In front of the entire congregation, unconcerned with what anyone would think, she slipped past Josh, walked up the aisle and stepped lightly onto the altar, where the singer stood frozen and embarrassed. Feeling the boy’s discomfort, the enthralled folks spellbound in the peaceful hum of their year’s holiest night were starting to feel the yearned for Christmas magic bubble-of-tranquility dissipate. They were squirming in their seats, and a low shuffling and mumbling overtook the silence left by the organist, who removed her graceful hands from the faithfully restored Casavant organ’s original ivory keys. The music director was also helpless. Immobilized in the choir loft above and at the back of the church, he was regretting his decision to take a chance and let the talented but obviously overwrought young man sing the treasured carol.
Mortified, the soloist was staring at the floor, overcome by stage fright, unable to move. Jessie paused four feet to his left, faced him side-on, and took up the verse. She reached out and gathered his hand in hers and, as he looked up, what he later recalled was seeing a presence like an angel, encircled – haloed – in the light. The entire congregation sighed in one collective breath, grateful entranced witnesses to the blessed magic that ensued.
The boy searched for his voice. When he found it, he and Jessie sang together, strong and true, imbued with the divine glow of Christmas Eve as the organist brought the historic Casavant back to life.
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