Sunday, December 23

advent 2007

The choir stopped singing and dispersed, chatting among themselves. Jimmy just sat in the pew, glad to be warm for a change.

He had picked up a Bible from the rack in front of him and flipped through it. Reading the Bible had always been like reading the phone book for him. He didn’t feel enlightened or inspired. He didn’t feel anything, in fact. The words were like cardboard in his mouth, devoid of taste and nutritional value.

But the music!

“Can I help you?” a voice said to his right.

Jimmy was so startled that he dropped the Bible, which fell to the floor with a muffled plop.

“Sorry, I, uh…I heard the choir, and thought I might…I’ll leave,” Jimmy said, his eyes downcast.

“It’s okay,” the man said. “We were just practicing.”

The man was short-statured, with closely-cropped salt-and-pepper hair and fine hands that looked as though they had been sculpted from wax. He was smiling at Jimmy. The smile relaxed him a bit, and he picked the Bible up off the floor.

“Your choir is amazing,” Jimmy said.

“Well, we work at it,” the man said. “Big Christmas Eve service coming up this week. I’m James Richardson, the minister of music here.”

The man extended his hand. Reflexively, Jimmy stood up to shake it. He was somewhat ashamed that his own hand was unwashed and a little dirty, but Mr. Richardson took it without hesitation.

“Jimmy Stevens,” Jimmy said. He started to grin but thought better of it. Teeth were bad, he knew. He didn’t know what to do with his bag, and something twisted in his gut. He looked around for a way outside.

“You should come to our Christmas Eve service,” James said. “It’s a caroling service. Everyone has a candle and we sing Christmas carols the entire night. I think you might enjoy it – if you like good music, that is.”

“I loved what you were doing tonight! Is there more of that?”

James nodded.

“Lots more,” he said. “That’s what we do.”

“I’d like to come, but…I’m not a member. I’m visiting. Is that still okay?”

James smiled at him. It was a warm smile, genuine, and Jimmy felt something in him relax, like a knot untying in his chest.

“Of course it’s okay. This is a house of worship. Anyone is welcome.”

James looked at Jimmy for a moment, cocking his head to one side, his right index finger touching his lips.

“Are you hungry?” James asked.

Sheepishly, Jimmy nodded.

“We have some food left over from our fellowship supper at Lewis Hall. If you’ll come with me, I can get you something to eat,” James said.

Jimmy’s eyes opened wide. He was astonished.

“That’s okay? I mean, Y’all do that?”

James nodded.

“All the time,” he said. “It’s part of our ministry.”

Jimmy picked up his duffel bag and slung it over his shoulder.

“Lewis Hall,” he said. “Is that named after J.C. Lewis? I heard he went here.”

“Sure is,” said James. “He was a member of this church for many years.”

“He saved my life, in a way,” Jimmy said.

The lights in the sanctuary were switched off, and all that was left was moonlight as the door latched shut with a clack!

The church was quiet for a moment after that.

“Daddy?” a voice whispered in the dark.

But perhaps it was the wind.

(to be continued)

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