It was a custom in the village to glorify the Christmas season with special events to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, Jesus. Everyone took part in the preparations by festively decorating the village church and the piazza in front of it. Even the children helped by making gifts to give to the Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve.
Maria wanted to make a very special gift. She had helped her mother before with the loom, so she tried, on her own, to weave a colorful blanket. But Maria was too inexperienced and the yarns became an entangled mess. Maria was heartbroken. She wanted so much to be able to march in procession with the other village children, but she had no gift to give to the Christ Child.
Finally it was Christmas Eve! The villagers gathered in the piazza. Some whispered that they thought they could hear angels singing tonight. Everyone was ready. Holding lit candles, all the villagers began to process down the aisle amid joyous music and singing.
All except for Maria, who hid in the shadows, watching with tears in her eyes as the procession to the church started.
"I don’t have a gift for the Baby Jesus," she sniffled softly. "I tried and tried to make something beautiful, but instead I ruined it."
Suddenly, Maria heard a voice. She looked up and saw only a bright star in the sky; it seemed to hover and shine over the village church. Was it this star that spoke to her?
"Maria," she heard the voice again, "The baby Jesus will love whatever you give because it comes from your heart. Love is what makes any gift special."
With that, Maria stepped out from the shadows. Nearby she noticed some tall green weeds. She rushed over and quickly filled her arms with the weeds, covering them with her manto. Then she ran swiftly to the church.
By the time she arrived, the candles were ablaze and the children were singing as they walked down the aisle carrying their gifts to the Christ Child.
Padre Francesco placed the figure of the baby Jesus in the manger, with the children’s gifts all around it.
Suddenly, Maria was scared when she saw all those people dressed in such beautiful clothes, and she was dressed so poorly. She tried to slip behind one of the big pillars, but she was too slow. Padre Francesco saw her.
"Maria, Maria," he called out. "Hurry girl, come, bring up your gift!"
Maria was terrified. She wondered, "Do I run away? Do I go forward?"
The Padre saw her apprehension and coaxed her more gently, "Maria, come up here and see the Baby Jesus. There is space left for one more gift."
Before she could think, Maria found herself walking down the main aisle of the church.
"What is Maria carrying under her manto?" the villagers whispered. "Where’s her gift?"
Padre Francesco stepped down from the altar and walked with Maria to the Christmas crèche. Maria bowed her head and said a prayer then opened her manto and let the weeds tumble out.
Voices gasped, "Look! Look at those glorious flowers!"
Startled, Maria opened her eyes. She was stunned. For each weed was now topped with a flaming, bright, red star.
And outside, too, every weed now bore a bright red star.
Maria’s love had created a miracle.