A Christmas story By Rev. Jim Riley
Helen had a doll that she loved very dearly. Helen always called her doll “Dolly.” Helen loved Dolly so much that she took her places. One of the places she took her was Sunday School. Dolly’s dress was getting a little shabby because she went so many places and did so many things, but Helen still liked to take Dolly with her. She did wish Dolly could have a better dress when they went to church.
Helen liked going places. This was all back in horse and buggy days. Helen liked to ride with her family in the surrey when they went to town for shopping on a warm, summer, Saturday afternoon. She liked going to church, and she liked going to Grandma’s house for holidays. Winter was special when Pa would hitch the horse to a sleigh. There were lots of bells on the horse’s harness. Helen loved to hear the bells jingle as the horse trotted along. Helen knew Dolly loved it too.
One year Dolly disappeared several days before Christmas. Helen looked and looked. She couldn’t find her. Helen missed Dolly a lot.
Helen asked her mother if she had seen Dolly. Ma said, “I just can’t say.”
Helen asked her father, “Have you seen my doll?”
Pa answered, “No. I haven’t.”
Helen asked, “Where can she be?”
Pa told her. “I know you love your dolly. I know you will find her again someday.”
Helen was very sad without her favorite doll. Helen wanted to find her doll right then—not someday.
One day Ma told her “We have to go to the church today to practice for the Sunday School Christmas program.”
Helen said, “I miss Dolly. I want her to go with me.”
Ma said, “Someday you will find her. Now we just have to go.”
There was snow on the ground, so Pa drove them in the sleigh. The bells jingled, but Helen didn’t enjoy the ride. Dolly would miss the Christmas program.
Helen was proud to stand with another girl and a boy to say the last lines of the program.
Helen had the very last lines.
“O holy night in Bethlehem
so very far away
where Christ was born and angels sang
the song still sung today.
How Jesus’ birth brings peace on earth
to all who trust God’s love,
and shepherds came to see the same
the Savior from above.”
O God whose song rings in our hearts
that song of peace that’s true
now bless our hearts, and bless our souls
and make us clean and new.”
Right after Helen spoke everyone sang “Silent Night.” Helen loved it even while she missed Dolly.
Helen made a snow angel when she got home even though she was still very sad because she missed her doll.
Christmas Eve came. Helen still didn’t know where Dolly was when everyone got in the sleigh to go to church for Christmas Eve.
People of the church had put up the biggest Christmas tree Helen had ever seen. It was decorated with candles, angels, and bright ornaments with a beautiful, big star at the top. There were toys on the tree too. Helen stood in wonder when she saw it. In those days Sunday School teachers put small trinkets on the tree for the children in their class and parents put surprises on the tree for their children. There would be a big sack of candy too. Helen wanted to share her Christmas at church with Dolly.
Then Helen spied something wonderful. It was her own doll dressed in a beautiful new dress her mother had made. Helen pointed and exclaimed “There’s my Dolly!”
Ma told her, “Yes, there your Dolly is.”
Pa said, “I knew you would find her.”
Helen found her place. Everyone did their part in the program very well. Then Helen’s heart was full of joy as everyone sang “Silent Night” at the close of the program. Everyone watched as the Sunday School teachers lighted the candles on the tree and the pastor spoke the final prayer. Helen’s own father stood by with a bucket of water and a long handled dipper to be sure the tree was safe as the candles were lighted.
Helen had never been so delighted as when the Sunday School superintendent took Helen’s doll from the tree and gave it to her. She went to her mother and gave her a big hug. Now Helen could have her doll friend in Sunday School with all her other friends.
Helen thought the new dress for Dolly was even better than getting new things for herself.
The story is based on a memory Helen Winslow Sheets (1906—2001) of Derby, Iowa, shared with her family. Jan Winslow of Corydon, Iowa, told the story to Rev. Jim Riley, who wrote it in its present form.
All rights are reserved to the author, Rev. James C. Riley. Permission is given to copy the story for individual or group use, but not for publication. November 2, 2020