At St. Mary's Church, Father Lafferty is polishing the furniture in his office, his housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson comes in and as they chat, they hear a squeaking noise outside. They go out and discover that the church's hand carved wooden Madonna statue has been stolen.
MacGyver and Pete are collecting toys for the Phoenix Foundation's gift drive. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" plays on the radio and MacGyver angrily turns it off, complaining the song is too sappy. Pete sympathizes, knowing how MacGyver lost his mother during the Christmas season.
Down the street, an elderly bag woman, Carol, is in an alleyway when two punks assault her. They take her cart and try to run away, and MacGyver spots them. He drives them away and goes to help Carol, who has cut her left hand. MacGyver offers to put her up at the Challengers Club and Carol accepts.
At the Challengers Club, Cynthia Wilson is trying to get Breeze and his friends to help out with the upcoming Christmas show. Breeze, clearly disgusted with the idea of Christmas, isn't interested and Cynthia has to berate him into helping. MacGyver and Pete arrive with the presents and Carol, and Cynthia warns MacGyver that the landlord is upping their rent and they need $9,000 in donations to make it past the holiday season. Carol, overhearing their conversations, assures Cynthia that she'll make it. As MacGyver tends to Carol's hand, Pete warns Cynthia that he can't get any more money for the Club from the Foundation for at least six months. Breeze and his friends give up on the show and angrily storm off over Cynthia's objections. As Cynthia tries to deal with the crises, Carol turns the channel on the television directly to a newscast about the missing Madonna. MacGyver recognizes Father Lafferty from high school and leaves with Pete to help his friend.
At the Church, Father Lafferty warns the friends that they haven't had any luck finding the Madonna. Mrs. Wilson notes that Vincent Battaglia, who donated it to the church 20 years, carved the Madonna. However, she suspects that Battaglia stole the Madonna because he holds a grudge from when he left church 15 years ago. Pete and MacGyver go to Battaglia's furniture store but the old man refuses to talk to them. As they leave, Pete notices an unenthusiastic charity Santa Claus and tries to give him some Christmas. The Santa Claus remains unenthused but mentions he might know something. Once they pay him off, the Santa Claus tells them that he saw an elderly bag lady with a squeaky shopping cart and a covered sculpture. As Pete and MacGyver leave to talk to Carol, Battaglia watches them from his store window. He then takes an old cardboard box out of a locked drawer and contemplates it, crying.
As MacGyver and Pete arrive at the Club, they find Carol harassing a drunken Santa Claus, telling him he's an embarrassment to the uniform. She readily agrees to let them examine the card, but the sculpture is a garden gnome. As they help Cynthia prepare for the show, MacGyver talks with violet, a young girl who gives him a wooden statue of a hamster that she carved herself. Touched, MacGyver talks about how he gave the same type of presents to his mother for Christmas. Breeze and his friends try to move the platform and knock over some weights, making a mess of things. Breeze leaves even though Cynthia insists that they're all depending on him. Once he's gone, MacGyver helps the remaining kids move the stage platform using the weights as rollers. He then checks with Cynthia, who tells her that the bank wants the money. As Carol secretly listens in, Cynthia admits that Christmas was a special time of the year for her and her husband Booker, but she can't keep their dream going now that he's dead.
Carol goes to find Breeze at a pool hall. She convinces him to play her a game and he accepts. Breeze has a string of "coincidental" bad luck and loses to Carol. She brings up Breeze's father, and Breeze angrily talks about how his father never cared for him or did anything for him on Christmas. Carol reminds him that Christmas is about giving, not receiving, and that Cynthia needs his help.
Back at St. Mary's, MacGyver is looking for clues when Battaglia comes in. He admits that he lost his faith in the church when he prayed to the Madonna for the life of his dying wife. She died anyway and Battaglia was left to wonder how God could leave him in pain after taking away his wife. MacGyver doesn't know how to answer him.
Breeze goes back to the Club and apologizes to Cynthia, offering his help. Cynthia figures that Carol was involved but the bag lady claims all she did was play Breeze a game of pool.
As the Club prepares to give its show, Carol goes to MacGyver for help dealing with Violet, who has stage fright. MacGyver talks to the girl and explains that when he had to perform as a child and was nervous, his mother gave him a secret word, "ice cream". He gives Violet the same word to help her get over her stage fright. Father Lafferty comes to see the show and meets Carol, who he thinks looks strangely familiar. Carol admits that she's been to his church quite a bit, but that she's usually better dressed. As they wait for the show to begin, MacGyver asks Breeze to help recruit the kids to check the neighborhood afterward and find the Madonna.
At his shop, Battaglia considers the cardboard box and what's inside, and holds a picture of himself and his wife.
The Christmas Eve show begins and Violet uses her secret word to get over her stage fright. MacGyver goes to see Cynthia, who tells him that they're still $2,711 short and there's nothing else they can do. She goes out to see the show, unaware that Carol has suggested something to Breeze. Breeze gets up on stage and invites Cynthia on stage, thanking her for everything she's done for the Challengers Club. Cynthia performs with the choir, singing "I'll Be Home for Christmas," her and Booker's favorite song. Upon hearing the song, MacGyver gets upset and goes out onto the stairs. Father Lafferty sees him and follows, assuring him that MacGyver's mother understood that he couldn't be there for her on Christmas. MacGyver still blames himself, saying that while he was gone, she died of a stroke. Father Lafferty tells him that his mother wouldn't have known if MacGyver was there. She was delirious and could only say MacGyver's name and "ice cream". Assured that she remembered him and understood, MacGyver goes back inside as Cynthia finishes her song. Pete comes in, dressed as Santa and handing out presents. Afterward, Breeze shows Carol that someone left exactly $2,711 in the donation jar. The money is wrapped in a piece of cloth belonging to Carol.
Carol has already left. As she walks the streets, she smiles, glowing with light from overhead.
The next day on Christmas, MacGyver and Pete go to St. Mary's and tell Father Lafferty they've failed to find the Madonna. Battaglia arrives and gives Father Lafferty the cardboard box. Inside it is a hand carved statue of baby Jesus. Battaglia explains that he carved it to go with the Madonna but has held onto it for all these years. Now he wants the church to have it. Casey, a young neighbor boy, comes in pulling a squeaky new child's wagon. On it is the Madonna. Casey explains that he promised to give the Madonna a ride, and that earlier he found the statue outside, waiting for him. Battaglia puts the Madonna back on its stand with the Baby Jesus in its arms, and comments that there's a scratch on the Madonna's left hand.
Later, Pete and MacGyver go to the church where Father Lafferty is praying. They tell him they've had no luck finding the Madonna. Father Lafferty talks of how it'll be the first Christmas Mass in 20 years without the Madonna. Battaglia arrives with the box and gives it to Lafferty. Inside is a hand carved statue of the Christ child, which he carved to go with the Madonna. They're interrupted when a boy, Casey, comes in. He's pulling a squeaky wagon and the Madonna is resting on it. He explains that he promised to take the Madonna for a ride and found it outside waiting for him. Battaglia places the Madonna on its stand and the Christ child in its arms. As he does so, he notices that there's a scratch on the Madonna's left hand. Pete and MacGyver remember that Carol cut her left hand and wonders.
Written by Gadfly on Nov 10, 2019