A warm bedtime story for Christmas Eve

Far away and not so long ago, there lived an old moose. His lifelong dream was to be a reindeer. Not just any reindeer but one of Santa’s special reindeer that pulled his sleigh across those beautiful winter skies delivering toys to all the children of the world on Christmas Eve.

The older he grew the more he realized his dream could never become true. He was reminded of his fate as an ugly, clumsy old moose every time he stopped for a drink at the clear mountain stream where all the animals would gather. They teased him, for they all knew of his dream and each animal thought it so silly and immature for a big, bulky moose to cling to such a foolish, child’s dream. Some of the young reindeer would prance in front of Ol’ Mister Moose and tease him.

“Next year we will get to audition for Santa, would you like to watch?” they would taunt him. He would amble off into the woods with the echoing of their laughter all through the forest.

He never got angry for his temperament was soft and easygoing. A good thing too, for his big muscles ripped as he climbed the hills. If he ever got mad, the whole forest would tremble with fear. Yet he was so gentle even the squirrels laughed and joked about him. Never mind, he never discouraged from his love of Santa and his desire to one day work for him even though he knew it impossible.

Mr. Moose almost decided not to go that Christmas Eve. His annual trip to the top of Fire Top Mountain to watch with all the other animals as Santa and his sleigh flew across at the same precise time every year. Fire Top Mountain was the landmark Santa used to guide his team easterly to visit all the children along the coast. All the animals would wave and Santa would wave back with Rudolph giving a blink of his famous red nose.

He thought he would not go but his love for Santa and that beautiful sight was just too much. Mr. Moose set out on his journey to Fire Top. This Christmas Eve was different from all the others he remembered. The sky was a dangerous purple black and the wind blew in crazy directions. The big pines bent this way and that.

Still he trudged along. The animals had gathered. They began to tease him. “Hey, aren’t you a little overweight to be a reindeer,” a sleek young deer taunted. The rabbits and squirrels giggled.

It was just too much to bear. Ol’ Mister Moose turned around and headed down the mountain. His heart was broken and he could not take the teasing anymore.

“Who needed Santa and Christmas anyway,” he asked himself. He was trying to make himself angry but it was no use. He just loved Santa too much. He looked back over his shoulder as all the animals stared skyward anticipating Santa’s arrival. Mr. Moose couldn’t resist searching the skies as he walked back into the forest.

There coming into view was that magnificent sight – Santa’s sleigh led by Rudolph and the beautiful reindeer. However, something was wrong. As Santa directed the sleigh to make it’s easterly turn right over Fire Top Mountain an awful wind tipped the sleigh and presents flew everywhere. Santa’s trusty reindeer soon righted the sleigh but the gifts had fallen all over the mountainside. All the animals scurried about to help Santa retrieve the presents.

He circled and landed. They were all thrilled to get a close look at Santa and his splendid team, but all were sorry under the circumstances. As the sleigh landed, each animal brought gifts they had retrieved from the snowy mountainside. Mr. Moose, in all the confusion, ambled close to the opening where Santa had landed. He didn’t dare show his ugly old face, but he so wanted a chance to see his hero as close-up as possible. He wasn’t nimble enough as the other animals to help gather the fallen gifts or he would have had a chance to touch the magical sleigh and maybe even speak to Santa. “Never mind,” he thought. “I feel lucky to just be standing here watching”.

Then disaster struck. Just as Santa was ready to take off, thanking and waving goodbye to all the animals, he discovered his sleigh would not budge. He commanded in his deep baritone voice as the powerful team struggled to move the sleigh whose runners had become frozen in place. The terrible storm continued to rage. All the animals pulled and tugged, trying desperately. Never had Santa been in such a predicament. All the strong young deer stepped forward, pulling, pounding at the frozen ice with all their youth and vigor. The ice only grew colder and harder as the evening grew more bleak.

“Doesn’t anyone have an idea,” Santa begged. “It’s getting so late and I’m behind schedule. What will we ever do?”

Just then, wise Mister Fox whispered to Ol’ Father Owl. “Do you think Mr. Moose would be strong enough to help? By the way, where in the world is Mr. Moose?”

“He’s hiding in the bushes at the edge of the forest,” Mr. Owl said. “He’s bashful and ashamed but I’m sure he could help as big and strong as he is. Perhaps we have been too harsh with our teasing. I shall fly over and talk to him.”

Mr. Owl approached. “Could you help Mr. Moose? You can plainly see poor Santa’s predicament and we all know you love him so. This could be all your chance to be a hero.” Mr. Owl tried desperately to persuade Mr. Moose.

“What can I do? I’m not nearly as strong as all those young reindeer that have failed and Santa’s team is by far stronger than an old moose. So you see, there is really nothing I can do.”

By now, all the animals had gathered around Mr. Owl and Mr. Moose. “Please,” each one begged as Mr. Moose became the center of attention.

Everyone became quiet as Santa came through the ranks of all the animals and stood before Mr. Moose.

Santa spoke. “You know, every year I have passed over Fire Top Mountain, and waved. I have seen you, such a faithful friend. I missed you this year. I was concerned when I didn’t see you in your familiar spot and was worried something was wrong. Now, as you can see, I am in a terrible situation. All of the animals of the forest tell me you are the strongest of all. Do you think you could help? Santa pleaded.

Mr. Moose was moved by Santa’s plea and humbled as ever. There was a moment of silence, and then Mr. Moose spoke. He commanded the respect of the elder statesman as he told everyone of his plan to free the sleigh, including Santa, who was most impressed.

Oddly enough, Mr. Moose’s plan didn’t call for strength, at least strength in muscle. His plan included a different kind of strength as he and Santa led the way. The plan became very clear.

All the animals circled the sleigh in a tight little group and led by Santa’s deep baritone voice echoing through the forest they all chimed in with Christmas carols to baby Jesus. First “Silent Night”, then “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. All huddled together, their warmth and love was overwhelming.

“Shh!” Santa exclaimed. “What is that cracking sound?” Everyone looked down. The ice that held the runners to the sleigh had begun to melt.

Santa congratulated Mr. Moose in front of all the creatures of the forest. He also decreed Mr. Moose the king of Fire Top Mountain, and Santa’s word was law in those parts.

There was no more teasing Mr. Moose for he was now the wise old counsel for all the forest and a personal friend of Santa. For Mr. Moose was stronger than muscle – he had the strength of love and understanding.