A Christmas Feast for the Little Match Girl
“It was late on a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve. The snow was falling. A poor little girl was wandering in the cold dark streets; she was bareheaded and barefoot.” The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson
My mother’s family is Danish, so I grew up with Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales and play figurines. Those stories can scare a child to their bones. There was one, I never forgot, that moved me more than all the others. The Little Match Girl was a poor, abused child who wandered the streets alone, attempting to sell matches for food. In a night of extreme cold, she lights all her matches for warmth. Every time she strikes the match she has a vision of food, warmth, fellowship, comfort, and beauty. Ultimately, she dies in the snow.
A few years later, I saw a snippet of a TV show that dramatized the little match girl. This time, she huddled in the cold. Through a window, she sees a family around a table, with the warmth of the hearth blazing behind them. The children run to sit on their daddy’s lap. The little match girl is on the outside looking in.
I think the reason why it struck me was that there was a part of me that identified with her. I have never wanted for food, warmth, or shelter, but, I did wander for many years. I tried different ideas and philosophies. I tried to fix my own feelings of being the outsider. I failed. I struck many matches, saw many glimpses, but never had a well-lit fire.
When I was twenty-four I was a working as a coat-check girl in New York City. I used to wander the streets, getting lost in the city, and those times have a cold, dream-like quality. There was an unearthly call on my life then. A whisper I could barely hear, but that I wanted to. I was thinking, dreaming, wandering. I felt lost. One evening an evangelist handed me a New Testament and I began to read. That night marked the beginning of my journey home.
The Little Match Girl died in the snow, trying to warm herself with a match. My fate was not hers. The Lord invited me in. I was poor, in rags, with nothing to offer him. But he asked me to sit as his table and to be his daughter. He invited me onto his knee and to dine with him for all eternity. It should never have happened, but somehow it did.
In this season of the Church, we have begun to celebrate Advent. Our preparation for the birth of our Lord. The beginning of our journey home. All of us have been like that Little Match Girl. If we haven’t suffered from lacking physically, we have lacked spiritually. We know what it is to have nothing to offer. And yet, the Lord has opened his door to us. All her visions of food, warmth, fellowship, comfort, and beauty are realized in Jesus.
This Christmastide please join me in remembering how very lost we were before Jesus took us in, and lavished us with home, hearth, well-being, and family.
Let’s not forget that the Little Match Girls are outside our doors. There are so many outside looking in. Ours is the unique privilege to invite them home.
This Christmas I am wishing you all love, comfort, joy and peace, all the riches of God’s table, old friends to share it with, and new friends to meet.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
Lilly Sanders Ubbens is a published writer and mother of two. After growing up as a missionary kid in Honduras, Lilly went on to earn a masters degree from Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA. While there, Lilly met and married the love of her life, Bo, and they now serve at Christ Church Anglican on the Mainline in Wayne, PA. You can contact Lilly here.