“Signs of Christmas,” Friend, Dec. 1998, 12
Emma sat at the big oak table surrounded by her family. It was the first of December.
“OK,” Dad said, “it’s time to discuss our individual Christmas projects. Who can tell me the rules?”
“We each do a project that doesn’t cost any money,” Ben said.
“It can’t be a material item,” Mom added.
“And most important of all, it has to bring the spirit of Christmas to someone,” Jane finished. “I’m going to baby-sit for Sister Wells so that she can get her Christmas baking done.”
Mom beamed. “An excellent project. How about you, Ben?”
“I think I’ll wrap presents for Project Merry Christmas. It’s a city program that collects gifts for the poor.”
Dad nodded. “Good plan, Son. As for me, I’ll be practicing my Ho Ho Hos, because I’m going to take the part of Santa in some local preschool plays.”
Mom eyed Dad’s tummy and winked. “It looks like you’ll need only one pillow this year. I’m going to play Christmas music at the Golden Days Nursing Home, and Kayla will help me rehearse by not crying—I hope. That leaves you, Emma.”
Emma squirmed. “I don’t know yet.”
Dad gave her a hug. “That’s all right,” he said. “But try to decide soon. Christmas comes quickly, and you shouldn’t do anything out of desperation. That wouldn’t mean as much.”
Emma tried and tried to think of something that she could do, but no good ideas came. If I were a teenager like Ben and Jane, I could do lots of cool projects, she thought. But what can a little kid do?
A week passed, and Emma still didn’t have a plan. She wanted to make someone happy by helping in some way, but her mind always drew a blank.
In church on Sunday, Emma noticed Sister Dugan interpreting for Brother Drake, who was deaf. Emma watched in wonder as Sister Dugan’s fingers flashed and danced, weaving invisible words out of thin air. She liked the hand motions and wished she knew what they meant. In an instant she had a plan.
For the next couple of weeks, Emma worked hard. Her mom took her to the library to check out books, then she practiced for hours with Sister Dugan.
On a clear, crisp December evening a few days before Christmas, Emma and her family drove to Brother Drake’s house. Before leaving the car, Emma asked her family to say a prayer with her. Then they all got out, bundled in winter coats and hats. Only Emma did not wear mittens. She flexed her fingers and watched her breath in the cold air. Dad rang the doorbell, and they were soon greeted by Brother Drake and his hearing dog.
“‘Silent night! Holy night!’” they sang. “‘All is calm, all is bright …’”* Emma’s fingers formed the words in American Sign Language—awkwardly at first but with growing confidence. When she signed the words heavenly peace, all fear left her, and her fingers felt warm and loose. She was no longer just moving them in memorized patterns, but really singing the story of the Savior’s birth. She felt this same peace as they sang “Away in a Manger.”
When they had finished, Brother Drake wiped a tear from his eye and beckoned the family inside. While they drank eggnog, he grabbed a pen and pad of paper. “Thank you for those beautiful songs,” he wrote. “I have never had Christmas carolers before. You have brought the spirit of Christmas into my home and given me an unforgettable gift.”
Emma’s heart felt as if it had grown a thousand times bigger. She said a silent prayer thanking Heavenly Father for the wonderful Christmas spirit. “Merry Christmas,” she signed carefully. “Merry Christmas and heavenly peace.”