good deal! Let's go look.”
“There are an awful lot of people in there. Are you sure? I’m getting kinda tired.” June said. , hoping she was just about ready to go home.
“No, come on, let's go. Just one more store.” Mary walked faster. She could feel her heart racing. She had come for good deals, and this might be the best one, yet.
There were only two sweaters left on the ten-dollar table. Mary pushed through the crowd.As an older woman reached for one. quickly, Mary snatched it away. The woman drew back her hands in surprise. She turned away, not saying a word as Mary hugged the prized sweater to her chest.
“Mary!” said June. ”You just grabbed that sweater right out of that lady’s hand! What's the matter with you?”
“Oh, come on, June. She probably didn't need it anyway. Let's go, before the checkout line gets any longer."
Mary followed June home, as they’d planned to spend their last night together, before Mary headed back to California to spend Christmas with her parents.
Late that night, Mary sat forward on the edge of the couch. “June, did you say something?”
“No, why are you asking?”
Uneasy, Mary settled back onto the cushion. Then she heard the voice again, and this time, it raised the hair on the back of her neck. “Did you hear that!”
“I don’t hear a thing. What is it?”
“A teenage male’s voice. Are you sure you can’t hear it?”
June laughed. “No, and don't you go crazy on me. There’s no one here, but us.”
Mary heard the voice again. It couldn’t be her imagination. She went outside, thinking someone might be calling her name at the window. Sure enough, she saw a boy who looked to be about eighteen.
“Mary, you came!” His eyes lit up in recognition as the chilly wind tousled his blond hair
“Who—who are you?”
“I am John. Follow me, Mary. Don't worry, you will be safe, I promise. Follow me.” John took her by the hand, and she didn't understand why she needed to follow him, only that her instinct told her this was the right thing to do
“Mary, tonight I am going to take everything away from you. Everything material. You will just have the clothes on your back. You won't know anyone where you are going. They won't be able to see you, but you will be able to see them. Trust me.”
Surprisingly, Mary didn’t feel afraid. Why is that? Normally, I’d be terrified, she thought. John took her to a house with a family who had little money, but Mary could somehow feel that their love for each other ran deep and sincere. They laughed and played board games. One of the children was very sick, and lay in bed.
“What is wrong with her?” Mary asked.
John’s voice grew soft and solemn. “She has cancer that has spread through her entire body. Tonight, she will be going home to God.”
“No, that can't be . She is so young.” Mary gripped John’s arm. “Why are they laughing, if she is going to die?”
“Her family loves her. They want her to have a joyous death. They are celebrating that she is going home to be with Jesus. But that is not why I wanted you to come, Mary. You will know my purpose, in a minute.” John’s expression grew wise.
Just then, the door opened, and an older woman came in. Mary could not believe her eyes. The older woman from the store stood before her.
“ I’m sorry, honey. I tried to get the sweater that she wanted, but I guess the girl who got it needed it more than we did. I was able to get a few groceries, though, so maybe it was for the best.” She seemed reconciled with the fact that she couldn’t get the sweater for the little girl who was dying.
Mary could not believe her ears. The sweater she’d grabbed out of the woman’s hand should belong to the dying little girl. The excitement of Christmas shopping meant nothing to her, now. All she wanted was for that little girl to have the warmth of the sweater. How could she have been so selfish?
“You knew this all along, didn't you? Why couldn't you just tell me, John? Why did you make me see this!” Mary sobbed.
“Because, Mary. You were losing the true meaning of Christmas. You were forgetting that it is a time to see how we can bring Jesus to the world through our actions and love, so that on Christmas morning we can truly sing that Jesus Christ is born.” Mary saw the love in John’s eyes.
“Wow. My actions today were so greedy. I wanted to be first to get the sweater, and I never thought about others, at all. I am so sorry. What can I do?”
“Listen to your heart, Mary. Go to Jesus with your question. You will know what to do. John gazed at her lovingly, and then, before she could blink her eyes, he was gone.
“Who was he?” She asked the empty air. She walked back to June’s house, praying all the way. She wondered what John had meant when he talked about her material belongings.
“Boy, am I glad you’re back!” Jill said, greeting her at the door with a dumbstruck look on her face. “A truck came from the Cancer Society, and they said you’d told them to take all your clothes and possessions, except the new sweater you’d bought. I thought it was a mistake, at first, until they mentioned the sweater. I know you’d have had to tell them that, personally, since you just bought it. The man said you had a special place for the sweater. What was that all about, Mary?”
Mary’s mouth fell open, but then she was overcome with laughter.She had never felt this good in her life! “Yes, I do have a special place for that sweater” Jesus had just answered her prayer about what she should do. She also realized John must have phoned the Cancer Society. That is where her things went. That is, if angels used phones. He was an angel, wasn’t he? Mary wasn’t sure.
She wrapped the sweater in a package and put a gift card on it saying, “Merry Christmas, from Jesus.” She’d never felt such happiness in giving a gift, but she knew this one wasn’t just from her, but was also from Jesus. Mary knew that she would remember this Christmas forever.