Christmas has always been a special time for Meredith Enright. Born on Christmas Eve, she celebrates the holiday with joy, filling her home with seasonal music and the fragrance of fir and pine. But this year, her jam cake is still warm from the oven when Meredith receives the shocking news of her husband's sudden illness while on a business trip to Atlanta. Alone and frightened in the ICU waiting room of an unfamiliar hospital, Meredith is befriended by a kind volunteer who accompanies her to the facility's chapel where they wait together through the long night. During her vigil, Meredith remembers a Christmas from her childhood when her mother was seriously injured in an automobile accident. In her despair, she relives the memory of that long-ago Christmas when she was sent to spend the holidays with her childless Aunt Martha. Aunt Martha worked for a large department store in Knoxville, but lived in a remote area outside the city. Because she was gone during the day, she asked bland Mrs. Boggs to stay with Meredith. Worried about her mother and missing her family, eight-year-old Meredith has only a stuffed bear and her brother's much-loved clown doll for company until she meets Lucinda and the loving family who live in the Christmas Cottage deep in the woods behind Aunt Martha's house. The memory of that Christmas brings to Meredith a renewal of hope and joy as she faces the outcome of her husband's illness.