category: Story

A Story for Christmas

By Rachael Keefe

This week I’ve taken a bit of a break from the lectionary and events in the world to share with you a children’s story I wrote many years ago. At that time, I couldn’t find a story that shared what I wanted with kids so I wrote what follows. I’ve …

A Story for Christmas

This week I’ve taken a bit of a break from the lectionary and events in the world to share with you a children’s story I wrote many years ago. At that time, I couldn’t find a story that shared what I wanted with kids so I wrote what follows. I’ve used it in many places since. I hope you also enjoy it!


Before I tell you Great-Gramma Mugwump’s story, I suppose I ought to tell you just what a Mugwump is.  For those of you who keep track of these things, Mugwumps are related to Puffalumps and Woozles, but they do not live in the Hundred Acre Wood.  Instead, they live in a Fir Forest which is a little further into the realm of imagination.
Now that you know where Mugwumps live, you’re probably wondering what they look like.  They look a bit like mice, and a bit like rabbits.  They have small ears, little cotton tails, and very big hind feet.  But it’s their color that makes them peculiar.  They only come in colors that begin with the letter “M.”  Midnight-blue, marmalade, magenta, marigold, and maroon are the most common colors.  Also, Mugwumps can only have names that begin with the letter “M.”  Great-Gramma, the oldest Mugwump ever, is named Mystery.  And the story I am about to tell is Mystery’s story…and she tells it every year.
luluxmas Mystery tells her story on Christmas which makes Christmas the Mugwumps’ favorite holiday.  They all gather under the biggest fir tree in the forest, the one at the very center, to celebrate, and to listen to Great-Gramma’s story.  They light a small fire to keep her warm, and then they gather around.  “Come closer, so you can hear me better.”  That’s how Mystery always begins her story.
“A very long time ago, before most of you were born, and when Mugwumps lived under every kind of tree all over the world, I took a journey.”
“What kind of journey?” Asked Morgan, a marmalade-colored Mugwump.
And Great-Gramma smiled, smoothed her maroon fur, and said, “A very long and wonderful journey.  Would you like to hear the story?”  And all the many Mugwumps cried, “Yes, please tell us!” Even though they had heard the story before.  So Mystery began.
“A very long time ago, when I was very young, I decided to see the world.  So I left this fir forest and traveled very far.”
“How far, Great-Gramma?”  Asked Matilda, a young, magenta Mugwump.
“So far that there were no fir trees.  Just small, sad looking trees that were only green at the top, and a few thorny bushes.  But there were lots of people…”
“People?  What’s people?”  Asked Magic, the youngest Mugwump.  She was the only one who had never heard Mystery’s story.
“People,”  Said Magic’s older brother, Maple, “are the animals that walk on their hind legs and have no fur.  They live in houses that they build instead of under fir trees like us.”
“Oh,” Said Magic.  And Great-Gramma continued her story.
“Well, I found myself a little bush with not too many thorns.  I decided to rest there for a day or two.  It was very quiet even though I was next to a house.
“On the second night, I wanted to see if there was anyone at home.  So I climbed up to the window and peaked in.  I saw two young people packing things up.  They were getting ready to travel just like me.  Right then, I knew I was going to go with them.
“Early the next morning, they came out of the house with all their things and put them on a donkey.  When they went back into the house to get something else, I quickly climbed up and settled myself into one of their packs.  It wasn’t very comfortable, but I knew I couldn’t go any other way.  You see, a very long time ago when all this had happened, no human had ever seen a Mugwump and I didn’t want to be the first one.  So I settled in the best I could.
“It seemed like I was in that pack forever, but I think it was only a few days.  I knew we had gotten somewhere when I heard all kinds of noises, noises no Mugwump should ever have to hear…People talking and shouting, lots of people and animals moving around, crowding into one town…But it wasn’t long after that before we stopped.  The man took the packs off the donkey and started to unpack.  I thought I was going to be in trouble, but I wasn’t, because something amazing happened?”
And all the Mugwumps got very excited, for this was one of the best parts in the story.  “What happened, Great-Gramma?  What happened?”  They all cried.
“Hush, hush, and I will tell you.”  Mystery smiled at the Mugwumps’ excitement.
“You see,” she said “the woman was having a baby…a very special baby…”  And for a few moments, the only thing that could be heard under the fir tree was the sound of the fire crackling.  Everyone held their breath and waited for Great-Gramma Mugwump to continue.  But for the moment, she was lost in her memories.
“Great-Gramma, what happened next?”  Asked Magic who just couldn’t wait one minute more.
“Well, Magic,” Mystery smiled.  “I climbed out of the pack I had been hiding in and looked around.  Do you know what I saw?”
“No,” said Magic, her face very serious.
“I saw a barn filled with all kinds of animals.  And there was a window, and out of the window I saw the sky, midnight blue, just like you Magic.  And do you know what I saw in the sky?”
“Stars?” answered Magic in a very small voice.
“Yes, I saw stars, lots of them.  But there was one very bright, very big star right up over the barn where I was.  I just stared at it for a few minutes.  You can’t imagine how beautiful it was…
“When I finally turned around, I saw a baby wrapped up in a blanket, lying in a manger.  I thought it was a bit strange.  Usually animal food is in mangers and babies are in beds…  Well, anyway, as I sat back in the shadows trying to figure it all out, I saw a mouse peaking out from a hole in the wall.
“‘Excuse me, Mr. Mouse, but do you know what is happening here?’ I whispered.  And he turned and looked at me and practically shrieked, ‘A Mugwump?  What are you doing here?  One of these people could see you.  And I am sure you know that no human has ever seen a Mugwump.’  ‘Hush!’  I told him.  ‘I know.  But I have traveled a long way with these two.  If you know what all this means, please tell me.’
“‘You mean to tell me that you have traveled with these two and know nothing of who they are?’  ‘You are correct,’ I said, losing my patience.  ‘Well,’ the mouse said.  He cleared his throat and began.  ‘This is Mary and Joseph and they have traveled here to Bethlehem to be counted with Joseph’s family.  And the baby in the manger is a very special baby.’  ‘I can see that,’ I said.  ‘But who is he?’
“‘Are all Mugwumps as impatient as you are?  He is the baby Jesus.  He has come to bring light, hope, peace, joy, and love to the world,’ said the mouse, quite pleased with himself.
“And then people began to gather around the baby.  Shepherds came and knelt down before the baby.  Others came and brought gifts to him.  It was a long and busy night in that stable.  All those people coming and going.  The mouse fell asleep and I was left alone to watch the whole thing.  And as the hours went by, I began to wonder what I could give the baby Jesus.  Everyone who came in brought him something.  I fell asleep wondering…
“When I woke up, everyone was gone.”  All the Mugwumps cried, “No!”  And Mystery continued.  “Yes.  They were all gone.  Who knows how long I slept?  But I knew it was time to make my way back home to this Fir Forest.  I had many adventures on the way, but I will save those for another time.  Well, by the time I got home, I was rather tired.  But I had to tell my family all that had happened since I had been away.
“When I got to the part that I just told you about the baby Jesus, I told them how sad I was; I didn’t get to give him a gift.  As I was saying this, someone laughed.  Now I didn’t think that was very nice.  ‘Why are you laughing at me?’ I asked, trying not to let anyone see how hurt I was.  And then the oldest Mugwump in the room, Marvelous, he was even older than I am now, stood up.  As he smoothed out his marmalade fur, he said to me, ‘Now Mystery, I know you are young, but surely you must see that you have given this Jesus a wonderful gift.’  ‘I have?’  ‘Yes, of course.  How many of us would have known anything about Jesus if you hadn’t told the story?’
“Then it was my turn to laugh.  I had given Jesus a gift and didn’t even know it.
“Well, now you have heard my story so you can all go off now and sleep well for tomorrow is Christmas.”meowmeow xmas
As all the Mugwumps began to leave for their own fir trees, Magic ran up to Great-Gramma Mystery.  “Great-Gramma?”
“What is it Magic?”
“Can anyone give Jesus a present?”
“Yes, of course.  Would you like to give him a present, too?”
“Yes.  Can I give him the same present as you?  Can I tell the story of Jesus’ birth and how he came to bring light, hope, peace, joy and love to all the world?”
“Yes, Magic, everyone should give Jesus that gift.”  Magic and Mystery smiled at each other, and walked home together to get ready for Christmas day.

RCL – Year A – Second Sunday of Advent – December 8, 2013
Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-7,18-19
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12

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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

7 thoughts on “A Story for Christmas”

  1. Rachel – thank you for sharing your lovely story. I will use it, giving you full credit of course. It would look lovely illustrated…I hope you’ve considered publishing it. I especially love the idea of a present for Jesus is sharing his story with others….

    • Thank you. I’ve thought about both illustrating it and publishing it. Maybe someday. I’m glad you’re going to use it.

  2. Rachael, you are so gifted and I thank you for gifting me with your weekly reflections and this beautiful story. I too will pass it along. Blessings abound!

  3. Rachael, I really enjoyed the story. I plan to share it with others as well, of course giving you credit. I, too, think it would make a great illustrated children’s book – for children of all ages, as the best children’s books are. I love the fact the way you keep the excitement going and that the gift given is the sharing of the story and that that is something all of us, even the youngest, can do.

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