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Ellie's Christmas Prayer

by Ruth Scott

The sun hung low in the western sky as two weary prospectors plodded down a narrow, snowy road. Already the clouds resting on the craggy mountain peaks glowed pink and gold, and soon shadows darkened the travelers’ path.

“I reckon it’s at least five miles more to a settlement, Jim.” Bill Brand thrust his walking stick into the snow. “No way can we make it before dark, and I’m tired enough to flop right here in the snow for the night.”

Jim Fry snorted. “I’m for movin’ on, Bill, till we come to the first shack. Must be one not far around this next bend. Why should two lucky gold panners sleep out in the cold—and on the night before Christmas Eve, no less?” Jim lengthened his stride, and Bill huffed to catch up with him.

Just as Jim had predicted, the two men soon saw a small, neat cabin nestled in the trees at the foot of a rocky mountain slope. A friendly-looking man and a little girl answered their knock.

“Howdy, mister,” Jim drawled. “I’m Jim Fry and this here’s Bill Brand. We’d like to put up with you for the night, if you don’t mind.”

The man opened the door wide. “Come in out of the cold. My wife will have a hot meal ready in a few minutes. The name’s John Chambers, and this is my daughter Ellie. What brings you to this neck of the woods?” The men chatted pleasantly as they settled around the fireplace.

Bill pulled off his backpack and dropped it on the floor. “Feels good to have that thing off!”

Ellie stared at the pack, wondering what could be inside.

“Guess you’d be interested as to what’s in this big ol’ heavy pack, eh, little one?” Bill opened the top of the pack and pulled out a little sack. Opening the mouth of the sack, he let a few yellow nuggets fall into his hand. “This here’s gold. My buddy and I found it in a river way up in the mountains.”

Ellie’s prayer
A pretty young woman stepped through the kitchen door and put her hand on her husband’s shoulder. She smiled warmly at the two guests. “Welcome! Are you hungry?”

“Are we ever!” Bill grinned. “I been sniffin’ that soup, and it sure smells good.”

“Come and join us at the table,” John invited. “My Bessie’s good cooking won’t disappoint you.”

When all were seated, John Chambers nodded at his young daughter. “Ellie, please say grace for us tonight.” The little family bowed their heads. Bill and Jim followed their example.

“Dear Father, please bless this food. We thank Thee for it. And also please bless Mr. Bill and Mr. Jim. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Ellie smiled at Bill.

Bill raised his eyebrows at Jim as they each lifted a spoonful of steaming soup to their lips.

Curious trimmings
When the meal was finished, Ellie tugged at Bill’s sleeve. “Come see our Christmas tree, mister.” She looked over at Jim. “And you too, sir.” She led them to the corner where a small pine tree stood. Instead of the usual ornaments, it held small envelopes with pictures glued on them.

“Curious trimmin’s for a Christmas tree,” Jim muttered.

“It’s a missionary tree,” Ellie explained.

Bill shrugged his shoulders. “A what-un-ary tree?”

“Papa can tell you. Come sit by the fire with us.” Ellie led the men to seats by the hearth.

Ellie snuggled next to her mother as her father picked up the family Bible. “Tell them about the tree, Papa.”

John cleared his throat. “Well, men, it’s something like this. You know how at Christmas we like to think about Jesus coming to this earth as a little baby wrapped in rags and sleeping in a feeding trough. Well, while we are truly thankful that He did that, we also like to look forward to His second coming, which will happen soon. Before Jesus left His disciples, He did promise that He would come again.”

Bill and Jim quietly listened as John read several Scriptures promising Jesus’ return.

John continued. “Jesus also told His followers to tell the whole world about the good news of salvation. He said, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’* And He said that He couldn’t come back until all nations had heard the gospel.”

“I got it now!” Bill burst out. “Them Indians and Africans and Chinese are the ‘every creature’ you just talked about.”

“Yes, that’s right,” John nodded. “And it takes money to send people to tell them about Jesus. So we put whatever money we can in envelopes. We also invite our friends to help us. Then we send the money to missionaries so they can take the news of Christ’s soon coming all around the world.”

“Well, if that ain’t the givin’-est Christmas tree I ever saw,” Jim murmured.

The little family knelt down. “We all pray at the end of worship,” John explained.

After both parents had offered prayer, Ellie took her turn. “Dear Jesus, Thank You that Christmas is coming, and we can send missionaries to the children in other countries. Please help lots of them to be in Heaven with us, and let Mr. Bill and Mr. Jim be there too. Amen.”

“Forgive Bill and surely let him be there,” Bill added.

“And don’t forget poor old wicked Jim. Amen.” Jim’s voice was choked.

After breakfast the next morning, Bill held out a little bag of gold to their hosts. “We want to pay you for sharing your home with us.”

John shook his head. “I can’t take your gold. We’re just glad you could spend the night with us. Have a safe journey.” He held the door open for them.

“Merry Christmas!” Ellie called as the two men started down the road once more.

Good idea
Bill and Jim tramped along through the snow in silence for the first mile. Finally, Jim spoke. “Bill, I don’t feel right about leaving those good folks without givin’ them some of our gold.”

“I don’t, either, Jim.”

“And besides, I been thinkin’ about those heathen they want to tell about Jesus—and us two heathen.” Jim’s voice cracked a little. “I aim to live differently after hearin’ those prayers, and about that wonderful Christ who died for us. I want to see Him, Bill.”

Bill nodded. “I been thinkin’ along the same line.”

The two continued in thoughtful silence for another mile. Suddenly Bill stopped. “Hey, I got it!” he practically shouted. “When we reach the settlement, we can hire two horses, and ride back to that cabin after dark, when they won’t see us. And we can leave somethin’ without them even noticin’.”

Jim broke into a toothy smile. “Good thinkin,’ partner.” He slapped Bill on the back.

Best present
On Christmas morning, the snow sparkled in the sunlight outside the window of the little cottage. When Ellie’s father opened the door to bring in some wood, he saw a large package on the step. “Bessie! Ellie! Come see this!” He picked up the package and brought it inside. Together they opened it.

Inside the package was a note. “A merry Christmas to you all,” Bessie read. “The doll is for Ellie. The little bag of nuggets is for you, and the big bag can be divided up among them heathen. We want to see some of them in Heaven. We was going to have a great time with these nuggets, but we called it off. We decided we’re going to quit our orneriness so we can see that great Christ someday. Don’t forget us when you pray. We don’t know much about praying, but you and especially Ellie gave us a good example of it while we was there, and we think Jesus will listen and know what we mean, just like He did Ellie. Hope we see you up yonder someday. Bill and Jim.”

Ellie gasped softly and squeezed her eyes shut. “Thank you, Jesus! That’s the best Christmas present ever!”

*Mark 16:15.

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