Each year I post this timeless story, The Little Angel Who Couldn’t Sing. I hope you enjoy it and share it freely with friends, family, co-workers, or anyone you think might enjoy it. Please give attribution to Betty Matney.
Little Angel huddled, shivering and sobbing, in the shadow of a large bank of dirty clouds outside of Heaven’s Gate. Gusts of cold north wind tugged at his mud-spattered robe and tangled the feathers of his wings, forcing him to burrow deeper into his hiding place. He knew he should get up and go home, but he couldn’t face his friends. If it didn’t get any colder, he’d sneak home after dark.
Suddenly, he stopped crying and raised his head to listen. Voices drifted across the clouds. He curled into a tighter ball and lay very still. He didn’t want any of the angels to find him.
A deep voice spoke briskly, “I tell you, I heard someone crying.”
There was a mumbled response Little Angel couldn’t hear very well.
Even closer this time, the deep voice said, “I know how happy everyone is, but I also know crying when I hear it.”
Whoever it was they were nearly at his bank of clouds. He covered his head with his wings and held his breath.
Big feet shuffled to a stop and a different voice said, “What do we have here?”
Little Angel slowly raised his head and peeked over the edge of his wing. His blue eyes popped wide. God Himself looked down at him.
Holding his long, gray, wind-tossed hair out of His eyes with one hand, He bent over and held His other hand out to Little Angel. “Come out of there, little one.”
He lowered his wing and God pulled him out of his hole. He stood there, robe wrinkled and dirty, gold halo tilted over his right ear, eyes cast down.
God knelt on one knee. With a finger under Little Angel’s chin, He lifted his face. “How old are you, little one?”
Little Angel mumbled, “Seven years old, Sir.”
“So, on the day when joy is almost tearing this old place apart, why are you down here alone and crying?” Gently, He wiped the tears away with the end of the green sash wrapped around His waist.
Little Angel bit his trembling lower lip to keep from crying again.
God twisted His head around and looked up at the other adult angel. “Aren’t all the angels practicing their singing for the performance tonight?”
The other angel looked flustered. “Yes, Sir. They are supposed to be, Sir.”
God turned His kindly eyes on the little angel. “Does that have something to do with why you’re crying?”
Tears filled Little Angel’s eyes as he nodded. “I…I can’t…” He sniffled and wiped his nose with the sleeve of his robe. “I can’t sing!” Tears spilled down his cheeks. “The chorus master said I can’t carry a tune. I should just fly around and hum, but I shouldn’t hum too loud.” He threw his arm across his face and wailed into his sleeve. “I don’t want to just hum! I want to do something important like everyone else!”
God sighed and pushed to His feet. He patted the little angel on the head. “Of course, you do.”
He dropped his arm and stared up at God. God stroked His thick, white beard. Finally, He smiled as He reached over and plucked a few pieces of dirty cloud from the little angel’s red curls. “You go get cleaned up and meet me at the Pearly Gates in an hour.” As he took off running, God shouted, “And straighten up that halo!”
Little Angel skidded to a halt in front of God, jolting his halo into a tilt over his right ear.
God reached over and straightened it up. “You look much better, except you seemed to have missed a few spots on your face.” God ran a thumb over the little angel’s cheeks.
He giggled. “Those are freckles.”
God smiled. “Ah, so they are.”
Little Angel fidgeted.
God chuckled. “Anxious to find out what you’re doing. Frankly,” God’s Voice got very serious. “I don’t know how we overlooked this task. It is very important.”
He lifted his chin and drew his shoulders back.
“Do you have your sack of stardust?”
He nodded and lifted the small, red velvet sack hanging from the robe’s tie.
God leaned over and whispered in the little angel’s ear.
Little Angel’s wings drooped. “The donkey? That’s a dumb job.”
God frowned. “Remember who the donkey is carrying. But, the donkey is small. It is important that he have some help with his burden. Will you help him?”
He looked up at God with wide eyes. “Yes, sir.” Little Angel took off running towards a hole in the clouds that would let him drop to earth quickly.
Just as he was diving through, God yelled, “And straighten up that halo!”
Little Angel stood on the side of the road leading to Bethlehem. Overhead a zillion stars shone, but down here it was dark and cold. He shivered and pulled his wings around himself.From around a curve in the road hooves clip-clopped along the frozen ground. The small donkey staggered a few steps before he caught himself. A woman, wrapped in a blue cape, rode the small creature while a man with a staff walked beside them.
The man walked slowly, now and then patting the donkey’s short neck. “What a brave little beast you are.”
The donkey’s winter coat was long and fuzzy and very black. Patches of white hair that matched the hair on its belly filled its long ears. It was young, not much more than a baby, really. And so tired that sometimes its nose dragged the ground. As the three drew alongside Little Angel,the donkey stopped. The man rubbed its ears and stood beside it.
Little Angel walked over and placed a hand on its halter. The donkey’s big, dark eyes lifted to him. The donkey groaned, “I don’t know how much longer I can go on.”
“I will help you.” Little Angel took the red sack from his belt and knelt. He dipped his fingertips inside. When he took them out, they shone with silvery powder. Swiftly, he rubbed all four hooves with the silvery powder. “Take a few steps and see if that helps.”
The donkey nodded. “I’ll try.” As he stepped forward, he added, “Your halo’s crooked.”
He straightened up his halo as the donkey took the first short, slow steps. He twitched his long ears then gave a joyful bray. “My feet don’t hurt!”
With a big smile, Little Angel patted the donkey. “You know, Bethlehem is just over that hill.” He pointed towards a small hill in the distance.
When the man led out again, Little Angel jogged next to the trotting donkey as it nimbly skirted the frozen puddles along the road.
Very soon they reached Bethlehem. Little Angel waited beside the donkey as the man inquired for a room at inn after inn after inn. Every place was full until finally only one inn was left. The man sagged with fatigue as he walked to the last door.
The donkey sighed as the man stood talking to the landlord. “I need something to eat and some water and a place to rest pretty soon. My feet are hurting again.”
Little Angel hugged the donkey. “I’m sure this is the place we are to stop. There’s a stable out back.” He looked at the woman sitting quietly on the donkey, her body bent with tiredness. He gave the donkey another hug. “You are so brave and good,” he whispered to the donkey.
The donkey raised its black nose to Little Angel’s ear. “The woman’s going to have a baby. I didn’t think she could walk very far, so I had to keep walking for her.” The donkey sighed. “Did you know about the baby?”
He scratched the donkey’s ear. “Yes, I knew about the baby.”
When the man returned, he led the donkey to the stable behind the inn. He helped the woman off and spread his own cloak over her as she lay down on a pile of straw. After she was settled, he took the donkey into another stall to feed and water the animal before returning to the woman, his wife.
Little Angel sat in the corner of the stall as the donkey ate and then tucked its legs under it and lay down. “Don’t sleep too soundly,” he cautioned. “The celebration will be starting soon.”
The words were barely out of his mouth before a baby cried. He rushed to the wall and peeked through the space between two boards. Eyes wide, he watched the man wrap the baby in a warm blanket and lay it in the manger next to the woman. The man stood between the manger and the woman, smiling first at one and then at the other. The woman’s face shone with happiness as she gazed at her husband and then at the Infant Boy.
The donkey stood next to Little Angel, staring through the crack. “Do you see the glow around the baby?”
Little Angel gave a happy nod. “He’s a very special Baby.”
From far away and above them, singing drifted on the air. The donkey looked up. “What’s that?”
A grin stretched Little Angel’s face as he,too,looked up. “Those are the angels singing to the shepherds out in the hills. They are calling them to come to the stable and behold the Child that was born.” He dropped his eyes to the donkey. “I have to leave now.”
The donkey brushed its face against Little Angel’s chest. “Thank you. I don’t know if I could have made it all this way by myself.”
He gave the donkey a warm hug around its shaggy neck. “Everyone needs help sometimes.”
As he flew upwards, the donkey called, “Hey! Your halo is….”
He raised both hands and straightened his halo as he flew into the night. In the distance, he heard the final chorus and, all alone, Little Angel began to hum. As he flew higher, his humming grew louder until, unable to contain his joy, he burst into song. In a loud, happy voice, and slightly off-key, he added his own heavenly welcome to the Baby lying in the manger.
NOTE: This story was written by a close friend of mine, Betty Matney. Betty was a devout Catholic who lived with my wife and myself until she passed away here at home. She taught me that realChristians accepted all of Creator’s children whether those children were believers, non-believers, or simply believed in a different way. And that kindness to all living creatures was the basis of her faith. Of course, she could also be a cranky little old lady! LOL!
Before she passed away, Betty gave me all of her writing work to do with as I pleased. Though Betty has Journeyed to the Other Side, she was always happy to share good things with others. In this spirit of sharing, I offer you this story. Enjoy this story and share it freely. You may also make copies and share those copies as long as you attribute the story to Betty Matney as the author.