from a children's board book by Lori Walburg
One rainy night, a man rode his horse up to the door of an empty store. He stopped his horse and smiled. "This will do just fine," he said. The man worked hard to fix up the old store. "Pam! Pam! Pam!" went his hammer. "Snish! Snish! Snish!" went his saw. The people in town did not know who the man was. Nobody knew what he was building. The grown-ups just watched...and waited. The children just wondered...and wished!
One day a little girl named Lucy knocked on the door of the mysterious store. "Hello," she said. "My name is Lucy. Do you need some help?"
"Can you unpackboxes?" the man asked.
"Yes, I can do that," answered Lucy.
She came in and saw dozens of boxes, barrels, and crates. Lucy opened the first box. She picked up something wrapped in paper. It was round and heavy. She almost dropped it! When she unwrapped the paper, she saw a glass jar.
Lucy unpacked another glass jar. Then another...and another. Fat jars, tall jars, thin jars, round jars.
"Now what shall we put inside the jars?" the man finally asked.
Lucy wished a secret with! She did not tell what it was. She waited to see what the man would say. Then he took the top off a big box. Inside it, Lucy saw lollipops, chewing gum balls, peppermint sticks, taffy, and her favorite candy -- gumdrops! Lucy's secret wish had come true.
The man laughed when he saw Lucy's eyes light up. "Welcome to John Sonneman's Candy Store," he said. "And now, Miss Lucy, we must fill all these jars with treats." So they worked and worked until all the jars were full of colorful candy. In the very last crate, Lucy saw a candy she had never seen before.
"What is this, Mr. Sonneman?" Lucy asked.
"This is a very special Christmas candy," he explained. He picked up the red and white candy. "It is called a candy cane. Do you know what letter this candy cane looks like?" he asked.
Lucy took the candy and looked at it. "J!" she said.
"Yes," Mr. Sonneman smiled. "J is for Jesus, who was born on Christmas day."
"Now, turn the candy cane this way," he said, and he turned the "J" upside down. "What does it remind you of now?"
Lucy looked at it and thought. Then she said, "I know! It's like a shepherd's staff."
"That's right," said the candy man. "The shepherds in the field were the first people to find out that Jesus had been born."
"Why does the candy cane have red and white stripes?" Lucy asked.
Mr. Sonneman looked sad. "When Jesus grew to be a man, some Roman soldiers arrested him. They beat him so hard that his blood ran down like red stripes. He forgives all people when they ask him. So the red stripes remind us that Jesus gave us the great gift of forgiveness when he died on the cross.
"The white stripes remind us that Jesus rose from the dead and our hearts are washed clean from sin when we give our lives to him."
It was December and it was cold outside. But every morning Lucy and Mr. Sonneman went to houses and farms near their town. They told the candy cane story and left each family a gift and an invitation to come to the grand opening of Sonneman's Candy Store on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Eve, everybody came to the new candy store. They were happy and excited because they shared gifts and candy together. But they were especially happy because they shared something more. Something better.
On that night, the people shared the story of the candy cane. They shared the miracle of Christ's birth and the mercy of God's love. They remembered what he had done to wash our sins away and they thanked Jesus for the greatest gift of all.