Finding God under the Christmas Tree

by Julianne McCullagh

Christmas should be an easy time to find God in all things, as St. Ignatius of Loyola calls us to do. But often it does not seem so simple.With all the distractions at home, school, and work, it is easy to lose sight of what is really important.

‘Tis the Season

Sitting cross-legged under the Christmas tree, Kate looks up and squints her eyes. All the lights in the room are out, except for those on the Christmas tree. She can hear the wind blow outside, and she finds it easy to imagine that she is traveling on a donkey alongside Mary and Joseph toward Bethlehem down a long,winding road with a village in the distance, just like on one of the Christmas cards displayed on the piano.

Mom is busy with little Joey, so Kate has a few minutes alone just to sit here in her favorite spot. In front of her is the Nativity scene—a thin wooden manger with bits of straw glued to the top, and on the back wall a painting of a cow, sheep, and donkey looking into the space where the figurines have been carefully placed. There is Joseph, leaning on his walking staff, head bent in wonder. Mary is in a sitting kneel, hands apart in awe at the sight before her. Shepherds crowd the doorway, and a few kings in colorful robes and their resplendent camels are lined up to enter this special place. They all face the little plaster child,who is dressed only in a tiny thin sheet where a diaper should be. This baby, this Savior, with a halo behind his curls, has his arms outstretched in benediction toward his audience; toward me, too, Kate thinks.

“Kate, do you have your sweater, hat, and mittens? It’s beginning to snow,” Mom calls as she coaxes Joey into his snowsuit. “Oh, there is just so much to do these days before Christmas.” Kate hears Mom talk to Joey in an exasperated and tired voice while she wrestles his kicking feet into the snowsuit.

And a Child Shall Lead Them

Kate is prepared for the cold night. Warm clothes are on the big chair near the front door, ready to be put on when she goes to the school concert her big brother is playing in. Dad and the older boys are already at school; she and Mom and her little brother will walk the three blocks to join them.

Kate helps Mom open the stroller for Joey. He squirms and squeals delightedly as his mother and sister fuss over him, tucking him in with a soft blanket to keep him warm in the night air.As she tucks the blanket under her little brother’s back, Kate impulsively kisses this little child she loves so much, touching his soft, warm cheek.

Kate holds the front bar of the stroller while Mom holds the handle, and together they maneuver the stroller down the front steps. The wind is picking up, and tiny bits of snow land on Kate’s cheek.

“Ready, Kate?”

“Uh, I forgot something. I’ll be right back.”

She runs up the four steps and into the house. Kneeling once again in front of the manger, Kate takes one of her soft blue knit mittens from her pocket and tucks it around the smiling baby in the manger.

“Ready, Mom,” she announces as she shuts the front door behind her.

Julianne McCullagh

Julianne McCullagh

Julianne B. McCullagh is Director of Family Life Ministry at St. Philip the Apostle Church in Lewisville, Texas.

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In The Shepherd’s Story, children will discover the true meaning of Christmas as told through a classic and beloved rhyme scheme. Resources to accompany this beautifully illustrated book are available at, including an activity pack with a maze, a coloring page, Christmas cards to share, and more.