This is the fictional sequel to “The Gift of Christmas.”
This is definitely the place for an interrogation. I look up into the warmth of the crackling, florescent lights beating down like menacing rays from a hovering, intergalactic space ship. Couldn’t hide anything in here if I wanted.
Waiting is the worst. I realize my heels are tapping the floor and immediately stop. Then start. I need to distract myself. I push up from the gray metal folding chair.
Nine tall windows line the front wall. I counted. My hands gravitate to my pockets as I walk to the left, to the largest of the oversized glass panes covered with opened white blinds. The principal’s perch, we call it. Currently it reveals a parade of students leaving the building this late afternoon.
This was my second chance. I got it all wrong the first time. My assignment?—Interview and write an article about a person I know. I turned in a paper interviewing Jesus. My teacher said it was superficial, poorly written, and with a person I couldn’t know. I admit it was a last-minute, really bad effort on my part, but I’d protested that I did know Jesus! Just when I thought I’d flunked the paper, she threw me a lifeline: “Get a Christmas interview with Jesus and we’ll see how you fare.” Almost her exact words. Maybe she said it because it was Christmas, or maybe she didn’t think I could. But, I did. Though no one believes me. I walk around the room full of oak, imagining how different it would be if they did.
Dad is a weekend woodworker, so I notice that the dark oak bookshelves intersect with the high ceilings. I run my finger across a line of books with titles I don’t understand. Nothing about Jesus or Christmas. A Native American rug covers the oaken floors and student artwork dots the walls. Family pictures face outward atop what could be an heirloom desk. If it weren’t for the white stucco walls and the horror stories that come from behind the door I’m currently behind, it might feel cozy. Might. Not my first trip here, but never under these circumstances.
I walk to the door to try and listen. Abruptly, it opens, almost smashing my face. I jump back to see my teacher, Miss Hazelnut, followed by my Dad, followed by the principal, Mr. Strong. Oh boy. The whole herd.
Suddenly the large room closes around me. Miss Hazelnut says I should sit in front of the desk Mr. Strong now looms behind. Dad is next to me and she is adjacent to Mr. Strong.
I sit down, facing all those smiling picture frame faces, not knowing what to expect. Dad frowns, but pats my shoulder. A good sign, I guess. He has a manila envelope and a white paper sack. I smell food.
“Matthew, I hated to keep you waiting.” Mr. Strong seems larger than usual. “But some of us had to read the so-called interview you wrote, which, while intriguing, is rather perplexing.”
I simply nod.
“What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I’m glad you found it intriguing.”
“Matthew, you’re in a lot of trouble. I hope you’re taking this seriously.” He wears the same stern look when putting my friend Joey Romano in detention about once a week. I sort of gulp.
“I don’t know what to say, Mr. Strong. I did exactly what I said I’d do. Exactly what I was asked.”
“So you’re sticking to your story that Jesus told you this?”
“Yes sir. He did.”
“Well, it’s a good interview, I’ll give you that. I was rather taken by it even though it can’t possibly be true.”
“Why sir?” Okay, maybe I shouldn’t ask, but . . . “Why can’t it be true?”
“Matthew, even if it were true, why would Jesus come to you?” His tone falls between sarcasm and ‘don’t backtalk’ me. “Why wouldn’t he go to some renowned preacher or teacher?”
“Well, He said He came to keep me honest. So I could keep my word to Miss Hazelnut. About interviewing Him.”
“Really? You do find it odd, don’t you?”
“I did until He explained it. Then it made perfect sense.”
Mr. Strong looks at Miss Hazelnut. She rises, but sits back down. “Matthew, I didn’t tell you to interview Jesus, that would’ve been a global stretch. Your original assignment was to interview a known person in your life or the community, letting us learn details about the person’s personal life.”
“I know, Miss Hazelnut, but you gave me a second chance, a Christmas interview with Jesus. And besides, He is a known person in my life. I talk to him several times a day.”
She purses her lips. “And He replies to you?”
“No, hardly ever. Not with words anyway. But sometimes I feel His presence and other times I just know He’s with me.”
She turns her pouty mouth toward the principal. “I’ve never known Jesus to give a press conference. Have you Mr. Strong?”
Mr. Strong taps some papers together, ignoring her sarcasm. “What about you, Mr. Davies? Do you believe what your son wrote is true?”
“I believe my son, sir. He doesn’t lie. He may have gotten some mixed messages, but clearly that paper sounds like someone who had some kind of a talk with Jesus.”
Miss Hazelnut chimes in, “Mr. Davies, while this is probably the most well-written paper to come across my desk in years, it’s not authentic. It’s fiction! Who has talks like this with Jesus today? I mean, who ever had talks with Jesus? And, the clarity of the sentences and the word choices are dumbfounding.” Her voice stirs with emotion before calmly stating, “I think it could be plagiarized.”
“You think Matthew stole the interview?” Dad has a death grip on the edge of the chair.
“Mr. Davies, Matthew is twelve. He’s in seventh grade. There may be a senior who could write this, but this is college or graduate level material. Maybe even higher.”
Mr. Strong looks over at me. “Matthew, sit on the sofa in the outside office and I’ll call you back in shortly.”
I rise to go, but turn. “I wrote every word of that paper. The views weren’t mine, but believe it or not, I interviewed Jesus.” And then I leave to silence.
From this outer sanctum, I can’t hear anything inside. I walk to the hall and see my friend Tommy standing by the water fountain. He walks over.
“Why’re you hanging around old man Strong’s pod?” He’s shifting the books in the book bag on his back.
“Miss Hazelnut thinks I plagiarized an assignment so I’m in a bit of trouble.” I look around the mostly empty hall.
“Has he seen you yet?”
“He’s in with my Dad now.”
Tommy glares at me. “You’re not in a bit of trouble, pal! You’re in a lot of trouble. What’d you write?”
“I interviewed Jesus.”
Tommy grabs his chest, starts laughing, and stops two guys who just stepped out of the library. “Matthew here thinks he’s in a bit of trouble because he interviewed Jesus.”
The tall guy walks up to me. “Hey, I know you. I was in class when Miss Hazelnut called you a liar for saying you’d interviewed Jesus.”
“She never called me a liar.”
“She didn’t believe you and neither do I!” He hits my shoulder with the palm of his hand.
“I don’t care what you believe. I know what happened.” My voice is an octave higher.
“Is Jesus speaking to you now?” He taunts me. “Jesus speaker!” He points at me laughing. “Who you going to hear from next, God Almighty?” Mr. Strong comes rushing out of his office.
“What is all this noise? Matthew you’re supposed to be on the sofa. The other three of you, get going before I give you detention.”
They take off fast. Tommy looks back and shrugs.
Mr. Strong guides me by my shoulder. “Aren’t you in enough trouble, Matthew? Trying to make it worse for yourself?” I head to the uncomfortable sofa, but Mr. Strong says, “Back in my office. We’re ready for you.”
Dad turns as I enter. He looks like he did when I gave my brother Jeffy a mud bath four summers ago.
“Matthew,” Miss Hazelnut sits on the front edge of her seat, “if you wrote this piece, tell me, I understand your premise of how God created the galaxy–I disagree, but I understand–but what is this about Jesus and God ‘riding intergalactic flows?’ And it’s floes, with an e, by the way, not flow, with a w.”
“Oh, sorry. I just wrote what I heard.”
“Why is that in here, Matthew? I’m not familiar with the Bible, particularly, but I’ve never heard this story before.”
“I know! Me either. I thought it sounded really, really cool and that’s why I included it.”
“The point, Matthew, is where did the information even come from?”
“From Jesus. Everything came from Jesus.”
“So, he told you he and his Dad traveled around on intergalactic floes, even though he could probably traverse the entire galaxy in the blink of an eye?”
I look at my scruffy brown shoes. “Yes, ma’am. He said they had a lot of fun.”
Her sigh is pure disgust. “Mr. Strong, see why I’m so upset? This is some sort of forgery or religious promotion by Matthew and perhaps others.”
My dad leans forward. “See here, Miss Hazelnut. I understand you may not believe this paper. It’s difficult to understand how Matthew could write something so profound, but I know he didn’t copy this. From anywhere! And no one worked on it with him.” He looks at me, pleading. “Fess up now if this isn’t one-hundred percent your project, son.”
Everything seems to stop. I look at Miss Hazelnut and Mr. Strong, their expressions so stern, absolute in their belief. I turn away and look my dad square in the eyes. “Dad, I swear, I wrote that paper, and I wrote it all by myself.”
“I believe you did, Matt. Good job.”
“So, that settles it for you, Mr. Davies?” Miss Hazelnut’s voice actually cracks.
Dad kind of wiggles his eyebrows up and down and says, “What would satisfy it for you?”
“There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to consider that. In the meantime, Matthew will receive an F on the assignment. He’s clearly broken a code of conduct!” She sucks in significant amounts of air. “Mr. Strong?”
The tall wiry principal, unlike his name, has glasses shoved atop a wild mane of brown and white hair. “Yes, yes, most possibly,” he says. “Consider the truth of this, Matthew. I’ll reduce the punishment for the truth. Plagiarism is a serious ethics charge.” Expectation fills his eyes for a few brief seconds as he watches me. “Perhaps we should meet again.”
I nod and look down. Dad rises, but doesn’t reach to shake hands. He offers the white bag to Miss Hazelnut. “I stopped and bought us some scones on the way. Perhaps the two of you will enjoy them while you talk.”
“That isn’t necessary,” she says.
Dad ignores her and nudges me in front of him. I rise and we turn to leave. “Mr. Strong,” Dad nods toward the Principal, “I agree that we should meet again.”
Silence rests on us like a morning fog as we head to the car. It’s hard not to feel sorry for myself. Jesus’ visit is probably the greatest thing that’ll ever happen to me, but I can’t prove it. The only person who can is as near as my breath, but might as well be on Pluto. I should’ve come clean with dad the night I saw Him. But, he wouldn’t have believed me. I sigh. Jesus, I could use some help here.
As soon as our seat belts snap in the car, Dad says, “Matthew, there are many ways to be in touch with Jesus. I’d like to know how it happened?”
Jesus, I start praying, give me something Dad will believe. Please! I know Dad thinks I’m stalling and I guess I am. “Dad, me and Jesus have a . . .”
“Jesus and I,” he corrects me. “Matthew, how did you write that remarkable paper when you use seventh grade grammar?”
“Dad, Jesus and I have a special relationship. I asked him questions and He helped me write what He wanted me to hear.”
“And He told you how He and the Father created the universe and that heaven is outside of time?”
“Yes sir. How else would I know?”
“I don’t know Matthew. It’s hard to grasp. As Miss Hazelnut stated, Jesus doesn’t generally give press conferences.”
That night I prayed about what to do, and my biggest fear. “Lord, an F would give
me a C in the class and I guess I deserve that. I didn’t do things right the first time, and only got a second chance because of Miss Hazelnut. But, what If Mr. Strong expels me because he thinks I plagiarized my paper? Please help me, Jesus?”
I don’t know why I do this, but I reach for my computer lying against my bed. Sitting up, I open it and squint as the dark room floods with light. Hope Mom or Dad don’t come in. I Google Jesus pictures and browse through tons of brown haired, mostly white, anxious looking or meditating Jesus’s.
Nothing looks like the real Jesus—relaxed, handsome, and with a beautiful smile. He wasn’t
fretting about the world, He was just with me. I eliminate all the posed and serene photographs and choose a picture of Baby Jesus. That’s what Christmas is about anyway. One by one, I pull up my social media—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter—and I post Baby Jesus. Under it I write: I’m in 7th grade and wrote a paper about a Christmas interview I had with Jesus. He actually spoke to me, but no one believes me. Now I may get expelled. Do you believe Jesus speaks to us today? I attach my story.
After Mom awakens me the next morning, I take my shower and head to breakfast. At the table, Dad is quiet. No mention of my paper. Jeffy is jabbering about a girl who hits him with a ruler, which would normally incense Dad, but he just tells him to defend himself. Mom keeps after Jeffy to eat with his mouth shut.
The phone rings and Mom answers it. “Hello.” Long pause. “What? . . . uh huh . . . uh huh. . . Are you certain? I’m not even sure I know what that means.”
She turns to me, not at all happy. Must be the school. “Oh dear, Lord! Really?” She’s frowning at me. “Okay, thanks for calling.” She hangs up and looks at Dad before walking to me. “What exactly have you done?”
“I . . . I don’t know what you mean.”
“Joey’s mother, Marilyn, says you’ve gone viral.”
I suck in my breath and look down. Such a tiny, short-lived thing I did before going to bed last night I’d forgotten. I look up at my cereal and blueberries. Dad is going to kill me. Could I possibly go viral in less than eight hours?
“What’s this all about, Matthew?” Dad is stirring around his eggs, looking at me.
“I ya. . . I uh, I posted my paper on line last night before going to bed.” I gulp. “I’m sorry. It never occurred to me that more than just a few of my friends would see it?”
“Matthew, you’re a smart boy. You knew exactly what might happen if you posted that paper!”
“No, honest!” I look to Mom. “Has it really gone viral?”
“You tell me!” She shoves her phone in my face.
I check Facebook. 17.1K “likes” and over 11K comments. I actually gasp. Seeing my reaction, she pulls her hands to her mouth. I check Instagram and Twitter. Thousands of hits and rising as I watch. What have I done?
I look at Dad. “I can’t go to school today. I’ll be in all kinds of trouble.”
“How many hits?”
“Over seventeen thousand just on Facebook.”
“You’re going. And I don’t want you responding to any of them. Do you hear me?”
“What should I do, Dad?” Tears form in my eyes. “I really, really didn’t mean for this to happen.”
Dad has pushed his plate aside and hands me his phone. “Pull up your Facebook account.”
It isn’t a request.
His eyes widen as he reads. “Matthew,” he finally says, “what you wrote isn’t honest. You make it sound like you could get expelled because you wrote about Jesus. That may be partly true, but it’s mostly because the paper is written above your ability. Not because of content. Do you understand? Miss Hazelnut and Mr. Strong will think you’re trying to instigate something. And frankly I’m wondering myself.” He holds his hand to his mouth. “The numbers keep rising.”
“What do I do, Dad?”
“Ride it out. Pay the consequences. There’s no time to discuss this now, but this evening we will.” The words are kind compared to his scarlet face and gruff voice. He walks his mostly uneaten food to the sink. “If your teachers see this, tell them what you told me and prepare to be expelled. I want you telling the truth, regardless. That’s non-negotiable.”
Since phones aren’t allowed at school, my friend Joey is the mouthpiece. No one would’ve known what was happening if he and two buddies hadn’t come nonstop blabbing to me in home room about the post that is likely going viral. “Twenty-eight thousand and counting!” He’s smiling and carrying his laptop.
“Please, guys, just drop it, okay? I’m in so much trouble.”
“You’ll be famous, though,” says Joey, trying to lighten my mood.
“I don’t want to be famous, okay. Just drop it. I mean it. You want me to get expelled? Drop it now!”
“Okay, okay.” Joey slaps the laptop shut.
“We don’t want you expelled,” says Bryan, “but, it’s not going away regardless.”
Those words prove true. The principal calls me to his office during math, about 11 a.m.
Tell the truth. Tell the truth. I say it a hundred times as I shuffle along the gray tiled floors lined with black lockers. When I get to the office, I just stand and look at the door knob. I see Miss Carolyn, the secretary, through the glass pane and she eventually waves me in.
“Hi Matthew,” she smiles as I enter.
“Hi Miss Carolyn.” I look at my feet.
“Yes, ma’am. I don’t know what’s happened in my life lately.”
“You’d do well to just tell the truth. Mr. Strong is a good man. But if you lie to him, there’ll be no saving grace for you. Know what I mean?”
“Wait here. I’ll see if he’s ready for you.”
I pace across the room a few times before the door opens. “Come on in. He’ll see you now.”
I walk past Miss Carolyn, wanting to turn and run.
Mr. Strong motions me to the obligatory folding chair in front of his desk. Nice comfy-looking cloth chairs rest against the wall, and I wonder if anyone ever sits in them.
“Matthew,” he starts, not hesitating. “You continue to put me in a bind.”
I sort of nod, knowingly.
“Did someone put you up to posting that story, Matthew? Maybe someone in your family? And I warn you, I want the truth.”
I scoot to the front of my chair. “Mr. Strong, I can’t believe you think that. My family is really upset. So, no! Mom and Dad found out this morning and told me if I was called to your office to tell the truth.”
He looks as thoughtful as the Jesus pictures. “I believe you. But, Matthew, you and I both know you didn’t write that story. You don’t have the intellectual capacity. You must tell me how it happened.”
I wish I could stop, but I start to cry. “Mr. Strong, I swear I wrote that story. Why can’t anyone believe me? Supernatural things happened all through the Bible. Does everyone think Jesus just disappeared, that supernatural things don’t happen today? Jesus gave me the information and He helped me remember it and write it. I’m sure of it.” I sniffle through my words. “I know I’m not that smart either, Mr. Strong, but I was so proud to write that paper.”
“Matthew, how did you do your research?”
“I didn’t do any research. All the material was given to me. Honest.”
“And no one prompted you to put it online?”
“No sir. I’m sorry I did that?”
“And what about the fact that you’ve misled people into believing you may be expelled simply because no one believes you? No mention that the story is written in almost literary prose!”
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Strong. I kind of got in an argument about it in the hall yesterday, right before you came out. I think I just wanted to see if anyone believed Jesus still spoke to people today.”
“Well, Jesus didn’t tell me not to expel you, so you’re expelled for a week, even if you come to your senses. Personally, I don’t believe you acted alone. If your parents have a problem, tell them to take it to the board.” He stands up. “Call someone to come and get you.”
Except for eating, I’m stuck in my room for a week. No phone, but at least I can keep my laptop. Dad was angry when he picked me up, yet he understands this is a phenomenon I can’t control. He didn’t ask me to take the post down, probably because it makes no difference. It’s like wildfire. Been shared all over, uploaded to blogs, to websites, even personal pages. I’ve seen it on tech and political blogs. Completely out of my hands. He’ll allow me to watch, but I can’t respond.
The number of hits has risen to an unfathomable 1.1M, as in million, and counting by 4 p.m. I pace back and forth in my small room. I Google, “What is considered viral?” Two million hits used to be considered viral. Today it’s five million. At this pace . . .
Dad’s pissed I posted my paper, but I think he likes that people are taking my side. A few have mentioned separation of church and state, but they’re quickly reminded of the law. And the law says students can write what they choose, if it’s within class guidelines.
When Mom gets home from work, she throws her purse on my bed, ranting. Her favorite disc jockey was speculating why a local boy would get expelled for writing a story about Jesus. He apparently called the school. Got a “no comment.” The ringing phone all afternoon might’ve been him. Or the neighbors. Geez, I wonder who else might get wind of this?
Dinner is pretty much a row. The television blares the evening news; Dad’s upset I was expelled without a promised second meeting; Mom’s distressed because the neighbors are calling; and Jeffy’s in heaven. Not literally, but his big brother is becoming famous, and by extension, he’s in the whirlwind, floating. It also takes the pressure off him.
None of us have spoken about all the particulars of the fiasco. I figured that was about to change, when the phone rings as we are clearing the dishes. The local NBC affiliate’s prime showman, weatherman, and interviewer, Charming Mel, or rather Mel’s assistant, wants to talk to me on the phone. Dad says no. “Look,” he says, “it’s true my son was expelled because of a paper he wrote about Jesus, but it wasn’t because of the subject matter, particularly, although that was part of it. The biggest problem was because it was written much more intelligently than a seventh grader can write. So, there’s no story here.”
The assistant counters, “But your son claimed to interview Jesus.”
“Yes,” says my dad, “but people talk to Jesus every day.” He hangs up and turns to us. “That should put it to rest.”
We all sit with gaping mouths. “You shouldn’t have said anything, Doug. He’ll quote you,” says Mom.
“Not much of a story there according to what I said.”
But Dad is wrong.
“It’s Charming Mel!” Jeffy is pointing to the television above the kitchen island not fifteen minutes later. Dish rags fall to the counter as we scurry next to my brother. Mel is surrounded by a group of Christmas return shoppers in a mall. After telling them that I am now expelled (Dad shakes his head) for writing an interview about Jesus, he proceeds to read them this paragraph from my story:
“Jesus sat there, like a regular guy, except for a magical quality surrounding Him. I saw the holes in His hands and the love in His heart, one no more present than the other. “I’m always with you, Matthew,” He said, “each morning when you pray or just at times when you need me.” His gaze empowered me with love and almost overwhelmed His presence. He didn’t come just because I was desperate for an interview, but because His love was too persistent to ignore my need. He feels the same about all of us.”
When Mel finishes, everyone sighs together. And then he asks: “So, should this boy be expelled from school for saying he interviewed Jesus?”
Absolutely not,” all agree. “Of course not! No!” And then Mel asks if any of them have had encounters with Jesus. A few say, “Absolutely,” and others say “Yes, but in less dramatic ways.” But all agree that Jesus does in fact communicate with people in many ways today.
Since I’ve been officially grounded and confined to my room, I am only downstairs because of the dishes. I try not to show my feelings, but the words and the emotions of these strangers are like lightning striking every nerve in my body. Tears begin to flow.
Mom throws her arms around my shoulders. “Don’t cry, sweetheart. We know you didn’t mean for all this to happen. It will be over before you know it.”
“No. no. . .” I stammer. The three of them gather around me as we miss the end of Mel’s wrap up.
Dad says, “You’ve made some mistakes, Matthew, and you’re learning some very hard lessons.”
“Mom, Dad, those people—they understand what happened. They believe me!”
I think the next day will be easier, but when I’m downstairs scarfing potato chips, the phone rings. NBC pops up on the screen. I put my hand to my mouth. Two more rings and I grab it.
“Hello. This is Jeremy Stewart with NBC in New York City, I’d like to speak with someone about Matthew Davies.”
“I . . . I’m the only one home.”
Are you allowed to talk to me?”
I hesitate. “. . . I’m Matthew.”
“Well, hello, Matthew! I guess you are home since you’re expelled.”
“Please, call me Jeremy.”
Jeremy is a very nice man. I’m practically dancing in place as we talk. And I can’t wait to tell Joey. Ten minutes into the conversation, I realize I have a dilemma—how do I tell Mom and Dad when I’m supposed to be in my room? Definitely not allowed to use the phone, except for emergencies. Still, before hanging up I assure him I’ll explain what he’s said to my parents and he gives me his private number.
When Dad comes home, I’m lying across my bed reading a science book, trying to keep up with the school work I’m missing. It’s time I tell him some of the particulars of my Jesus interview, which is a good way to slide into the conversation I had with Jeremy. “Dad. We need to talk.”
He looks very thoughtful. “Should I sit down?”
I pull into an upright position. “Dad, remember on Christmas Eve when you distributed Jeffy’s Santa presents?”
He has squashed down into a bean bag near the window. “A very memorable night, Matthew. Yes, I remember.”
“That was the night Jesus came to me.”
Dad smiles kindly. “I figured that, son. You were very emotional.”
“That night He told me all that stuff in my interview.”
“I’m glad you’re telling me.”
“I wasn’t trying to keep it from you, but it felt so personal.”
Dad pushes up from the chair and sits next to me on the bed. “Thanks for telling me something that was very private, Matthew.” He pats my back. “You can trust me, you know?”
“I know Dad, and I know all this seems crazy, things happening that are completely out of control.” I look away from him, afraid I’ll cry. “I just want you to believe me. I did talk to Jesus and He told me everything in that paper.”
“Matthew, I do believe you. Your paper is wonderful. And, yes, things are seemingly out of control. Much of it because you put your paper on line last night, which is why you’re grounded.”
“But maybe the worst is over. We can’t prove Jesus spoke to you or even that you wrote that paper. Seems no point in fighting your being expelled.”
“Dad, there’s one more thing.”
“Don’t get mad, okay?”
“Can’t promise you that, Matt. Let’s hear it.”
I start to swing my feet. “I went downstairs to get some potato chips after lunch and the phone rang. I went over to check it out and it was from NBC.” I look up at him. “I answered it, Dad.”
He is shaking his head. “Matthew, you know how I feel about them after that gratuitous interview Mel did last night.”
“Dad, it wasn’t Charming Mel. It was Jeremy Stewart from NBC in New York City. He gave me his private number.”
“Oh dear Lord, the problem is growing!”
“They want us to come to New York.”
Dad just stares at me. “Why?”
I hand him a piece of paper where I’d written as much information as my hand and brain could coordinate. “They want me to talk to two women, Cara and Terri something.”
Dad looks over the paper. “They want you to be on What’s Up at Nine with Cara and Terri Ann?”
“Do you even know who they are?”
“They host a very successful early morning talk show. Been on for years. They’re smart and sassy, somewhat southern ladies with a lot to say about everything.”
“That sounds good.” This is going much better than I anticipated.
“Why did you write Dennis Quail’s name? Isn’t he your favorite late-night talk show host?”
“Can you believe it? They want me to talk to him, too!”
“Why, exactly? He’s late night. I can almost see you on What’s Up at Nine with Terri Ann, your Grandpa’s favorite, by the way. But why would Dennis Quail want a kid on More at Midnight?”
“I don’t really know, Dad. He just said Mr. Quail would be very courteous and he thought I’d have fun, maybe play a game with him.”
Dad gets up and walks to the window. “You are twelve-years old and NBC New York is calling you. This is unbelievable.” He turns around and I think I see a tear in his eye. “Maybe this is fate, Matthew. We might not be able to get your teacher and principal to believe you . . .”
He stops and shakes his head. “Let’s pray about this tonight, son. I don’t want us to do something stupid.”
I love New York! A limousine picked us up at the airport and has now delivered us to The Tower, a hotel the driver says is a five-minute walk to Rockefeller Center where NBC lives. I can’t believe we’re here. Can’t believe Dad said yes. Can’t believe I flew. Can’t believe I rode in a limo! The limo driver is really nice. He told us funny stories about Dennis Quail and the More at Midnight show, and is now carrying our luggage.
Zigzagging color blocks in tan and brown and black, all my favorites, cover the hotel floor and grab my attention as we walk in. Marble walls and marble everything surround us. I spot a white sofa, a leopard sofa and a huge big crystal chandelier. Mirrors and statues and flower arrangements are everywhere. All things I’ve seen before, but never like this. I follow Dad to the front desk and turn around. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Mom would love it. Before we left, she smothered me in kisses and said she’s with us in spirit.
While Dad checks in, I check my phone. Over eighteen million people have ‘liked’ my post and it’s still going. Mega viral! Millions have responded. Dad called Jeremy the same evening he and I talked, right after our pastor stopped by. Dad seemed changed somehow, like he was ready for me to tell the world I’d interviewed Jesus. Maybe it was all the encounters people on line were saying they’d had with Jesus. Maybe it was something my pastor said. I don’t really know.
The coolest thing was, after Dad spoke to Jeremy, he passed the phone to me. I Facetimed with two NBC bigwigs. They were testing me, Dad thought, wanting to see how I responded to questions and maybe even to see if I’m likeable.
I roll my carry-on next to me. Mom packed my best clothes and I even got some new shoes. It just happened so fast. NBC wanted me now while the story is ‘fresh.’ They convinced dad it was a human-interest story most people would love. “Not everyone will support your son,” Jeremy told Dad and Dad told Mom, “but they’ll respect him in our studios. I promise you that.”
In our room, we rush around, putting things away and changing clothes so we can be at the studio in about an hour. We’re on the 52nd floor. It’s like overlooking the world and I can’t seem to move from the window. Mr. Quail would like us to be there as early as possible, Jeremy said. They’ll have food and pretty much whatever we need. “Bundle up,” he had said, “it’s cold.”
Dad is nervous, I can tell. But I’m not. I’m excited to tell my story to someone who can’t expel me. We leave the building with directions to Rockefeller Center. The bustle of people on the streets almost takes my breath as much as the twenty-degree weather. Blurred and covered faces scramble past us on the wide sidewalks. What’s the rush? I wonder, shivering, looking back at a guy in shorts and a t-shirt.
Oversized store windows have more glitter and lights than we have in our whole town. I keep looking up, amazed at the skyscrapers. A guy is screaming into the air as we pass him. Horns are honking, people are chattering. Even with ear muffs, the noise is overwhelming.
People say New York City is dirty, but I don’t see dirt, I see white concrete sidewalks and streets, glass, lights, tall buildings, taxis, and suddenly, flags flying everywhere. Rockefeller Center!
Dad has his gloves off and is taking pictures before we even cross the street. “Son, this is probably one of the most recognizable and prestigious addresses in the world.” It’s funny to hear it like that. Knowing it and seeing it are two different things. Because seeing it, I understand perfectly.
A level below us is a beautiful, sunken skating rink and a statue Dad says is Prometheus, a legendary Greek Titan who brought fire to mankind. Skaters glide along as if no one is watching but above the rink scores of people take photographs. In the light cold breeze, the parade of flags flap the colors of Oklahoma, South Carolina, France, Belgium . . . “The flags represent the world,” says a man next to us.
A giant with a long beard is carved over the entrance to 30 Rockefeller Center. Beneath him is this quote: “Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times. Isaiah 33:6.” Dad says the carving looks more like a Greek God than the prophet Isaiah.
We sign in and one of the show’s junior producers, Heather, takes us to a room set up just for Dad and me. It’s near Studio F where More at Midnight is broadcast. Tons of people come in and out to meet us, to put makeup on me, bringing food and warm drinks. Jeremy stops by. Heather takes us to Studio F where I sit in the chair I’ll sit in shortly, just to get a feel for the room. “Feeling weird or anything?” Dad asks.
“Not really. I love it.” I swing my feet smiling.
We go back and eat some more and finally it’s show time.
Mr. Quail had a late appointment so I didn’t get to meet him, but his introduction of me is great.
“What do you do when you’re twelve-years old and get expelled from school? Most kids might get to watch More at Midnight, but this kid gets to be on the show! You’ve probably read about him because he’s all over the Internet. He claimed to interview Jesus at Christmas, and he wrote a fascinating story about that encounter.” (People clap) “Last we checked over twenty million people have hit his post! Are you kidding me? That’s more people than watch our show! (Laughter) Anyway, the school had threatened to expel him and finally did day before yesterday. (Everybody boos) I know, I know. It’s terrible, isn’t it? Ridiculous! Anyway, he’s here to tell us what he liked best about interviewing Jesus. Let’s hear it for Matthew Davies!”
Everybody is cheering and clapping and some people are standing. I think I’m kind of smiling, but I can’t be sure. If knees actually knock, I think mine are.
Mr. Quail jumps up.
I shake his hand and walk past the desk to the chair, trying to look away from the lights.
“Thanks for coming, Matthew.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Quail.”
“Hey, Matthew, I’ve got a reputation here! I’m a young guy. No Mr. Quail. It’s Dennis.”
I grin. “Okay, Dennis.”
“So, Matthew, tell me about interviewing Jesus? What was that like?”
It was really, really cool. He was so good to me.”
“How’d you know what questions to ask?”
“I didn’t know. I should’ve been you. You’d have asked better questions.”
Dennis waves his hands. “Oh, no, no. Not me. I’m not questioning God. Nope.”
“Do you talk to Him?”
“I. . . I do. Yep, but it doesn’t always go well.”
“He’s like, ‘This is it, Dennis. The last straw! Now straighten up before I zap you.’ You know, he’s all over my butt.”
I laugh out loud. “Nah, He doesn’t really talk to you like that?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Actually, I think He does.” He looks kind of serious.
“Well, I’m going to talk to Him for you.”
“Hey, I’d really appreciate that.” Then he laughs and says, “I’m supposed to be interviewing you! So, what did you learn in this interview you think all of us should know?”
“Mostly I learned that Jesus doesn’t judge us as much as we think He does. He loves us so much He gave up His life for us. He’s really a brave, cool guy.”
“Yep, He was very brave. So, what’d you like about Him the most.”
“The way He listened to me. I mean, He really understood me and wanted to help me. And He did, even though I got expelled for doing what I said I’d do.”
Dennis wisecracks, “You need to pray about that,” and the audience laughs.
“I did pray and I ended up here.” The audience now erupts in laughter and applause.
“Well, God works in strange ways, they say.” He’s shaking his head. “So, how long you expelled for, buddy?”
“I think a week.” And then I hesitate. “Unless they see this.”
He laughs really big. “Okay let’s give them something to really get mad about.”
“Will you come and help me get back into school?” I’m sitting forward, on the edge of my chair.
“Uh, Matthew. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m kinda busy. But I wish I could. I just thought it’d be fun to play a little game called ‘What to do when you get expelled.’” The audience claps and cheers.
“How do you play?” I keep my eyes fixed on Dennis, away from the camera.
“This afternoon we asked the audience what they’d do if they were expelled. You and I are going to guess the top six answers.” He nods as if to say, “Okay?”
A man with a deadpan look, holding an oversized silver bell in one hand and what looks like a silver wand in the other, walks out mid-stage. Dennis shakes his head. “Pay no attention to him.” He shoos him with his hand, then looks at me. “You go first.”
“Okay, hmm, what would people do if they were expelled? I think they would watch television.”
Ding! The man rings the bell by hitting it with the wand, then screeches: “Number 2 answer!”
It’s hilarious and I sit back and laugh. Dennis pokes my hand. “Now it’s my turn. I think it’s listen to music. That’s what I’d do.”
Ding! “Number five answer.”
Ding. “Number six answer.”
“Go to the movies,” says Dennis.
Loud bong from behind the curtain. Dennis turns around wide-eyed. “What? Can’t believe nobody said that! Go Matthew.”
“Play on my computer.”
Ding. “Number 1 answer.”
“Okay, I say, talk on the phone,” says Dennis.
Ding. “Number three answer.”
“One left, Matthew,” says Dennis.
“Have friends over.”
Ding. “Number four answer! Matthew wins!” says the announcer. Ding. Ding. Ding.
“Okay, okay, Matthew won, but not by much.” Dennis high fives me. “That was fun, huh?”
Yeah, that was fun, Dennis.”
“We’re going to break now, but I want to thank you for coming on, buddy. We loved having you. You’re a good sport.” He looks into the camera and says my name like I’m a celebrity: “Matthew Davies, everybody! Catch his amazing story on line, where everything is sold!” Then he looks at me. “Will you come back sometime and tell us what the school thinks of your new-found fame?”
“That’d be great.”
“Good luck, Matthew! By the way, you should move to New York where you can get away with a whole lot more stuff.”
I laugh and it’s over!
There are lots of goodbyes and hugs as we leave the dressing room. I’m wound-up and want to walk to the hotel, but Heather says we need a driver. “You’re a celebrity now, Matthew. People will recognize you. We’ve got to take care of you.” She sort of combs my hair with her fingers. “Here’s the deal.” She looks at Dad. “Tomorrow’s show starts at 9 a.m., but we need you to be here at 7. The driver will meet you in front of the hotel at 6:45 a.m., and Janice, another junior producer, will take you to your dressing room. There’ll be a breakfast set-up. Does that sound okay?”
Dad says yes and she escorts us to our driver.
“Wow!” That’s all I can say the following morning as I open the curtains to a sun that seems to fill me as well as the room. And the magnificent view of New York makes me feel like an eagle, observing the world as I soar above it all. Thank you, God!
“Don’t get used to this life, Matthew. For sure, this is here today and gone tomorrow. Literally.”
“But, it’s so cool, Dad. Just think, if I hadn’t written that story none of this would’ve happened.”
“Get a scoot on Matthew. Our driver will be here shortly.
The What’s Up at Nine dressing room is smaller and not nearly as nice, but serves the same function as the More at Midnight room. Our producer, Janice, tells us Terri Ann wants to meet me before the broadcast. And sure enough, in a few minutes a very petite and pretty lady walks in. I’m eating a pastry and Dad is reading the New York Times.
“Hey guys.” She hangs by the door. “Am I disturbing anything?”
My dad drops the paper and gets up, beaming. “Hi, Mrs. Johnson. So nice to meet you. My father is your biggest fan.”
She smiles. “That’s nice to hear. Nice to meet you too, Mr. Davies. But from now on call me Terri Ann.”
“I’m Doug,” he says, “and this is my son, Matthew.” He points to me.
“Matthew!” She’s so cheerful. “Saw you last night. You were great!”
I swallow my pastry fast. “Really, you think so?”
“Yes, I do. May I come in and sit down?”
“Oh please.” Dad rushes to her side like he can help her walk in. “I’m so star-struck I’ve forgotten my manners.”
She sits by me on the sofa.
“I don’t want to make this long,” she pats my back and smiles, “but I just wanted us to meet, Matthew. I was quite taken with you last night.”
“Thank you.” I put the pastry on its plate and consider licking my fingers, but don’t. Dad watches us from his chair like he’s watching basketball.
“So tell me? How’re you doing, getting expelled and all?”
“I . . . I’m okay. Being here has helped.” I wipe my hands on a napkin. “A lot of people still believe I’m not telling the truth, but I’ve read so many encouraging posts, it’s hard to be too discouraged.”
“I’m glad you told the truth, Matthew. There’s one thing I want you to know about me before you come on.” She hesitates and holds a curious expression. I lean in. “Jesus has spoken things to me through the years and I’ve been criticized for saying things about Him that I believe, too.”
My eyes light up. “Really?”
“Yep.” Her easy manner draws me to her. “Just stick to the truth and pray. Ask God to guide you and He will. I promise. Sometimes I think He’s not listening, but He always is. And I’ve had enough experience to know that in the end, things really do work out for the best.”
“I trust Him,” I say, so thankful she believes me I have tears in my eyes.
She leans in and hugs me. “Let’s just have fun and tell the truth today. Okay, Matthew?”
“Yes, ma’am. I’m ready.”
Janice is beside me as I wait for Terri Ann and Cara to announce my entrance. Cara came by my dressing room, too. Like Terri Ann, she is pretty and nice.
“Our next guest is adorable, don’t you think, Cara,” I hear Terri Ann say.
“He is. Many people may have caught him last night on More at Midnight. He’s a nice, very articulate young man,” says Cara.
“You know,” says Terri Ann, “I can empathize with Him. I’ve been criticized for my faith through the years and he’s taken quite a heavy hit at a tender age. If you haven’t heard, he’s the seventh grader who says he interviewed Jesus on Christmas Eve and got expelled for writing up his interview for a class. His dad says he got expelled, not so much for interviewing Jesus, but because the paper was so well-written they thought he’d plagiarized it. I spoke to him back stage and I don’t think he’s remotely capable of cheating! (she sounds outraged) After posting his paper on-line, it went viral. Good for him!”
“Welcome Matthew Davies,” says Cara as she and Terri Ann and the whole crew clap and yell.
I walk in and Terri Ann gets up and motions me to a stool beside her.
“So, welcome, Matthew,” says Cara.
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“No ma’am’s today, Matthew.”
I grin, “okay.”
“So over thirty million people have hit your post. That’s pretty mind-blowing.”
“I know! I keep meaning to Google it, to see what percentage of people that might be on the Internet. I’m really grateful. I think Mr. Quail helped me last night.”
They both laugh. “Mr. Quail? Dennis might’ve helped you, but I don’t know about that Mr. Quail guy,” says Terri Ann. “So, how lucky are you to have had an interview with Jesus?” She jumps right in.
“I know! It’s the most exciting thing that ever happened to me. Even better than all this.”
“I read your story and was very impressed.” She’s as personable here as in the dressing room.
“I also want you to know that Cara and I had a team of researchers read your paper. I mean, a whole bunch. Then they went looking for something similar, something you might’ve copied. To prove to people you didn’t cheat. And guess what?”
I almost can’t talk. “I . . . I don’t know.”
“It’s okay, sweetheart.” She lays her hand atop mine. “They found nothing! How ‘bout that?”
She gives me a high five. “I knew they wouldn’t,” she adds.
“Me too,” says Cara.
I’m grinning. “I hope my teacher hears that.”
“So, Matthew, can we talk seriously here for a minute. Cara and I don’t usually get too serious, but being expelled is serious and interviewing Jesus is serious.”
“So, how did it happen? You know I’ve spoken to Jesus many times and it’s usually through my heart, but a couple of times He was right there telling me what to do. I didn’t see him, but I knew He was guiding me. Was it like that for you?”
“Kind of.” I hang my head and tears well in my eyes.
“Oh,” says Terri Ann, “Matthew, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“It’s okay. It’s just that I’ve been holding something back for a while.”
Terri Ann and Cara look at each other.
“About the interview?” Cara looks a little nervous.
“Yes.” I rub my eyes. “There’s stuff I haven’t said.”
“Why not, Matthew?” asks Terri Ann.
“Because until I met you, no one ever told me in person they’d had a similar experience or even sympathized with me about it. Well, besides my parents. But it’s hard for them to understand.”
“Aww.” Terri Ann pats my hand again. “I don’t want you saying anything you don’t want to. But if you have something to tell us, we’ll listen.”
“It’s about the interview.” I’m watching the camera.
“Tell us about it,” says Cara.
Everyone in the studio becomes quiet, almost reverent.
“It wasn’t just a heart thing or a voice inside my head, it was real. Jesus came to me in a long white gown with a gold sash. He was glorious. Really, I don’t know how else to describe Him. We sat in the family room and ate my dad’s Christmas Santa cookies on the hearth, green and red with gold sprinkles, the most garish cookies ever. Rudoph and Santa and elves.” I laugh at the memory, but light tears roll down my cheeks. “Jesus said they had too much sugar.”
“So, you actually met Him?”
I nod. “It was the most astounding thing. He came to give me the Christmas interview my teacher told me to write. To keep me honest.” I wipe my tears with the back of my hand. “He held me and told me how much he loved me. Loved all of us. That was the whole point of the interview. And then when I wrote the paper days later, He brought words and events we talked about to my mind. Words like intergalactic floe and vector. No way, could I have remembered it all, but somehow I wrote it.” Cara hands me a tissue as Dad walks onto the set.
“Matthew, why didn’t you tell us?” He walks up and hugs me. “We would’ve believed you.” The camera pans to him.
“Dad, remember the Christmas cookies that materialized on the mantle? You asked how I’d made them appear since the plate had been empty.”
“I remember it perfectly, Matthew.”
“I didn’t do anything. Jesus and I had eaten all the cookies. They were gone. Then, when your back was turned I saw a flash of light on the mantle and the cookies just materialized.”
Dad looks stunned, dizzy. “You okay?” Terri Ann places her hand on his back.
“Honestly, I don’t know.” He’s holding on to the edge of the table we sit behind. “That’s a lot to take in. I don’t want people to think badly of Matthew, because it sounds so extraordinary.”
“I know Dad, but then Terri Ann and I were talking about being honest in the dressing room and I just had to tell the whole truth. Don’t you think that’s best?”
“I certainly hope so son. The world may be on your side, I just hope our small town is.” The camera moves out.
“Cara and I are on your side, Matthew,” says Teri Ann. “I totally believe you. God can do anything! Besides, there’s not another story like yours anywhere.” She and Cara and the crew are clapping and yelling again. “Cara, I think viewers should write in and tell us what they think about this.”
Cara shakes her head. “Absolutely!”
Terri Ann hugs me. “How ‘bout it folks? Do you think Jesus made a very special appearance to a very special boy on Christmas Eve because He wanted to get a message of love to us all on the most sacred of days?” She winks at me. “Doesn’t sound so far-fetched to me.”
Arriving home after any kind of trip is memorable in our house, but today Mom has made a small banner that runs from the staircase to the dining room wall. ‘So proud of our Number One Son!!’ She kisses Dad and hugs me way too long. Jeffy chants my name, wanting me to give him a hug. I pick him up and realize how heavy he’s getting. Kissing his head, I set him back down.
According to Mom, the whole town is up in arms. People are taking sides, with me at the center of the storm. Mr. Strong had called earlier and wanted to speak to Dad. He sounded haughty, Mom said, but resigned. “I’ll call him in the morning.” Dad has his arms around Mom. “He’s probably threatening a lawsuit or something equally confrontational.”
“I don’t think so.” Mom rubs his arm. “Give him a call. Put my mind at ease.”
Dad kisses her cheek.
“I’m proud of you, too.” It’s embarrassing how she flirts with him.
Dad watches, as I take my bag upstairs. Jeffy follows to start getting ready for bed.
“You look fatter on television,” he says. I stop and swat him with my suitcase. “Thanks for the encouragement, little brother.”
Dad yells at me a few minutes later. “Matthew, I’m calling Mr. Strong. Want to hear this conversation?”
Actually, I don’t want to hear it ever, but I drag myself down and plop onto the sofa. Dad dials the phone. No answer.
“Dad, can I be called in front of the board of education and expelled for a longer period of time?”
“Matthew, I think we may fare better with the board than we did with Miss Hazelnut and Mr. Strong.”
I give a sigh of relief and rise to go upstairs when the doorbell rings. “Answer that, honey,” says Mom.
As I shuffle through the foyer, I realize it looks somewhat naked without all the Christmas decorations. I swing back the front door.
“Mr. Strong.” The last person I want to see.
He looks at Mom’s banner, ‘So Proud of Our Number One Son!!, then at me. “I’d like to speak with you and your parents, if you have a minute,” he says.
I invite him in. “Dad,” I yell, “it’s Mr. Strong.”
Dad invites him back to the family room and directs him to his big chair. Mom, Dad, and I scrunch onto the sofa behind the coffee table.
“Mr. Davies, I was surprised you played this out in the public arena.”
“We didn’t pursue the interviews, Mr. Strong. When Matthew’s post went viral things escalated quickly. My wife tells me we’re still getting calls from television shows.”
I look at Mom and she nods, smiling.
Wow! I hope it’s California next time!
“Tell me why you gave Miss Hazelnut a bag of Christmas cookies the other day that look exactly like the ones Matthew described on television this morning?”
“I’m not sure what you mean.” Dad sets back, his hands on his knees. “I handed her a bag of scones from Lillie’s Deli. I thought our meeting would be more amicable and we could share them.”
“There were no scones, Mr. Davies. Just the Christmas cookies Matthew mentioned.” He raises his eyebrows. “It seems very suspect.”
“Let me get this straight.” Dad now leans forward. “You’re saying the cookies Matthew described on television were the cookies in the bag?”
Mr. Strong nods.
“That’s not possible, sir. I buy those scones a lot, and I watched them bag the four I handed to Miss Hazelnut.” Dad scoots to the front of the sofa. “Those green and red Christmas cookies came from Kroger’s. They would’ve been inedible by now.”
“The cookies were fresh, Mr. Davies.”
“Well, I . . . It’s impossible, Mr. Strong.” His voice is slightly raised. “That’s all I can say. And I’m telling you there were scones in that bag. Call the deli. They’ll tell you I picked them up that day. Call Kroger’s. I’m sure they’ll tell you they haven’t made that cookie since Christmas.”
“Perhaps . . .”
“Wait just a minute.” Dad reaches inside his jacket pocket and pulls out a small red note pad. “I put all my receipts in here a week at a time.” He opens the pad and the receipts waft onto the coffee table. Sifting through them, he finds what he’s looking for! “Aha! Here it is. Lillie’s Deli. Four scones. Same date.” He walks it to Mr. Strong.
Mr. Strong scrutinizes it and shakes his head. “I saw four red and green Christmas cookies with gold sprinkles in a bag from Lillie’s Deli. I even ate one. I don’t know what’s going on, sir.”
“Maybe it was Jesus again!” I interject myself into their conversation.
Mr. Strong looks at me, more mesmerized than mad. “I’m beginning to wonder.”
“Then we’ve accomplished something.” Dad seems to have calmed. “A lot of strange things have evolved around my son lately. Supernatural things no one can explain. Two things you should know: we’re an honest family and Matthew’s an honest boy.”
Even my insides are smiling, but I just look between Dad and him.
“There’s another reason I’m here.” Mr. Strong looks down. “Timothy Hartwell, the superintendent of schools,” he looks back up, “his mother is Pamela Jacobs. She was Matthew’s Sunday School teacher when he was in grade school. She says there isn’t a dishonest bone in Matthew’s body.”
My eyes light up. She was my favorite teacher ever!
“Matthew thinks a lot of her, too.” Dad winks at me.
“Tim thinks we’ve been too harsh with Matthew. He read Matthew’s paper and like Miss Hazelnut and me, he can’t explain it. Unlike us, he’s willing to believe in miracles.”
Dad slaps his knees with his hands. “That . . . that’s wonderful!”
“What does it mean,” asks Mom.
“It means, we’ll see Matthew in school tomorrow. Miss Hazelnut agrees.” He rises. “We’re not fighting with the school board, Mrs. Davies. And, truly, I don’t know what to think. If What’s Up at Nine did a search for stories and articles similar to Matthew’s and found nothing, perhaps there’s nothing to find. It’s beyond my understanding.” He steps forward. “I’m sorry to bother you all this evening. I know it’s been a busy day.”
Shaking hands first with Dad and then Mom, he extends a hand to me. “Let’s put this behind us Matthew.”
He is barely off the porch when we start hooting and hollering. Dad gives me a hug. “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.”
Mom is mussing my hair. “We’re so proud of the way you’ve handled yourself through this, Matthew. No one could’ve done better. That’s why Jesus chose you.”
“Do you think He chose me? That this worked out the way He wanted?”
“Remember the story book frames, Matthew?” Mom has cupped her hands around my face. “How God looks down at us through time into the frames and sees our yesterday’s, today’s, and tomorrow’s. You taught me that in your story.”
“Jesus told me He tries to redirect us if we’re messing up, but He doesn’t interfere if we don’t listen for His voice.”
“You listened, Matthew. You not only met Jesus, but you got on a world stage and told God’s children about His love. I think he’s so proud of you. Just like us.”
That night I regale God with the events of the past two days as if he weren’t watching. “Thank you, Lord, that I could write a paper that touched so many people. And thank you that I was able to be strong and not cry too much especially. I had so much fun and I’m just grateful that you chose me.” My heart swells with the love and presence of God as I pray.
I hear my name, not outwardly, but in my heart, and sit up. “I choose those who have a humble and grateful heart. Those who accept my Word and my love like a little child. Before I chose you, I chose another child, Mary, to give the world the greatest offering it would ever receive—My beloved Son. He is the true Gift of Christmas.”
I cry as the presence of God fills the room, but I slowly drift off to sleep.
I awake before my alarm or Mom comes into my room. In my drowsiness, I reach over and press around for the buzzer. What’s that? I sit up, rubbing my eyes. I see it and my eyes almost fall from their sockets! “Mom! Dad!” I grab it and run from my room.
“Jesus is so much better than Santa!” I’m practically screaming as I collide with Dad, heading into the hallway from his bedroom.
“How’d you know?” says Dad. “I just got a text.”
“What do you mean, Dad?”
“We’re going to California! Your ratings were through the roof and they want you on the coast!” He hugs me.
I pull from him and my mouth flies open. I hold up the red and green Christmas cookie, tears covering my cheeks.
Mom and Jeffy walk into the hall. Dad gets on his knees and I join him. He presses his head to mine. Mother touches the cookie, mesmerized. “Looks like we’re having Christmas all year this year.” She joins us on her knees.
Dad pulls Jeffy into the group as he begins to pray. “Dear God, we are humbled by the miracles we’ve experienced. Help us to follow your guiding hand. To always believe that all things are possible with You. Through the wonder of the blood of your Son. A gift we will never understand, a price we can never repay, a sacrifice that rewards us with your presence . . . ” I crunch into the cookie, my heart completely overwhelmed with the love and the wonder of Jesus.
Thanks for reading Matthew’s story. If you missed Matthew’s interview with Jesus, see The Gift of Christmas, December, 2017