Pete and Johnny McCauley are at home at night, watching a comet in the sky. Their parents return from Christmas shopping and the boys decide to hide. Meanwhile, McCauley and his wife come in and Mary hides the presents in the closet. McCauley realizes their sons are hiding in the closet and pulls them out, and tells them that they’re having company and he doesn’t want them snooping, and then shows them a large present. He suggests that they open it now and assures Mary that it’ll be okay. The boys eagerly tear apart the wrapping and discover that their Christmas present is a refracting telescope. McCauley is eager to help them set it up outside.
Later, the McCauleys’ guests arrive: Professor Oliver Farrar, Jim Norton and his pregnant wife Edith Norton. Jim is out with the boys explaining about comets when McCauley comes out and invites him back in with the other adults. Jim goes back inside where Oliver and Edith are discussing a comet returning past Earth on a 2,400 year trip. Edith suggests that it might be the Christmas star and Oliver considers it a beautiful idea, but Jim dismisses it as nonsense. Jim talks about abolishing Christmas as a load of rubbish and insists that knowledge is the most beautiful thing. He announces that they’ll be on the moon for Christmas, surprising Edith and Mary since they had kept it secret that they’d be away from their families. Jim assures Edith that he’ll be there for their own blessed event.
The comet expedition leaves Earth on December 21 and lands on the moon to study the comet at close range. They arrive at the moonbase and meet with Col. Stan Adams. Adams explains that there’s a range of mountains in the way of the comet, so they’ll have to use the observation post. McCauley tells the base doctor, Warnecke, to give Oliver and Jim a complete examination before they leave.
The expedition leaves on foot the next day and Adams leads them to the observation post after a twelve-hour trek. Oliver talks about the wonders of comets, but then clutches at his side. After a moment he recovers and says that it’s just a cramp and he’s suffering from fatigue. His condition gets worse and they call Warnecke, who says that Oliver was in good shape when he checked him earlier. They both realize that it’s appendicitis and Warnecke tells McCauley to take Oliver’s temperature every thirty minutes for the next three hours until he arrives.
Jim talks to McCauley privately and says that Oliver must be really sick if he’s lying down, and asks him to get Warnecke there as soon as possible. He explains that within ten to fifteen hours, the moon will cross the comet’s orbit and the debris could endanger anyone outside. McCauley confirms that Oliver’s temperature is high and tells Warnecke and Lt. Teal to depart immediately and prepare for an emergency operation. Warnecke agrees and then passes on a message from their friends and families, wishing them a Merry Christmas. Jim, unimpressed, says that prayers won’t do any good for his friend Oliver.
Back on Earth, Edith and Mary are together on Christmas Eve and Edith says that it doesn’t mean anything without her husband. Pete runs in to tell them to come see the shooting stars from the comet and the two women go outside to see them. Edith is well aware that they won’t burn up before hitting the moon and worries that she feels funny.
Twelve hours later, the meteors slam down around the observation post. Warnecke and Teal have to take cover and check in, and McCauley tells them that Oliver is getting worse. The colonel orders them to stay in place rather than risk their lives, and Jim objects. McCauley has him describe the angle of descent of the meteors and calculates a safer approach. Jim points out that it will take longer but the colonel notes that they can’t help Oliver if they’re dead. Warnecke warns that he’s never traveled that route but McCauley tells him to follow the marker flags and hurry.
As they give Oliver alcohol rubs to keep his temperature down, the astronomer mutters deliriously to himself. Jim asks if there is any ice they can use, but McCauley warns that the observation post is a hermetically sealed system. Warnecke and Teal are out of contact due to the mountains and unaware that one of the meteors has hit a marker flag, burying it. Warnecke finally checks in and says that they’re lost, and McCauley says that he’ll come to them. He leaves Adams in charge and suggests that Jim pray.
McCauley goes across the lunar surface, dodging meteors. Meanwhile, Oliver mutters poetry by John Donne, and Jim recalls that the poet was a man of God. He has Adams contact the moonbase again and they report that there’s no sign of McCauley. They pass on a message from Mary for Jim that Edith was taken to the hospital Christmas morning, two weeks early, and both mother and son are fine. Jim is temporarily relieved but then looks at his suffering friend. He looks up at the heavens and prays for Oliver’s health, and then gets an idea. He tells Adams that he’s going outside to save Oliver and all he needs are thirty seconds. Adams gives him the okay and Jim runs outside to grab one of the pieces of ice from the comet’s tail. He brings it inside and uses it to cool off Oliver, preserving his life until Warnecke can arrive.
Once the meteor shower ends, McCauley checks in and they tell him that Oliver’s fever has broken for the moment. As Adams and Jim watch out the porthole, they see the men approach and Jim points out that they are three men bearing gifts. After the operation, Warnecke assures the others that Oliver will pull through and it was the ice that saved his life. McCauley asks where the ice came from, and Jim says that it came from God on Christmas Day.
Three weeks later, McCauley and Mary put away the Christmas ornaments. Jim and Edith arrive with their new son and Jim says that they want to borrow their tree. They want to use it for the Christmas party that they’re finally going to hold now that Jim has the Christmas spirit. Share this article with your friends