Clock drawing

The Case of the Disappearing Time—A Christmas Parable

by Annie Yorty

Maria and Marta waited at the crowded Time Office to collect their December allotments. They enjoyed a complimentary piece of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie while they chatted in the lobby. Marta bubbled with energy, excited about the month to come. Christmas plans gushed from her, filling the otherwise quiet room. So many things to do. So little time. Stretching back a different manicured finger as she named each to-do, she ran out of digits long before the list was completed.

  • Clean the house.
  • Find the perfect Christmas tree.
  • Decorate.
  • Shop for presents.
  • Make teachers’ gifts.
  • Bake cookies.
  • Christmas dance recital.
  • Move the elf.
  • Find ugly Christmas sweaters.
  • Wrap presents.
  • Groceries.
  • Buy a party dress.
  • Prep the guest room.
  • String lights outside.

Marta paused, realizing her supply of fingers was overextended. Momentarily contemplating her hands, she snapped to attention and wagged her index finger. “Oh, yes—and get a Christmas manicure.” She would have continued spewing plans, but a voice from behind the desk interrupted. “Marta?”

Dashing crumbs from her lipsticked smile, Marta glanced at Maria. “I’ve gotta run! Time waits for no one!” Staccato heels clicking on the tiled floor, Marta rushed to collect her time allotment for December.

In the ensuing void, Maria sighed. She, too, was keen to claim her time. She sank back into the comfort of her chair as her mind mulled over the opportunities in the next thirty-one days. She cherished this time of preparation and celebration of her Savior’s birth on December 25th, but her vision was different from Marta’s. “First things first,” she whispered to no one in particular. She was eager for quiet and joyous times with God, her family, and friends. Before long, Maria’s patience was rewarded, and she stepped forward to receive her time allotment. Wrapping her arms protectively around the treasure, she slipped out of the office.

Days passed and then weeks. Both Marta and Maria had received exactly the same time allotment for the month. In fact, this was stipulated by the rules. But each woman had complete freedom to spend the time any way she chose. Just a few days before Christmas, Marta and Maria happened to bump into each other again at the Time Office. Normally, it was not so crowded at this time of the month, but on this day, the office was jampacked. Maria had stopped in to bring lunch to the workers there. They were so overwhelmed by the crowds there was little chance for a break. Maria bypassed a line of women that snaked out the door and down the sidewalk. Women who were harried. Women who were impatient. Women who were stressed, complaining, and demanding.

At the front of the line an uncharacteristically disheveled Marta was just stepping up to the counter. “I want to make a report,” she demanded. “My time has gone missing!” The office clerk noted her complaint. “I know you gave me a large allotment when I was here after Thanksgiving. But then, POOF! Just like that, it evaporated. How am I supposed to get through until December 31st?” Voice breaking, she sniffled, “There’s nothing left!” 

Mid-sniffle, she noticed Maria preparing to serve lunch to the clerks. Her mouth gaped. Then her voice found an even higher octave. “Why, Maria! Where did you find the time for this? Did you get extra?” At this strident accusation, a chorus of discontent swept down the line and out the door.

“That’s not fair!” shrieked a young mom juggling a baby in a sling with a toddler yanking on her arm.

“That lady got extra!” growled a neatly coiffed business executive, her Jimmy Choos furiously tapping.

“I just need a little more!” wheedled another, whose teens were hunched over their iPhones, oblivious.

“Give me my fair share!” bargained a leathery-faced biddy drooping under voluminous shopping bags.

What had started as a murmur swelled to a reverberating cacophony. Finally, an office door flew open and the director, Ms. Murphy, appeared. “What is going on here?” In lightning speed, her imperious gaze captured the entire scene and then fixed on the clerk who was struggling to maintain her composure amid the onslaught.

“This woman, Marta, is demanding an investigation of disappearing time,” the clerk blurted. “Now everyone is in an uproar.”

Thin lips pursed into oblivion, Ms. Murphy pinned the rabble-rousers with her querulous stare. It settled the estrogen-laced tizzy to a thrum. Bending, she took command of the screen in front of the clerk. She shot questions at Marta.

“Date received?”

“November 30th,” replied Marta.

“When did you last see your time?”

Marta thought for a moment and began to recount her expense of time, beginning with cleaning, cooking, decorating, shopping, and manicuring.

The director’s nails tap-tapped the letters as quickly as Marta spoke, noting each and every expenditure. Still bent, she scrutinized Marta above the rim of her glasses. “Why, it seems to me that you’ve already used a great deal of time,” she noted.

“Yes, yes, of course,” agreed Marta. “But there should be some left. I feel like I’m missing something.” She hesitated. “Something … important …,” she trailed off lamely.

“Do you think someone stole your time?” queried Ms. Murphy.

“I suppose … it’s possible …,” stuttered Marta, face screwed up in thought. “But it’s hard to imagine how that would happen.”

Returning to the report on the screen, Ms. Murphy punched another key. She continued, “Who did you spend your time on?” When Marta hesitated, the director’s eyes shot up again. “Well?” she insisted.

“Umm … no one really,” confessed Marta. “I was too busy with… things.” She shrugged.

Ms. Murphy straightened from filling in the blanks on the report. Her mind sifted the facts of the examination. To her left, a sound drew her attention. Maria was unpacking the clerks’ lunch. The director shifted to Maria.

“Maria,” she began, “how is it that you have extra time on your hands at this late date?” Heads in the line out the door craned to see whom Ms. Murphy addressed.

Maria had been following the exchange between Ms. Murphy and Marta, so she offered a ready answer. “First things first,” she declared. Ms. Murphy’s and Marta’s heads tilted almost simultaneously as they considered Maria’s point. Down the queue of anxious women, conversations paused and ears perked.

“Go on,” prompted Ms. Murphy.

“I think Marta may have frittered away her time because she didn’t do first things first.” Turning to Marta, Maria probed, “Have you spent any time on what is most important?”

Marta’s eyes clouded as she realized what she had done, or to be more precise, not done. She turned toward the Time Office director, pleading, “Could I get an additional allotment? Just this once?”

“Most definitely not,” came the crisp retort. “That would be impossible.” Ms. Murphy nodded toward a sign on the wall behind her. Lost time is never found again. The truth of the message attributed to Benjamin Franklin mingled with regret in Marta’s heart. She would have to make do.

As Marta and the others in line shuffled from the Time Office, Ms. Murphy clicked a few more keys to close the investigation of the disappearing time. Meanwhile, Maria set the coffee table with food for the clerks, who were suddenly available to savor a delightful meal.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you. (Matthew 6:33 NASB)

Annie Yorty is a writer, speaker, and lifelong learner. She is called by God to encourage others to discover their true needs and find sources of support and hope. Life in Pennsylvania is both challenging and fun with her high school sweetheart, two grown children (one with disabilities), a teen, and a furry beast (a.k.a. labradoodle). Connect at

Refresh Magazine Cover: Christmas 2021

This article comes from our 2021 Christmas issue. To see it in the magazine and check out the rest of the articles, click these links:

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This year’s Christmas Issue comes out soon! On Monday, December 4, we’ll send the Christmas magazine to subscribers and share it online. To receive it by email, click this link to sign up: Refresh Sign-Up Page. May God bless your time this Christmas season.


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