“Something smells good in here,” Joseph commented, as he entered the warm kitchen from the cold outdoors. “What are you girls baking?”
Grace lifted a heart-shaped cookie cutter from the thin dough on the counter in front of her and answered, “We’re making sugar cookies.”
“Mmm,” he smacked his lips hungrily, eyeing the cookies that were already baked. “Can I have one?”
“Not just yet,” answered Hope. “You’ll want to wait until they’ve been frosted. Would you like to help us decorate them?”
Joseph shook his head. “As soon as I warm up, I’m going back out to help Sam with Mom’s Christmas gift,” he whispered.
“Okay. There should be cookies ready to eat when you come in.” Hope carefully slid a tray of cookies into the hot oven and closed the door.
Faith leaned back in her chair at the kitchen table, surveying the mound of cookie dough still in the bowl, the two pans she and Grace were each filling, and the rows of already-baked cookies. “This sure is a lot cookies,” she remarked.
“Well, I heard Mom say we had around twenty people on our Christmas caroling list,” Grace told her. “They’ll each get a plate of cookies, plus we want some left over for ourselves.”
“I hope there are a lot left over,” Joseph added. “It would be too bad if we gave them all away and didn’t get any.”
“I know,” Faith agreed. “After all this work, we should get something out of it.”
Hope opened her mouth to respond to her younger siblings, but was interrupted by the door opening. It was Samuel, coming in from the shop. “I need your help, Hope. Can you come out for a few minutes?”
“Sure.” Hope untied her floury apron and went to the coat rack for her jacket. Just as she was leaving the kitchen, Joseph accompanying her, she called over her shoulder, “You girls take the cookies out when they’re done if I’m not back.”
The girls finished filling all the empty cookie sheets and then waited for the cookies to get done baking. “We should probably be working on cleanup while we wait,” Grace said, to herself as much as to Faith.
“I think it’s okay if we wait a little longer and rest a few minutes. Besides we’d just get started and have to stop to fill more cookie sheets.”
Just as the timer was going off, Mrs. Reid called for Grace to help her with a project upstairs. This left Faith alone in the kitchen, with the cookies all her responsibility. “Those cookies always have to stay in the oven a couple of extra minutes. I’ll just sit here a little longer before I take them out. Or I could start decorating some of the cookies. That way I’m not wasting time.”
She reached for the bowl of creme-colored icing and spread a little on a candy-cane shaped cookie. “That looks nice. If only we had some red sprinkles to add. Now, I’ll just do one more before I take the cookies out of the oven.”
“What’s that smell?” It was Mr. Reid, just getting home from work.
Faith dropped her cookie, not even noticing that it landed in the bowl of icing, and dashed to the oven, grabbing up pot holders from the counter. Jerking open the oven door, she pulled out two pans of darkened cookies. “Oh no,” she wailed. “I completely forgot to take them out of the oven.”
Mr. Reid came over to the oven and surveyed the ruined sweets. “Did you not have a timer set?” he asked.
“Yes, but I was going to let them cook a couple more minutes after it went off, and I started decorating cookies while I waited. I guess I forgot.”
“Well, next time you need to stay focused and not get distracted by something else. You should have restarted the timer. But it looks like we still have plenty of cookies to go around, even without these,” he added, trying to chase away the gloomy expression that had settled on Faith’s face.
Hope and Mrs. Reid weren’t quite so optimistic when they saw the two pans of burnt cookies. “We had planned just enough for all the people we’ll be caroling to, plus a couple pans left for us. I’m afraid there won’t be many, if any, left for us now,” Mrs. Reid said.
The boys were in from the shop by this time, and Joseph asked, “But do we have to give cookies at all the homes we go to? Some of them won’t know if we don’t give them cookies.”
“We should get something out of all this work,” Grace added.
Mr. Reid responded with a question. “Can someone tell me, is Christmas about giving to others or getting things for ourselves?”
“Well, the real meaning of Christmas is to remember what, or rather Who, God gave us on Christmas Day,” Samuel began. “So Christmas is a time for us to give to others.”
“That’s right, Sam,” Mr. Reid agreed. “Now, it’s time we got ready to go do some Christmas caroling. We’re not doing everyone tonight, but we can do a few houses each night between now and Christmas.”
“That means we need to get more cookies decorated,” Hope told her younger sisters.
Mrs. Reid picked up the pans of burnt cookies and headed for the pantry. “I’ll take care of these,” she said.
The girls quickly iced enough cookies for five plates full and then went to change into their most Christmas-y outfits. Caroling was one of their favorite family Christmas traditions!
“Where are we going first,” Mrs. Reid asked, as they were driving down a country road a short time later.
“I thought we would go to the Johnson’s,” Mr. Reid answered. “I know they will enjoy it since they can’t get out much because of Mrs. Johnson’s back surgery.”
The house of their elderly neighbors was reached, and the whole family walked to the door. After the door was opened and the older couple sat on the porch swing waiting, the Reid family began singing:
“Hark! The herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!’
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic hosts proclaim,
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!’
Hark! The herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the newborn King.’”
“Thank you so much for coming,” Mrs. Johnson said after the last song, her eyes bright and cheerful, her mouth smiling. “You have made this Christmas season so special by remembering us.”
“And we’ll enjoy these cookies you girls made,” Mr. Johnson added, a twinkle in his eyes. “Thanks for coming.”
As Faith saw how much their visit meant to their neighbors, she thought, “Dad was right. Christmas is about giving to others. I enjoyed this evening of ministry a whole lot more than I would have enjoyed eating cookies.”
Back at home late that night, the family gathered in the kitchen for snacks. “What’s this?” Grace asked, eyeing a plate of cookies that sat beside the plate of cheese and crackers and the other snacks.
Mrs. Reid smiled. “Those are Faith’s cookies. I looked at them more closely, and while they weren’t nice enough to deliver, they weren’t burned too badly for us to eat. I just cut off the worst parts, added icing, and here they are.”
Joseph’s eyes lit up like the red Christmas candle burning on the table. “You mean we do get cookies after all?”
“You sure do!” Mrs. Reid answered. “Now, what shapes do you all want?”