“Silent night, holy night, all is calm…”
Justin Bradford stormed through the door, shotgun in hand. “Get off my lawn!” He pumped the weapon and the discouraged carolers turned to leave. “I told you folks to leave me alone!” He turned back toward the door, entered through, and then slammed it behind him. He placed the empty shotgun above the mantle and his eyes leveled upon a silver framed photograph. He grabbed the frame and flung it against the stone wall. Shards of glass and the twisted aluminum frame fell to the floor. Justin dropped to his knees and wept. Another year, another frame.
An hour later, the group of carolers gathered in the warmth of Grace Fellowship Church. Snow turned to water and dripped from coats hung neatly upon brass hooks. Each of the singers grasped tightly at styrofoam cups brimming with hot, steamy cocoa.
Lydia Barnsford moved to the front of the crowd. “I’d like to thank everyone for coming out tonight. It was a lot of fun and the singing was great! Before we call it a night, does anyone have any questions or comments?”
Michael Vinty raised his hand.
“I had a great time tonight too, but I think next year we really ought to skip Mr. Bradford’s house. One of these times he’s gonna slip on that snow and that shotgun is gonna ruin someone’s Christmas.” A general agreement grumbled throughout the crowd.
“I understand your concern. I also know that every year at this time, his home is dark and lonely. Please remember that Molly Bradford was one of our most dedicated carolers, and that she always spoke of how much Justin loved to hear us when we came. Now that she is singing carols for the King, we must continue to try to bring those happy memories back to the Bradford home. As long as I am in the chorus, we will sing at the Bradford home.”
The cold and snow of winter soon gave way to warm breezes. The trees clothed themselves once more in new leaves and flowers of all color and variety lined the drives and fields of Hawthorn Village. Summer soon followed and before long, the trees shook off their new coat then settled in for another winter. Snow gathered upon their bare limbs and the song of birds gave way to the bitter howling of winter wind.
Upon the night of Christmas Eve, the clouds opened wide and each twinkling star winked eagerly in the cold, still sky. The carolers ventured up Gransing Street singing their joyful songs, until they came to the last house at the corner. Michael broke the silence, “I think we’ll skip the Bradford house this year. It’s always such a drag. I know Lydia would encourage us to give it a try, but since she is home with a cold, I say we take our joy down the road where it is appreciated.”
The crowd agreed and they left their footprints in the snow; all of them except for young Jaycie Gray. The crowd hadn’t noticed that one of their singers had stayed behind. Her curly, raven hair wisped in the gentle breeze as she lit her solitary candle and sheltered it from the wind. She cleared her throat then opened her soul in song.
“It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old…”
Justin burst out onto the porch in his annual tirade. “Get off…” He paused. The thrill of scaring off a throng of hypocrites always delighted his soul, but the sight of one young girl in the cold touched his heart. Her voice warmed in his ears as Jaycie Gray’s singing never waivered.
“From angels bending near the earth, to touch their harps of gold; peace on the earth, good will to men…”
Justin turned toward the door and disappeared inside. A tear formed in the corner of Jaycie’s eye. With a hollow breath, she blew out the candle then turned to leave. She heard Mr. Bradford’s door slam shut and she began to weep. Then she heard footsteps in the snow coming towards her. When she turned, she saw Mr. Bradford. He handed her a cup of hot cider.
“Please don’t stop your singing. Your voice sounds so much like my dear Molly’s. He relit her candle and she continued to sing.
“From heaven’s all gracious King. The world in solemn stillness lay, To hear the angels sing.”
Justin knelt in the snow and prayed.
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