Christmas Eve dawned gray and cold. The forecast called for rain, not snow, and the low clouds held the promise of a gloomy day. But Emily refused to be discouraged. She made up her mind to be brutally cheerful, no matter how much the pain under her ribs reminded her of Stani's absence. She had plenty to keep her busy, and the time would pass, whether she chose to be happy or sad. As music blared through the speakers, filling the house, she hummed along, even danced a few steps across the kitchen floor, reminding herself of all she had to be happy about. If everything else paled in comparison to the sight of his face, the touch of his hand, so be it. Blessings were blessings weren't they, none of them to be counted as anything less.
Before she left, she moved Joseph and Mary into the stable, with the noble donkey grazing on the hearth nearby. The shepherds she placed on a table not far away, where the heralding angel's message could reach them. Finally, she set the angel directly beneath the star hanging above the mantel. Leaving the lamp shining in the window, she started out for church just as rain began to fall in earnest.
The little stone church was packed, buzzing with excitement as families gathered and friends greeted one another as if they hadn’t been together in months, rather than days. Her cherubs, with their shining clean faces and carefully brushed hair, seemed suitably impressed with the importance of their roles in the service, even a little subdued. Emily could only hope that attitude lasted through the hour they spent in full view of the congregation.
But as the music began, and she led them to their places, all her anxiety melted away. It was a sacred night and even if the children were restless or sang a little off key, nothing could cast a shadow over the beauty of this, her favorite night of the year.