CROSS THE NORTH Sea, in a country called Germany, lived a little boy named Gottlieb. His father had died when he was but a baby, and although from early morning till late at night his mother sat plying her needle, she found it difficult indeed to provide food and clothing and shelter for her little boy and herself.
Gottlieb was not old enough to work, but he would often sit on a small stool at his mother's feet and dream about the wonderful things he would do for his dear mother when he grew to be a man, and she was comforted as she looked upon her boy, and the thought that she was working for him often gave strength to her tired fingers.
But one night Gottlieb saw that his mother was more than usually troubled. Every now and then she would sigh, and a tear would trickle down her cheek. The little boy had grown quick to read these signs of distress, and he thought, "Christmas will be here soon, and dear mother is thinking of what a sad time it will be."
What would Gottlieb have given to be able to comfort his mother! He could only sit and brood, while his young heart swelled and a lump rose in his throat at the thought that he could do nothing.
Presently, however, a happy fancy came to him. Was not the Christ Child born on Christmas Day, and did not He send good gifts to men on His birthday? But then came the thought, "He will never find us. Our home is so mean and small." It seemed foolish to hope, but a boy is not long cast down, and as Gottlieb sat dreaming, a happy inspiration came to him. Stealing softly from the room he took paper and pen, for he had learnt to write, and spelt out, word after word, a letter which he addressed to the Christ Child.
You may be sure that the postman was puzzled what to do with this letter when he sorted it out of the heap in the letter-box. Perhaps the Burgomaster would know the right thing to do? So the postman took the letter to the great burly man who lived in the big house and wore a gold chain round his neck. The Burgomaster opened the envelope, and as he read the letter written in the trembling hand of a child, tears came into his eyes. But he spoke gruffly enough to the postman, "This must be a foolish boy; a small one, I have no doubt."
Soon Christmas morning dawned, and Gottlieb woke very early. But others were up before him, for, to his surprise, he saw a strange gentleman with his mother. His wondering eyes soon perceived other unusual objects, for the hearth was piled with wood, and the table was loaded with food and dainties such as he had never even imagined.
Gottlieb entered the room just as his mother threw herself at the stranger's feet to bless him for his generous goodness to the widow and orphan. "Nay, give me no thanks, worthy dame," said the visitor. "Rather be grateful to your little son, and to the good Lord to whom he wrote for aid."
Then he turned to Gottlieb with a smile, "You see that although you wrote to the Christ Child, your prayer for aid came only to the Burgomaster. The gifts you asked for are here, but they come from my hand." But Gottlieb answered him humbly, "Nay, sir, the Christ Child sent them, for He put the thought in your heart."