Madame L is happy to have found a modern telling of a Christmas tale that doesn't clunk along through a bunch of formulaic plot points and stereotypical characters...and does fill the reader with the joy of Christmas.
This book is "The Juggler of Our Lady," by R.O. Blechman. Madame L found this gem in a bookstore's closing-out sale, but it's available at Amazon.com for prices ranging from $13.95 to $39.00. (You can also get from Amazon.com the last remaining 78 RPM vinyl recording of John Nesbitt telling this story; it's used, and it's only $9.00. Can you play 78 RPM vinyl records any more? Madame L cannot.)
This is apparently a medieval tale and there must be many versions of it available, besides those Madame L found at Amazon.com (though it's not available at Powells.com).
Imagine having only one skill, juggling; and living in a community of people who have many other skills to offer as their Christmas gifts to the Holy Mother of Christ.
Imagine being discouraged not only at the beautiful gifts the others give but also at the competitive nature of their gift-giving.
Imagine giving your gift, the one you've spent your whole life learning and perfecting, worrying that it won't be good enough, and wearing yourself out by the time Christmas morning comes as you perform for the Holy Virgin.
Imagine the others denigrating your gift and criticizing it as impious, sacrilegious, and so on.
Finally, imagine the way the Virgin responds to this gift from the heart.
The version of the book Madame L has is illustrated by R.O. Blechman, and the preface is written by Maurice Sendak. It's beautiful. But don't worry if you can't buy it.
Just imagine it, as the artist did, and then imagine what marvelous gift YOU can give to God this Christmas season.
Blessings to all,