At sunset, the guests gathered in the valley in full anticipation of special Christmas celebration. This year, though, was very special, for the people of Oz wanted their new neighbors to experience Christmas at its fullest and most meaningful. So, for this occasion, many from far and wide, those from what we call "lands of make believe."
In that throng were faces both familiar and new, most notably the "Disney Ladies": Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, Aurora, Mary Poppins, Esmeralda. The dinosaurs were particularly pleased to see the princess formerly known as the Little Mermaid for Ariel and Littlefoot's Aunt Maddie were best of friends.
"Littlefoot," said Dorothy, "you and your friends get ready to sing. You're on first then the orchestra will play."
"My goodness", said Ducky, "this is so much work for something I do not know about. Why do we have so much to do? We sing, then we hear more music. And Aladar and Mr. Thicknose are singing solos."
She looked at Littlefoot, adding, "And your grandpa is singing, too. Then Suri and Zini are doing a duet. I still do not get it. What are they singing about?"
Littlefoot shrugged, saying, "I don't know, Ducky. Grandma says Grandpa is singing a song about people walking in darkness. And Aladar sings about comforting people and preparing for someone."
"Don't look at me," said Petrie. "Me no know."
Okay, thought Ducky, maybe I will learn about Christmas in the end. Maybe that is why we're singing, but for what and to whom?
Soon the dinosaur and lemur children gathered with their Ozian counterparts. A hush fell over the valley and the kids began to sing about the holly and the ivy. Ducky, as she sang, listened to the words. The holly was the crown; the berries were as red as blood. In those words were mentions of a lady named Mary, and she had a little baby. This child was very special, and it finally dawned on the young hadrosaur just who those statues represented. So, the lady statue is Mary, and the man must be her husband. And the baby...But who are those other people? Why are they bowing down to the baby, and why are kings coming to see him?
Okay, so we finished the song, and Mama says we sang very pretty. I asked if she knew what the song was about, but she could not tell me. Honestly, no one is telling me a thing about Christmas, or why Mary and her baby are so special.
More music this time from the orchestra. Ducky, ever since meeting Aunt Maddie and her musical friends, and settling in Oz, came to love what she called "the pretty music." So much did Ducky want to play in the orchestra like her friend Suri. The young lemur played bells; she learned from Six, Number Nine's sister who played both bells and violin though she excelled at and loved at the latter best.
So lost in her reverie, Ducky almost did not hear Dorothy addressing her.
"Aren't you excited about Christmas, Ducky?," she asked. "We are so fortunate to have you in our land of Oz. I didn't know you and your friends had so much talent. I can't wait to hear Aladar and Grandpa Longneck sing. I really love the holiday music, especially what the orchestra is playing. Corelli's Christmas concerto is one of my favorites. I didn't get to hear much of the great Christmas music while growing up in Kansas. Our church choir did 'Hallelujah Chorus' once but not much else. When we got our radio, Aunt Em would tune in to a Christmas concert broadcast all the way from St. Louis. Every year we'd listen to the lovely music, and I'd help Uncle Henry decorate our Christmas tree. We didn't have much, never enough money to buy presents, but we always had a nice dinner, and Aunt Em would take me to church on Christmas Eve. I remember, the year before I came to Oz the first time, the pastor's wife gave the kids oranges and candy. I think that was the year I got Toto. For me, that was the best Christmas ever. Since coming to Oz, we get more presents and have more to eat, but I never forget what the season is really all about."
To this Ducky asked, "Dorothy, please tell me. What is the season all about? Do not get me wrong, I love the music and pretty decorations. I do , I do. But...Everyone seems so happy except me. I think I feel happy, but I also feel empty inside, like the place with the big holes my friends and I went through when we looked for the Great Valley. So please, if you can, tell me what Christmas is all about."
Dorothy smiled, replying, "Ducky, if you listen to the Wizard and Ozma tell the story of the first Christmas, then I think you'll finally understand. Here, why don't you go see the Nativity scene we set up. Look into that baby's face, and you'll know why this season is so special."
Dorothy hugged Ducky then took her place with the all-female choir featuring herself, the Disney Ladies, Jellia Jamb, and Jenny Jump, along with Eema, Plio, Baylene, and Grandma Longneck. This had to the strangest choir ever – humans, dinosaurs, lemurs, even horses and lions.
"Angels we have heard on high," began the lady choir, harmonizing so beautifully that Ducky, getting lost in the music and words, forgot her confusion over everything Christmas and joined her friends at the Nativity scene.
"Gloria in excelsis Deo...What does that mean?," muttered Ducky as she joined her friends.
Shorty, the kid brachiosaur and Littlefoot's adopted brother, overheard the young hadrosaur and replied, "Don't ask me, 'cause I don't know. But this scene they set up...It's kind of soothing, sort of makes you calm. You know, looking at the baby and his mom."
Around the Nativity scene the kids gathered, each wondering what this was all about. When the choir finished, Queen Ozma and the Wizard began the annual recitation of the first Christmas.
As Ozma recited the story of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, Ducky looked into the baby's face. How peaceful, how beautiful he is. Ducky knew this was not a real baby, just a figurine made of plaster and paint in the image of a baby. Yet the infant looked so real, so lifelike, so did the other figures.
"He has a sweet face. He does, he does," Ducky said as she peered into the baby's eyes.
Suddenly, bright white light bathed the scene, causing Ducky to squint her eyes from the blinding brilliance. When she opened her eyes, Ducky gasped in astonishment. The baby's eyes blinked, too! He even cooed and smiled. The animal figurines came to life as well. Ducky heard the lambs bleating, the donkeys braying, the cow lowing.
One little lamb said to Ducky, "You are not dreaming, Ducky. What you are seeing is real. Your own questions and doubts about Christmas have been answered. Look at this baby. See, his folks had been travelling all night to Bethlehem, that's where Joseph is from. His wife Mary was expecting a baby, and when they got to town, the baby was coming. They needed a place to stay, but there was no room at the inn. The only place available was this stable. The baby's cradle is really a manger, where our food is kept."
Ducky, her eyes wide with wonder, was still full of questions. She said, "Huh? She had her baby where animals eat out of? So why is everyone bowing down? Everyone says this baby is so special, but if his mommy and daddy are so poor...I see people bow to Ozma, but she is a queen, and I have learned people always bow to kings and queens to show respect. So, is this baby a king?"
The cow replied, "Yes, Ducky, he is a King. The King of Kings. Just think, we animals were the first living things to see this special baby born. Do you see the shepherds?," he asked, indicating the men with their lambs.
"They were out in their fields, watching their flocks, when the angel came to them."
"What is an angel?," asked Ducky, "There is so much to learn about Christmas. It is, it is."
The cow replied, "Angels are God's messengers. They bring good news. That night, the angel appeared to the shepherds, and they were frightened. But the angel told them not to be afraid, because I have good news for all people. For on this night, a Savior is born, which is Christ the Lord. Then the angel told them to go to Bethlehem where they will find the baby lying in a manger. Then the heavenly host appeared, and they praised God and sang, 'Glory to God in the Highest! And on Peace on Earth, Good Will to All.' "
Now Ducky thought it over. She looked at the figurines of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus, but they weren't mere lifeless statues; they were living and breathing people. She looked up at the angel, the very one who brought good news to the shepherds. Still there were unanswered questions, so she asked, "You said he is special, that he is a savior. But what is he to save?"
"The world, Ducky," said the lamb who smiled at the little dinosaur. "The world was sad, and it needed someone to help the people love again. That is what this baby is: Love. Christmas is all about Love. Love everyone as you love yourself. Even those you don't like very well, you still love them."
Ducky smiled, and to her surprise, the baby smiled back. Filled with a glowing peace she could not, she said, "Oh, so that is what it is about. This baby is Love. See? He smiled at me. He did, he did. Yep, yep, yep! Now I know what Christmas is all about, and I feel so much better. And you do not have to worry about me, little baby, I will love everybody just as I love you. I will. I will."
As the Wizard recited the last words the story, the Nativity scene returned to its former state, all figurines, not as the living beings which appeared to Ducky.
"What's wrong, Ducky?," asked Littlefoot.
"Yeah," said Suri, "you kind of spaced out on us. Are you all right?"
Ducky smiled broadly, giggled, and said, "Yep, yep, yep! I know what Christmas is all about now. Hey, Suri, what did the Wizard mean about the fun part of Christmas. I thought we were celebrating this baby's birthday."
"Oh," replied Dorothy, "we are. But there are so many Christmas traditions, Ducky. If I'm right, we should receive another visitor about now. See, this is his really busy night, but he promised to stop by Oz. There will be presents for all of you, but for you, Ducky, there is something truly special."
Now that Ducky knows the real meaning of Christmas, she and her prehistoric pals are about to experience more fun and wonder. Just what is that "special gift?"
Go to the conclusion of "Christmas in the Valley"
Copyright © 2006 by PRP.