“It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas,
when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”
~~ Charles Dickens

Hi all,

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!  This newsletter features another Dyeland Christmas story.  As with previous years, I've written in allusions to some holiday classics and there's the traditional big party scene.  However, unlike previous years... this story contains no scene of Lady JenniAnn declaring her undying love for Andrew in some over-the-top form.  That's one holiday tradition I decided to let go of this year.  And yes it does feel weird!  So may be to make up for it, *I* will declare *my* undying love for Andrew.  I wonder how much it costs to rent one of those airplanes with the banners?  Just kidding!

As with last year's story, I began to brainstorm this story as a series of amusing anecdotes.  But these Dyelanders have minds of their own!  So it took some serious (but I hope still uplifting) turns.  I felt, more than I have with previous stories, that I was also on a journey with these characters.  When I started writing, I was as lacking in Christmas spirit and as worn out as the Dyelanders are in the opening scene.  But as the days and writing sessions went on, I moved away from that and into a feeling of true awe and blessedness.  I hope you find the same! 

Until next year...

God bless and Merry Christmas,

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

December 18th, 2007

~*~ ~*~
Several of those who had come to consider Dyeland either home or home-away-from-home were seated around the largest table at Monica's Cafe.  They quietly and even exhaustedly sipped egg nogs and ciders and cocoas.

"I can't believe Christmas is only a week away.  I feel like I have so much to do," Yva confessed.  "I still want to try to make some fudge but I keep having to interrupt that to keep Sir Sven from shaking all of his Christmas presents!"

Adam smirked.  "At least you only have one husband to keep out of trouble.  I have dozens of turkeys to keep out of it.  I knitted all of them stockings and, wouldn't you know it, half of them tried to eat them!"

Andrew raised an eye brow.  "You knit?"

"Yes, I knit.  Does that surprise you?" Adam asked, a touch indignant.

"No!  I mean that's great!  I just never knew that."  Andrew chugged his cocoa in hopes of ending the subject.

"Lotsa guys knit these days," Lady JenniAnn added, distractedly.  "I think it's lovely.  And I'm sorry the turkeys don't appreciate it."

Adam shrugged and the group became silent again for a few moments. 

JenniAnn suddenly sat up straight.  "Hey, have we warned Willy, Nigel, and Rose about what usually happens around here at Christmastime?"

The three relative newcomers suddenly looked a bit concerned.

"I was in Dyeland this time last year, Lady JenniAnn, and I do not recall anything out of the ordinary," Nigel reminded.

"Right, but last year it was kinda low key.  See, it happens a lot here that our lives start to kinda mirror traditional Christmas stories and movies.  Or people might start having weird dreams that do the same.  Like one year I dreamed Henry melted like Frosty the Snowman."

Henry chuckled.  "I'll remember to thank the Father that that was only a dream." 

"One year I was visited by the Angels of Christmas Past, Present and Future," Andrew recalled, pensive and fingering the pocket watch he had received from the Father after that fateful night.

"Some years we do it on purpose, too.  Like last year when Andrew and I performed a song from The Year With Out Santa Claus," Adam added.

"So is there anything we should be on the look out for?" Willy asked.

"Just the usual.  Santa, ghosts, Jimmy Stewart," Yva answered with a grin.

"People bursting into song," JenniAnn added and began humming "La Via 'Angel' Fan."

"Okay... that's cool," Rose answered though her confused look suggested she wasn't so sure.

"Don't worry.  It's usually fun," Lady Beth assured.  "Just consider it some of the magic of this place."

"I definitely enjoy magic," Willy responded with smile.  "I think I'll bid my good byes now so I can start on a little magic of my own back at the factory.  Santa-shaped chocolates await!"

"Willy's got the right idea.  I think I'll try to make fudge again.  I'll see everyone soon."  Yva moved to follow Willy outside.

"Those Christmas cards won't write themselves," Rose said as she stood up.  "I'll keep an eye out for famous Christmas people," she added with a grin.

Andrew pulled out his pocket watch.  "I have an assignment today so I better get ready."

JenniAnn sighed.  "Eliot's probly not gonna be thrilled if he shows up to help me set up the tree and I'm AWOL.  So... off I go, too."

One by one everyone at the table agreed that it was high time they got busy with their holiday tasks.  After a series of hugs and promises to meet back up soon, the group dispersed.


"A lil to the left, please," JenniAnn directed. 

Eliot was laying under the tree, trying to get it to sit straight in the stand.

"Oh... perfect!" the woman cried and then clapped.  "It's so lovely and it's not even got a bit of decoration on it yet."

"And we'll fix that soon," Eliot responded, crawling out from the branches.  He admired his work for a moment and then began to pull lights and garlands out of the boxes.  Quickly but carefully, the couple wove the strands in and out and around the branches until both lights and garland were evenly dispersed.

"Do we turn on the lights now or wait until the ornaments are on?" Eliot asked.

"We can turn em on now.  It helps with the rest." 

Eliot found the nearest outlet and suddenly Willowveil's ballroom was aglow with color. 

"I love it.  Now we just gotta hang the photo and generic ornaments.  The personal ornaments in the boxes wait until the 24th when everyone comes over for the decorating party and hangs their own."

"Got it," Eliot responded gamely.  He was impressed by the tree already.  Growing up in the Tunnels where electricity was limited, he only ever saw lighted trees during his sojourns Above.  Excited, he began to pull ornaments from out of the box and set them on a table so they could see them better.  However, he stopped when he pulled out one oval shaped bulb with a photo pasted onto it.  JenniAnn and Andrew sat on a couch.  The angel seemed to be in the midst of telling some amusing tale.  JenniAnn stared admiringly at him.  Eliot frowned and then set it back in the box, willing to let JenniAnn decide where to put it.

Just then the phone rang and JenniAnn answered.  "Hi Andrew!  London!  Oh, Eliot and I are getting the tree ready to decorate.  Yes.  Yes.  I see!"

Eliot began to walk towards the door, feeling uncomfortable listening in on the conversation.

"Eliot, come back.  Andrew wants to talk to you, too.  He said to get on the extension but it's broken so just, umm," the woman held the phone out an inch or so from her ear.

Eliot approached, took the phone, and held it between them. 

"Good.  Eliot, I'm glad you're there.  You're part of this, too," the angel greeted enthusiastically.  "Listen, I'm in London and I found this snow globe.  It has Pip and Estella from Great Expectations walking together inside it.  It's a little expensive but I thought may be the three of us could go together on it for Vincent and Catherine.  See, it plays the song..."

JenniAnn suddenly felt light-headed and unable to focus on Andrew's words.  She hadn't said anything but she'd noticed Eliot looking at the ornament of she and Andrew.  The photo had been taken the previous Christmas.  The same day she had taken it upon herself to re-enact a scene from It's a Wonderful Life and tell a deaf-in-one-ear Andrew that she'd "love him til the day I die."  Now here she was, standing very close to Eliot, with Andrew on the phone poised between them and going on merrily about what basically amounted to a financial deal.  This was eerie...

"Laja, are you there?"

"Yes, Andrew, I'm here," she answered, suddenly unable to pry her eyes away from Eliot.

"Well, what do you think?  I think it's the Christmas present of a lifetime!"

"I think that sounds great, Andrew," Eliot answered, returning JenniAnn's gaze.

"Yes, lovely. 

"Well, great then.  I'll pick it up and you can pay me back later.  Listen, I was also thinking..."

Whatever Andrew was thinking, neither Eliot nor JenniAnn heard as the telephone hit the floor.


Andrew grinned.  He hadn't heard much after the clunk of the phone dropping but he was quite sure the phrase "love you" had been uttered before he politely hung up.  After being an AOD for so long, it was nice to play Cupid sometimes, especially with a little help from the Father.  Unlike George Bailey, Andrew had not been entirely deaf in one ear the previous Christmas.  Though her voice had been faint, Andrew had heard what JenniAnn had told him.  He also knew she regretted such an eternal declaration now that she and Eliot were a couple.  And so he had happily conspired to shift the role of George Bailey to the young man. 

That accomplished, Andrew set off to purchase the snow globe and, in the process, meet the shopkeeper who was his assignment. 

December 19th

When Andrew had gone to Drosselmeyer's Toys and More, he'd had no idea his assignment involved actually working at the store.  And he had still less idea that it involved being a security guard.  Further, the idea that being a security guard at Drosselmeyer's at Christmastime meant dressing up as a nutcracker and donning copious amounts of makeup had never occurred to him.  Yet there he stood in his red soldier's uniform and big black hat, carrying a sword of cardboard and foil.  Whether his assignment, Mr. Thomas Appleton, himself would pass on, Andrew didn't yet know.  However, he was quite sure that fashion had died. 

"Why there you are, old chap!  Adam mentioned you were working here.  You look very regal, Andrew," Nigel greeted as he entered the store.

Andrew rolled his eyes.  "I look like a clown."

"I think not."  Nigel smiled but then grew serious.  "Say, I do not wish to be here very long for fear of running into," Nigel lowered his voice, "Andi.  But I would like to get some toys for the Tunnel children.  Something to inspire their creativity, preferably.  I know artistic talents are greatly treasured and encouraged there.  Where might the art supplies be?"

Andrew led Nigel to the art supplies and left him there to choose his gifts in private.  Then the beleaguered nutcracker returned to the front of the store, hoping to scare would-be shoplifters off with his flimsy sword.


After checking out with his gifts and bidding Andrew good bye, Nigel departed modern London and traveled to his flat in Victorian London.  He had no sooner put away the gifts than he heard the sound of mail falling into his box.  Excited to open another round of Christmas cards, he wasted no time in retrieving the mail.  However, instead of the handful of cards he expected, the angel found only one.  But what a card it was!  The envelope seemed to be of gold and Nigel was careful to not tear it with the letter opener.  A note fell out, the handwriting as gold as the envelope.  Nigel sat down and began to read.

"Dearest Nigel,
I will be by your place this week and wish to celebrate this Christmas season with you.
All My love,

The angel stared at the note in blissful shock.  The Father was coming to his home on earth to visit him!  Unable to conceal his excitement, Nigel did a little impromptu jig and then began a flurry of activity in preparation of the Father's coming.

December 20th

Lady Beth was putting some finishing touches on some cookies when she heard a knock on her door.  Setting down the frosting and wiping her hands, she hurried to answer.  Henry was standing on the stoop.  He was hunched over and his face was red.  The alarming shade was even more apparent against the white snow behind him.  Hurrying, she opened the door.

"Henry!  What's wrong?" she asked, pulling him inside.

"Oh, I..."  He hunched over again.

Now with out a door between them, Lady Beth could tell he was laughing hysterically.

"I just saw..."  More laughter.  "Hilarious!  Do you..."  The angel tried to take a deep breath.  "Have a camera?"

"Sure.  Let me grab it but then you have to show me what's so hilarious."

"Oh, I'm showing everyone," he assured with a smile.  Then he reached for her hand and Dyeland began to fade away.


"Why are we in London?" Yva asked as she, Rose, and Adam appeared in an alleyway.  Yva could just make out a store across the street that she knew could only be found in London.  Suddenly she grew pale.  "Andi's not struck again, has she?  Where's Nigel?"

Adam, who had brought the two ladies there, quickly shook his head.  "Oh no.  Don't worry.  Nigel's safely in Victorian England.  This is a good surprise.  Well, for you ladies and for me.  I'm not sure the person we're surprising will be too happy."  He shot them a devilish grin and winked.

Just then Henry and Lady Beth appeared. 

"Great, you're here.  Let's go.  JenniAnn's going to be sorry she was shopping with Catherine and missed this."  Adam chuckled as he began to walk towards the street and out of the alley.

"You have me gravely concerned," Rose commented, shaking her head.

"Gravely?  Please tell me Henry and I aren't going to have to move into our 'official capacity,'" Adam responded, his face lit up with amusement.

Lady Beth rolled her eyes.  "You're terrible."

"You've not seen terrible yet."  Henry smirked and opened the door to the shop they'd come to.

Yva spotted the "surprise" first.  She immediately began laughing. 

Poor Andrew was attempting to use his sword to bump a toy off a high shelf for the customer impatiently waiting beside him.  What the customer didn't see was that when she glanced away, Andrew stared at the toy and with out anything touching it, it fell from the shelf and into his arms.  The customer then waltzed away with out even a thank you.

Despite their amusement at his festive ensemble, the group of Dyelanders felt sorry for the poor angel and approached him.  Rose immediately hugged him.

"Hey everyone," he greeted.  "What do you think of my new look?" he asked, his face still flushed from the toy debacle.

"You look nice.  The clothes, anyway.  The makeup..." Lady Beth wrinkled her nose. 

Andrew chuckled.  "You mean my cheeks aren't normally this rosy?" 

"Not quite.  I prefer them the normal shade but I bet the kids get a kick out of your outfit."  Yva admired the stitching on Andrew's coat.

Andrew shrugged.  "The ones that don't kick or hit me mid-tantrum seem to."

"Aww!" Rose exclaimed.

"It's okay.  The ones that get excited make it all worth it.  But what brings all of you to London?"  Andrew surveyed their faces and caught the guilty looks on Adam's and Henry's faces.  "Ah ha.  You came to tease me."

"Well, the ladies didn't know anything about it.  But you have to admit, buddy, it is a pretty funny outfit."  Henry gave Andrew his best innocent smile.

Andrew returned it with a slightly less innocent one.  "I'm glad you and Adam both think so."

"Why?" Adam asked.

Andrew grinned.  "I think you're both about to get hired."

A second later Mr. Appleton tapped the two angels of death on their shoulders.  "Would you gentlemen be the two extra guards I requested?"

Adam and Henry both found themselves nodding.  They looked back over their shoulders at Andrew and the ladies who laughed as Mr. Appleton led them away to be nutcracker-ified.

December 21st

For a day and a half Nigel had taken great care to get his flat prepared for the Father's visit.  Fresh boughs of holly and ivy decorated mantels and shelves.  Candles lent a warm glow to every room.  The finest foods waited in the kitchen.  Nigel had prepared a comfortable area in his parlor where he hoped they would have a pleasant talk.  While Nigel knew the Father was always present, He had never specifically come to visit the angel while on Earth.  This was truly going to be an occasion to never forget.

At half past noon, Nigel heard a knock on his door.  He rapidly crossed the room and flung the door open.  What he expected to see, he didn't know.  However, the ragged beggar on the doorsteps was not it.  Nigel at once noticed that the man's pants were threadbare through the knees.  His sweater was terribly stained and the soles of his boots were cracked.  He held a cup which he held out towards Nigel.

"Please, come in.  It is very cold and I would be honored if you would join me inside for a moment.  I am awaiting a guest but as He is not yet here, I would very much enjoy your company."  Nigel welcomed the man in with a smile. 

"Thank ye, sir," the man responded and stepped inside.

Nigel prepared hot tea and lunch for the beggar who said little beyond brief words of gratitude. 

"Thank ye, sir, but I got to be on my way," the man said after finishing his meal.

"Of course.  However, I had wondered..." Nigel paused, thinking, and then continued.  "You see, sir, I was quite foolish.  I bought myself some clothes that I now realize are far too small.  I am afraid I am unable to return them.  I think they may fit you and I would be very grateful if you might try them and, should they fit, take them off my hands." 

The man stared at him, mouth agape.  Nigel ushered him to a spare bedroom and then went to his own room and selected a suit and shoes from his own closet.  These he brought to his guest. 

A few minutes later, the man reappeared in Nigel's suit and shoes.  His voice failed but Nigel could tell the clothes were much appreciated.

"There now, I do not feel so foolish for being wasteful.  They fit you very well."

"Thank ye.  I wish I could repay..."  Again the man's voice faltered.

Nigel shook his head.  "Nonsense.  You have kept me company and I am pleased that someone could make use of my hasty purchases."

The man then bid Nigel good bye.  Nigel watched him walk onto the street, his head held high as he joined the crowd.  The angel smiled after his visitor but felt some disappointment in his heart that the Father had still not come.


Yva surveyed the shelves of toys with appreciation.  "So, Eliot, you're the Tunnel Santa Claus?"

Eliot blushed.  "Many people help us supply toys for the children.  You have yourself.  Many of those in Dyeland have."

"Yes, but you carve these yourself.  They're truly special," Yva insisted.

JenniAnn looked up from the doll she'd been wrapping.  "Yep.  Like your bears.  I love homemade stuff... so much more personal."

Yva picked up a small black cat and smiled at it.  "It's very lifelike."

"Thank you."  Eliot, never quite comfortable with receiving compliments, focused on the elephant he was carving.
"The cats were the first things Eliot carved," JenniAnn explained.  "He started years ago, actually."

Eliot smiled.  "I was eight.  Father wasn't sure I should be trusted with a knife but I wanted to be like Claus."

"You mean Santa Claus?" Yva asked.

Eliot nodded.  "Yes.  When we were younger Vincent would read us stories all the time but especially often at Christmas.  JenniAnn would always request Baum's Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and in that a wooden cat was the first toy.  So I wanted it to be my first."

"I see.  Where is Vincent, anyway?" Yva asked.

Eliot and JenniAnn exchanged troubled looks.

"What's that mean?" Yva pressed.

JenniAnn sighed.  "He's been quiet of late.  Going on lotsa walks by himself.  As if he's searching for something."

Yva frowned.  "I hope he finds it.  Do you think... is this about the baby?"

Eliot nodded.  "I think so.  He hasn't said as much but when we were working on the new chamber and Eric announced he and his wife were expecting... Vincent hugged him and congratulated him but then he left soon after."

"I think he and Catherine telling me about the miscarriage just brought it all back."  JenniAnn bowed her head.  "Just pray they get through this.  I know they will... but still."

"Of course," Yva agreed.  The three then grew silent as they each offered up their prayers for Vincent and Catherine.

December 22nd

The morning of the 22nd would forever be remembered by Andrew, Adam, and Henry as the beginning of the Day of the Mice.  Whether prank or natural occurrence they never knew but somehow Drosselmeyer's was overrun by the rodents.  The nutcrackers/security guards spent the majority of the day trying to trap the critters while Mr. Appleton railed during his brief appearances outside his office and children screamed.  It was going to be a long day...


Nigel ran to the door once more.  Perhaps today the Father would make His visit!  However, Nigel's hopes were dashed when he saw only a shivering woman on his doorstep.  Despite his disappointment, he hurriedly welcomed the woman in and sat her in a chair near his fire.  To her delight, he served her hot soup and crumpets and sweets.  Nigel pretended not to notice that she tucked some of the food into her pockets.  Quietly, she confided in him that she had many children at home who would go hungry if her efforts to appeal to the goodwill of their fellow men and women failed.  Nigel was moved by her story.

Nigel stood up and said, with a slight tremor in his voice, "I have prepared much food in anticipation of a guest but I am no longer sure if and when He will come.  I would hate for it to go to waste.  Could I prevail upon you to take some of it, please?  It's far too much for myself alone and I think your children may enjoy some of it."

Tears in her eyes, the woman only nodded.  She accepted the bags and boxes of bread and fruit and teas and even the little chocolate Santas Willy had brought to Nigel's flat earlier.  Just before leaving, she hugged the angel.  Her hug spoke more loudly of her gratitude than any words could. 

Nigel watched another unexpected guest leave.  He was heartened by the chance he'd been given to help those in need.  But the question still echoed in his mind: when would God come?


"Your generosity is truly appreciated, Willy," Vincent told the man as they stashed boxes of the candymaker's treats in kitchen cupboards Below.

Willy smiled.  "I'm just glad I could help bring some joy to the children here.  I thought they'd enjoy finding some chocolate in their stockings.  I hope Father doesn't object."

Vincent chuckled.  "He is always concerned for our health but even Father must admit that the sweet foods are one of the highlights of the holiday season."

"I'm glad to hear it.  Will we be seeing you and your lovely wife at the tree decorating party at Willowveil tomorrow?" the chocolatier asked.

Vincent nodded.  "Catherine must first pay a visit to her boss' party but we will both join all of you afterwards.  I know you'll enjoy it very much, Willy.  It's a truly special occasion."

"I have no doubt of that and can't wait.  Lady JenniAnn told me I even have my own ornament to hang."

"As do we all.  Psyche's very good about that."  Vincent placed the last box in the cupboard and then pushed a crate in front of it so the children would not find "Santa's" treats too early.  "William will be starting lunch now.  Could I persuade you to join us in thanks for these wonderful treats?"

Willy's face lit up.  "I'd never turn down a chance to enjoy William's cooking.  I'd love to.  Thank you, Vincent."
With that the two men left the kitchen and went to Father's chamber to visit before lunch was served.

December 23rd

Lady Beth's eyes flew from one side of the toy store to the other.  She, Rose, and Yva had returned to bring cookies and fudge to the angels of death, hoping to bring them a little of Dyeland's Christmas cheer as they worked.  But instead of a festive scene, they found themselves witnessing utter chaos.  Three angels of death chased countless mice from one side of the store to another. 

"Hold the cookies and fudge up!  They're coming towards us," Yva cried.

This alerted the angels of death to the ladies' presence and they came towards them.

"Go stand on the counter!" Adam shouted.

The three women climbed up onto the counter and watched the panic from a safer vantage point.

As the angels scrambled to gain control of the vermin, Mr. Appleton stormed out his office.  "You still haven't got this mess under control?" he demanded.  "They're driving the customers away!  If you don't want to find yourselves unemployed by Christmas Eve you better take care of this."

Rose gasped.  "How does he think they're responsible for this?  It's his store."

Lady Beth shook her head.  "I'm not sure he's entirely well.  They are on assignment after all."

"That's no excuse for yelling at them like that," Yva answered with a grimace.

"Oh my gosh..."  Rose began to giggle.  "It's what JenniAnn mentioned!  Look!  This is totally The Nutcracker!  Even down to the name Drosselmeyer!"

Lady Beth and Yva began to laugh, too.  "You're right," Yva agreed.

"Now how was it that they got rid of the mice in that?"  Lady Beth tried to recall.

"Clara threw her shoe at the Mouse King."  Rose began to untie her shoe.

"But which is the king?" Yva asked with a gently teasing smile.

"Well, we have six shoes so let's just got for the six toughest looking ones," Lady Beth suggested as she also began to undo her shoes.

While the angels of death scrambled, six shoes came flying at six different mice.  Some of the critters got hit but none mortally so.  Nonetheless, the mice seemed to have finally realized that Drosselmeyer's wasn't the safest place for them.  In amazement, Mr. Appleton and the angels of death watched as a line of mice exited the store through the door Lady Beth flung open after jumping off the counter.

"Impressive!" Adam declared with a broad smile as he straightened his hat.

"I guess you all just needed a little help from above."  Yva winked as Andrew and Henry helped she and Rose down from the counter.

Lady Beth closed the door and rejoined the group.  "Thanks to Rose for realizing that this scene looked eerily like something out of The Nutcracker."

"With three Nutcrackers Princes, of course.  And three Claras," Rose added.

Henry nodded.  "I guess it did.  Good thinking.  Well, now I guess..."

"Very well then.  Good job to the ladies but now it's back to work," Mr. Appleton declared and began barking orders to his security guards.  That finished, he retreated back to his office once again.

"I can see you have your hands full here..." Yva muttered, shooting a look at the door Appleton had just closed.
Andrew sighed.  "He's not a very happy man.  We've all tried to get through to him but he won't let us get close."

"Do you know what his story is?" Lady Beth asked.

Henry shrugged.  "Not really.  I kept thinking we'd be told something, anything."

"I hope something happens soon.  I have a feeling tomorrow's our last day here, one way or another."  Adam frowned.  The group all looked sadly at the closed door.


A child's sobs shook Nigel out of his reverie.  He was envisioning the fine time he would have visiting with the Father in his flat.  The day was nearing its end but the angel still held out hope that He might come for supper. 

Nigel stepped out of his flat and surveyed the street.  He could hear the sobs still.  He didn't want to leave his flat and risk missing the Father's visit but he knew he could not leave a child outside at night.  He followed the cries until he found a small boy sitting on a bench. 

"Well hello there!  Can I help you with anything, lad?" Nigel asked with a kind smile.

The little boy looked up at him, tears clinging to his lashes.  "I was shopping with my mum and papa but... I dunno where they went off to."  He began to sob again.

"How would it be if I helped you look?"  Nigel offered, holding out his hand.

The little one nodded, slid off the bench, and went with Nigel.  They searched for nearly an hour, alerting the constable and local shopkeepers.  Finally, they rounded a corner where they saw a sobbing woman and a frantic man speaking to another constable. 

The little boy ran towards them and Nigel watched as the family clung to each other.  He smiled fondly at them, waved to the little boy, and walked back to his flat.  It took him another half hour to get there.  By then it was well past supper time.  It seemed, yet again, another day had gone by with out his much anticipated visitation.

December 24th

The three angels of death returned to Drosselmeyer's bright and early the next morning.  It was an hour before they normally arrived but the previous night they had decided to surprise Mr. Appleton with breakfast that Rose, Lady Beth, and Yva had provided.  They entered the store, bringing the tantalizing scents of freshly baked muffins and scones and tea with them. 

"Look, his office is open.  He must be here already," Andrew pointed out.

"Great, let's go."  Adam led the three towards the office.  The sight that met their eyes surprised them all.  Mr. Appleton was asleep in his chair, still wearing the same clothes he had the day before.

Henry quietly knocked on the door to wake him.  "Mr. Appleton, are you okay?" he asked.

Appleton blinked and then sat up.  "What are you doing here?!  Get out!"

Adam stood firm.  "We're not leaving, sir.  We're going to sit here and have breakfast and you're going to let us help you."

"Wh-what are you?" Appleton asked, raising his hand against the light that now permeated the three angels of death.

"We're angels, Mr. Appleton.  We were sent here not just to guard your store but to help you.  But you've resisted every attempt we've made to help you," Henry explained.

"We want to help you.  God wants to help you.  But we can't do that if you won't let us," Andrew added.  "So why don't you start by telling us why you stayed here last night.  We saw you leave.  Why didn't you go home?"

Mr. Appleton began to cry.  "It's not home any more.  Not with out Adele.  My wife.  She died shortly after last Christmas.  We lived in our house for forty years together.  I can't stand to be there alone.  I can barely stand to be here.  This was her family's store, you know.  Adele used to sit out there by the dolls and read to the children.  Sometimes we would read to them together.  We could never have children of our own so, in a way, they were our children."

"God didn't want you to spend this first Christmas with out Adele alone.  That's why he sent us.  To help you through it.  Because He loves you, Thomas Appleton.  So will you let us celebrate this day with you?" Andrew requested.
Thomas smiled, brushed at his tears, and nodded. 

The angels returned his smile and the four enjoyed a friendly breakfast while they waited for the shoppers to arrive.

As the day wore on, Thomas read story after story to the young children that entered the store.  Some of the adults listened, too, glad to have the cheerful man they had once known returned to them.

By the end of the day, Thomas had invitations for both Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners.  It was with joyful hearts that the three angels of death left Drosselmeyer's for the last time, thankful to leave their costumes behind them.


Shortly after five o'clock, the Dyelanders began arriving at Willowveil Castle.  They poured into the ballroom where they merrily snacked on Yva's fudge and Lady Beth's snacks and Willy's chocolate.  JenniAnn made sure everyone had their tea and cocoa and cider and coffee.  Rose handed out Christmas cards.  The angels of death were enthusiastically telling their listeners about how their last assignment had nearly turned into a production of The Nutcracker.  Eliot and Sir Sven made sure holiday CDs kept playing to encourage the festive atmosphere.  Countess Jennifer was recounting what she'd experienced in her time away from Dyeland.  Only Catherine and Vincent were missing but they hoped to arrive with in an hour. 

Nigel was uplifted by the sound of laughter and the merry music playing and the angel of deaths' story of their last assignment finding the joy of the season once again.  However, in his heart of hearts he was struggling with disappointment.  The Father had never arrived for His visit.  As Nigel tried to understand why God had not followed through on His promise, the crowd around him seemed to hush.  Nigel could clearly hear the CD Eliot had put on earlier.  JenniAnn had identified the singer as a fellow named Johnny Cash.  However, he was not singing now but telling a story.  Nigel listened in awe as the man told the story of Conrad who had received a message from God that He would join him for Christmas.  But to Conrad it seemed the promise had never been fulfilled.  As the story neared its end, the famed singer's voice grew quiet and another voice met Nigel's ears.  It was a Voice that was would always be familiar to Nigel.  This was the first Voice Nigel had ever heard and the angel felt a great peace as it spoke this to him:

"Lift up your head, I have kept My word
Three times My shadow crossed your floor.
Three times I came to your lowly door.
I was the beggar with bruised, cold feet,
I was the woman you gave something to eat,
I was the child on the homeless street.
Three times I knocked, three times I came in
And each time I found the warmth of a friend.
Of all the gifts, love is the best.
I was honored to be your Christmas Guest."

Nigel's face broke into a broad smile and he began to laugh.  Of course, the Father would have kept His word.  Nigel thought fondly back at the shabbily dressed man, the needy mother, and the lost little boy and recognized each of them as the God he had always loved.


"After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh."  Father smiled at the children gathered around him and then up at his own son.

Vincent returned the smile and then waved good bye.

Father nodded and turned his gaze back to the Bible and continued the ancient story. 

Vincent made his way through the Tunnels that led to the Central Park exit.  He could sense that Catherine was not yet ready to leave Joe's party.  If she took much longer they had agreed that Vincent would go on to Willowveil and wait for her there.  However, right now he just wanted to walk. 

Vincent loved Christmastime.  It was a time of hope and love, family and friends.  It was a time for children.  It was this that sent a pang of regret and grief through his heart just then.  As he watched the parents Below fill stockings and hide toys and hastily eat cookies left for Santa, he couldn't help but think that such a life should have been his and Catherine's. 

Tears blurred his vision as Vincent stared up at a bright star in the sky.  Father's voice echoed in his mind: "And the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed." 

Vincent bowed his head and said a silent prayer for peace.  Tears still falling, he also sent his love to the child he had not gotten the chance to know.  When the man looked back up, the star he had been admiring seemed to have grown brighter.  He had a sudden desire to follow it.  Careful to stick to shadowy places, Vincent ran.  He didn't even fully realize where he was going but kept on running.  When he finally felt that he ought to stop, he noted with amazement that he was standing behind St. Vincent's Hospital.  It was there he had been found, wrapped in rags, and abandoned in the wintry cold. 

Vincent pulled his hood more securely around his face as he heard approaching footsteps.  He realized then that in his haste, he hadn't noticed the bond with in him that told him Catherine was near.  He turned around, unsurprised but happy to see her standing behind him.  He drew her into his embrace.

"What are you doing here?  I thought you would stay longer at Joe's party."

Catherine laughed nervously.  "You'll think you've married a crazy woman if I tell you."

"I have married the woman I love and crazy or not, I will never regret that."

Catherine stole a quick kiss and then began to tell her story.  "It was so bizarre.  I was at the party and I glanced out the window and saw this star.  It was so bright and I thought instantly of the Wisemen and the star.  Suddenly I had this wish... a need really... to follow it.  So I excused myself and I did.  And I ended up here.  Why are you here?"

Vincent chuckled.  "The very same reason.  I saw the star and I ran after it.  It would seem we are both crazy."

"Not crazy.  Blessed," a voice responded.

The couple turned around and found themselves staring at Monica.  She was dressed in a flowy white dress and smiled at them as golden light surrounded her.  "Whether you realized it or not, you both came here tonight searching for something: a healing of your past.  God wept with you when you lost your child and He holds that child in His love each day and He will forever."

Catherine began to weep and Vincent held her.  Monica rested a hand on his shoulder and continued.  "You have both touched the lives of countless children.  You have healed them, loved them, cared for them.  There is yet another child who needs you.  He needs the love and care of devoted parents, just as another baby boy found here over fifty years ago needed the same."

Vincent  bowed his head and thought of Father caring for him through his own infancy but then he focused on Monica's words.  Could she be saying what he thought she was?  His heart leapt and he could do nothing to quiet it.  The bond told him that Catherine, too, was filled with hope and anticipation.

There was a shuffling sound and Vincent and Catherine saw some of the boxes near the trash bin move.  A figure stood up and walked towards them.  As she stepped into Monica's light, the figure began to glow also.  The couple recognized her as Tess and saw she was holding something.

"I've been holding this little one since he was left here.  But now I think he wants his parents."  Tess smiled at the couple.  "Now, he's going to need some special care but the Father thought you would be just the right couple for the task."

Catherine could not speak, she only held out her arms and wept happily as the angel passed the child to her.  Vincent peered over her shoulder at the little bundle.  The infant had a cleft lip but to Catherine and Vincent he was utterly beautiful and perfect.

"Th-thank you," were the only words that Vincent could manage.  He didn't even look at the angels as he spoke them.  He was entranced by the baby in his wife's arms.

"The Father is very pleased with you both and He loves you and this little one, as well.  Go home now and celebrate Christmas with your son," Tess instructed.

"Merry Christmas!" Monica chimed.

"Our son..." Vincent murmured.

The two angels watched, arms around each others' shoulders, as the little family returned to their home.


At last the Willowveil Christmas tree was fully decorated, at least nearly so.  Catherine's and Vincent's ornaments awaited them but otherwise the tree held a symbol of every person in the room.  They all smiled as they admired the symbol of their togetherness.  It was an idyllic moment and JenniAnn was annoyed when a ringing phone interrupted it just as Adam was about to start up a round of "O Christmas Tree."  Nonetheless, she rushed to answer it, momentarily blushing at the memory of she and Eliot's previous experience with that phone.

"Hello, this is JenniAnn.  Yes.  What's wrong?!?  Tell me!" she cried.

Everyone hurried over.

"You're absolutely sure?  Vincent and Catherine are alright, right?"

"Oh..." Yva began to fret.

"Well just tell me so we can be prepared!  Mouse!"  Exasperated, she hung up the phone and faced the group.  "Mouse says we need to get Below and to Vincent's and Catherine's chamber immediately.  But he won't say why.  Only that every thing's very okay and very, very fine."

"Uh oh.  I wonder what he's done to their chamber..."  Eliot grimaced and then hurried to the pantry door which hid the portal to the Tunnels.

"We're all supposed to come?" Rose checked.

"Yes, let's just hurry!" JenniAnn urged.

"Fear not!" Henry encouraged.

"I'm trying!" Lady Beth answered.

In a few moments everyone was through and dashing through tunnels, sometimes in single file through narrow ones.  It seemed to take forever to reach the main hub and then the Wellses' chamber.  Father stood outside the door wearing a grin that could only be called goofy.  He ushered them all inside. 

A hush fell over them all as they spotted the happy couple.  Catherine was seated in a chair with Vincent standing behind her.  The group listened to a soft cooing noise that urged them nearer.  Vincent looked up then and smiled at them.  He held his hand out.  "Please, come meet Jacob Chandler Wells."

There were many more tears of joy as the group drew closer and beheld the baby.  Catherine and Vincent took turns telling the story of the star and the angels and Jacob.  Father explained that despite his cleft lip, Jacob was otherwise perfectly healthy and seemed to have suffered no ill effects from being outside.  This fact was gratefully attributed to God and His angel, Tess, by a blissful Catherine.

Eventually Catherine surrendered the infant and he was held and greeted by each person in the room before being returned to his parents.  Though Catherine and Vincent knew there was a long and difficult road ahead of them, neither could deny that this small child was the greatest Christmas gift they had ever received.


The Dyelanders returned to Willowveil, sensing that the new family needed some time to themselves.  Everyone watched fondly as Yva hung Vincent's ornament and JenniAnn hung Catherine's.  The two roses were placed together, side by side.  Eliot then approached with something he had quickly but lovingly carved.  It was a tiny rosebud and this he hung near the two larger roses.

"This has truly been a wondrous Christmas," Nigel enthused after the last ornament was hung.

Adam nodded.  "A hurt and grieving man found the joy of the Christmas season again."

"A lot of mice found a new home... outside, thankfully!" Rose added with a giggle.

"God kept His promises," was Nigel's solemn addition.

Andrew cast a hopeful glance at JenniAnn and Eliot.  "The right words were spoken to the right person."

"The food was amazing!" Yva bestowed an appreciative smile on both Lady Beth and Willy.

"As was the fudge," Lady Beth added and returned the smile.

"Good friends were reunited," Tess chimed in as she and Monica appeared in the room and began hugging those assembled there.

JenniAnn tenderly touched the newly carved rosebud.  "A child who needed love and a home found both."

"And two people who so dearly wanted to be parents became parents."  Eliot's happiness for his mentor and Catherine could hardly be concealed.

"And Christmas Day isn't even here yet," Henry pointed out.

"I'm sure it will be wonderful."  Willy beamed at the faces around him.  "I'm so glad I could be here."

"I'm so glad we could all be here... together."  Monica looked at Tess pleadingly then.  "Tess, could we have a song?"

"I think we should have a sing along," Adam suggested and was met with ready agreement.

Drinks and treats were passed around and then the group, each member smiling from ear-to-ear, began to sing Christmas carols.

As the singing continued, Andrew grew quiet and surveyed the faces of those around them.  Each was smiling, some with their arms around each others' shoulders.  The couples were holding hands.  Tess even patted Adam's shoulder as he played the piano, something that Andrew knew meant a great deal to his fellow angel of death.  Andrew had a sudden flash, too, of Thomas Appleton animatedly talking to some customers as he sat in their parlor.  They laughed and cried as they exchanged stories of his wife.  Andrew saw Vincent and Catherine, too, tucking their child into the cradle that had once been his father's.  Once again Christmas had come and begun to heal the wounds of the past.  In so doing, it shown a light of hope into the future and a light of love that surrounded those in the ballroom and all those dear to them.  With a smile and tears of happiness, Andrew rejoined the song.

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
 Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth efface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

The End

~*~ ~*~
Author's notes:

Eventually I hope to actually post to my Author's Cut page about this story but briefly here are the credits I feel owed:

Thanks to Liz, Nicole, and Yvette for giving me something to go on regarding what their individual characters were up to this holiday season!

This year I opted not to be at all mysterious about what Christmas favorites were inspiring this story but here they are again, anyhow:
1.  The Andrew/JenniAnn/Eliot phone call scene was inspired by the George/Mary/Sam phone call scene in It's a Wonderful Life.  I love that scene!  Of course, to the best of my knowledge, the Dyeland version did not immediately lead to a wedding as with the film.  Eliot and JenniAnn do, after all, look up to Vincent and we all know he's as slow as molasses when it comes to furthering a relationship.  ;-)

2.  Nigel's entire story line was inspired by Johnny Cash's recording of Helen Steiner Rice's poem The Christmas Guest.
3.  The story of The Nutcracker was written by ETA Hoffman and popularized by Tchaikovsky's ballet.  Interestingly, I discovered that in some versions the intruding rodents are mice and in others rats.  I went with mice cause I like rats more.  ;-)

4.  Eliot's chamber was an allusion to L. Frank Baum's novel The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus which I read every Christmas.

5.  Vincent's and Catherine's story line was, of course, inspired by the Gospel of Matthew.  However, it was also inspired by what just might be my favorite moment ever on the TV show Scrubs.  One Christmas one of the doctors, Turk, sees so much tragedy in the ER that he loses his faith.  He steps outside and gazes up to see a star of Christmas lights.  He feels compelled to follow it and finds a teenage mother struggling to give birth to her child.  Awesome TV moment and it was that which compelled me to write about Vincent's frantic run to find the star.
6.  The carol is "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." 

Finally, Jacob's condition is the same which the children in TBAA's Operation Smile had.  Before that episode, I had never heard of cleft lip.  Therefore, I thought this Christmas was a fine opportunity to remember on of TBAA's greatest lessons: the importance of giving to others.  TBAA introduced us to many charities and groups that seek to do exactly that.  So, in thanksgiving to TBAA and in honor of all of you, a donation has been made to Operation Smile.  Merry Christmas!

God bless,

JABB 236

(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from "Touched by an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions.  They are not being used to seek profit.)