Lots of great stories have been told about Christmas, but with all the business of the season, who has time to enjoy them all? That's why we've crammed all of our favorite Christmas stories into one yuletide-packed tale. We call it

The One-Stop Christmas Story

By Brodie H. Brockie

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring except for poor old Ebenezer Bailey.

Ebenezer Bailey hated Christmas. Partly because he was stuck in the same small town he had grown up in, partly because he was a crotchety old man that nobody loved, but mostly because every time he turned on the TV he saw another %$#@ ad with people singing about the great savings at some store or another to the tune of "Deck the Halls."

"I wish I'd never been born," said Ebenezer Bailey.

So, Ebenezer Bailey went down to the local bar where he stayed for a few hours until his nose was so red you could even say it glowed.

As he stumbled out of the bar, he also believed he could hear tiny creatures (who he called "Whats") singing strange Christmas Carols and playing their What Winklers. This made his heart shrink two sizes.

It was then that a strange figure suddenly seemed to appear from nowhere before him.

"Hello, Ebenezer Bailey," said the apparition.

"Who are you," the curmudgeon asked.

"I am Clarence Marley," he answered. "I am here to show you what it would be like if you'd never been born ... or to teach you the true meaning of "Christmas."

"Will this take long?" Ebenezer Bailey asked.

"I'll try to make it quick," answered Clarence Marley. "First we'll look at your past. If you had never been born, you never would have gotten that BB-gun you wanted so bad as a child."

"That was the best Christmas present I ever got. Of course, I did shoot my eye out with it," Ebenezer Bailey said, rubbing the patch over his empty left socket

"OK, now let's look at the present," said Clarence Marley.

"You got me a present?" said Ebenezer Bailey. "I didn't get you anything."

Clarence Marley smacked him on the back of the head.

"Not that kind of present, you moron," he said. "I mean the now kind of present."

It was then that Clarence showed Ebenezer the home of one of his employees, where a sickly young child, Zuzu Crachet, was crying because her father, Charlie, had picked out the smallest, thinnest Christmas tree and its needles were falling off.

"That is one ugly tree," said Ebenezer Bailey.

"It's all they could afford," said Clarence Marley. "If you had never been born, he wouldn't have a job."

"He couldn't have gotten a different one?" asked Ebenezer Bailey.

"I guess not," said Clarence Marley. "Now let's look at your future, of which you would have none if you had never been born.

"And what happens to Little Zuzu Crachet?" Ebenezer Bailey asked.

"She turns to selling matches on the street, where she freezes to death," said Clarence Marley.

"That's the most depressing thing I've ever heard," said Ebenezer Bailey.

"Tell me about it," said Clarence Marley. "And also, for some reason, the entire state of Virginia doesn't believe in Santa."

"Well," said Ebenezer Bailey, "Someone should tell Virginia there is a Santa Claus."

"Does that mean you no longer wish you'd never been born? asked Clarence Marley.

"I wish I'd never wished that I'd never been born," said Ebenezer Bailey. "And I promise to keep Christmas in my heart every day of the year."

"Cool," said Clarence Marley. "Now I gotta help out a snowman."

With that, he disappeared into the night.

Ebenezer Bailey was as good as his word (some say his heart grew three sizes that day). He immediately bought the biggest, fullest Christmas tree he could find, and took it over to Charlie Crachet's house. Once there, he even decorated it with a bell that delighted young Zuzu Crachet.

"Teacher says every time a bell rings, God blesses us, every one." she said. "And to all a good night."