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Patrick's boots crunched in the snow on the sidewalk. He was on his way to Whit's End. His cousin Beth walked beside him.
Patrick's nose felt frozen. He clutched a small gift bag in his hand. It had a big red bow on it.
"I still think your decision is weird," Patrick said to Beth.
Beth shook her head. "Mr. Whittaker will understand."
"But I don't understand," Patrick said. His words turned into little clouds around his mouth. "I'm bringing him a present. But you're going to tell him that you're not giving any presents this year. To anyone." Beth frowned. "You left out the reason why I'm not giving presents. It's because I'm saving my money to give to the poor." She said the last part in a dramatic voice.
Patrick opened the door to Whit's End. The bell on the door jingled as he stepped inside. Beth followed close behind.
Mr. Whittaker stood behind the counter. He was making a milk shake. He looked up and smiled. "Merry Christmas!" he said.
"Merry Christmas!" Patrick and Beth said together.
Patrick walked to the counter and held out the bag to Whit. "My mom baked these for you," he said.
Whit took the bag and looked inside. He closed his eyes and sniffed deeply. "I love gingerbread cookies. Thank you," he said. "You're welcome," Patrick said. He glanced over at Beth.
Beth looked away.
"Do you mind if I share these?" Whit asked Patrick. He put the gift on a shelf behind him. "If I eat them all myself, I'll gain weight. Then I might have to ask for a new belt for Christmas."
"Sure," Patrick said. "They're yours. You can do whatever you want with them."
The cousins took off their mittens and sat at the counter.
Whit busied himself with making mugs of hot chocolate. "Are both of you ready for Christmas?" he asked them.
"Almost," Patrick said.
"I am," Beth said.
Whit raised his eyebrows. "You've already done all your Christmas shopping?" he asked her.
Patrick looked at Beth to see how she would reply.
"I'm not shopping for Christmas this year," Beth said. "I'm not giving gifts."
"Oh?" Whit said.
Beth lifted her chin proudly. "I'm giving my money to needy families," she said.
Whit looked impressed. "Well, that's a sacrificial thing to do," he said.
"She didn't say she wouldn't take any gifts," Patrick said in a sharp tone. "She said she isn't giving any."
"I'm not asking for any gifts this year. I have told everyone not to give me gifts," Beth said. She frowned at Patrick. "I don't want any money spent on me. It should go to the poor instead."
Patrick looked at Whit. "Help me, Mr. Whittaker," he said. "What's it going to be like with no Christmas presents under the tree? It's crazy."
Whit rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "You don't always have to buy gifts," he said. Then he turned to Beth. "You could make something by hand-like decorate a picture frame or knit a scarf."
"I would still have to buy the supplies," Beth said.
Patrick put his face in his hands and groaned. "You can't have Christmas without presents. It's ... it's ... tradition."
"It wasn't always tradition," Beth said. Then she looked doubtful and asked Whit, "Was it?"
Whit put some mugs of hot chocolate on a tray. "Let me deliver these drinks. Then I'll show you the answer," he said.
"Show us?" Patrick asked. Then he realized what Whit was saying. "An Imagination Station adventure?"
Whit chuckled as he walked away with the tray.
Patrick looked at Beth. Beth seemed excited for a second. Then her expression changed to serious. "This won't change anything," she said firmly.
"Are you sure about that?" Patrick asked.
"You'll see," Beth said.
* * *
Whit led the cousins down a set of stairs to his basement workshop. They crossed the room to a large machine. It looked like the front of a helicopter. The Imagination Station! Patrick patted its side and felt the cool metal.
The Imagination Station was one of Whit's inventions. It was kind of like a time machine. It let kids experience history for themselves.
Whit pushed a button, and the door slid open. The cousins climbed inside and sat in the seats.
Whit pushed several keys on the machine's control panel. The Imagination Station started to hum. Lights flashed on and off.
"I hope you enjoy yourselves," Whit said.
"What will this tell me about giving gifts?" Beth asked.
Whit smiled and waved. "Push the red button when you're ready," he said. The doors slid closed.
Patrick reached out and pushed the red button.
The Imagination Station started to shake. It seemed to move forward. Then it rumbled. Then it whirred.
Patrick felt the machine speed up. It zoomed along through a kind of tunnel. The tunnel seemed to get smaller and smaller.
Suddenly, everything went black.
Excerpted from Danger on a Silent Night by MARIANNE HERRING, NANCY I. SANDERS, DAVID HOHN. Copyright © 2013 Focus on the Family. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
(1) Present Problems.................... 1
(2) Magic!.................... 10
(3) The Palace.................... 19
(4) Apellus.................... 31
(5) Three Wise Men?.................... 40
(6) Only One King.................... 49
(7) Simeon.................... 57
(8) The Lion of Judah.................... 68
(9) Herod's Lies.................... 72
(10) The Secret Meeting.................... 82
(11) Footsteps.................... 87
(12) The Baby Jesus.................... 101
(13) Trapped!.................... 115
(14) The Vision.................... 121
(15) The Workshop.................... 128
Secret Word Puzzle.................... 136
Posted February 13, 2014
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