"Pray for peace, people, everywhere.
Listen to what I say! (Listen to what I say!)
The Child, the Child sleeping in the night,
He will bring us goodness and light!
He will bring us goodness and light!"
~~by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne

Hi all,

Merry Christmas!  I hope those of you who celebrated had a great time.  And, if you're like me, you'll keep celebrating to some extent til the 6th so enjoy that!

Unfortunately, my life remains hectic and I only just finished "A Thousand Years" this morning which means I didn't start the Christmas story until just now.  It's going to be short... but not short enough for me to finish tonight.  I'm not committing to updating every day.  We'll just have to see how it goes.  But I do hope to have it finished by the 6th.  It is directly related to "Thousand" so it may be helpful to read that first if you're so inclined.  However...  I decided to do something different and write "Thousand" on Google Docs which turns out to have been a very bad idea.  When I tried to put it on a web page, the formatting got very weird and the text was too small.  I attempted to do a quick remedy but it definitely needs more help... help I don't have time for right now.  For one, nothing that should be centered is.  So fair warning there!

Anyway, I hope you all finish 2021 healthy and safe.  May 2022 give us all the break we need!

God bless,

"Goodness and Light"

Circa 2050

Shelby sat with a notebook in hand, staring at the blank page.  Technology kept advancing but she still liked to write her first drafts out with good old pen and paper.

But even long-held tradition wasn't making this easy...

"Maybe I should leave this part out.  Maybe it's too private," she mused.

Marty, who had been doing his own writing, turned towards the author.

"You've written about a number of private things... with names changed to protect the innocent... and not so innocent."

"I know..."  Shelby dragged a hand through her hair.  "But this feels different.  Maybe... maybe I'm afraid of criticism.  People write to me and tell me how inspiring the faith of 'Penelope' and 'Jonathan' is.  Now I'm supposed to let them know that there was a Christmas when 'Penelope' was barely speaking to Joshua?"

"Would it be a bad thing if your readers had an example of someone with a strong faith who faltered?  Who struggled?  Who got angry?  Seems to me the Bible is filled with those sorts of people.  I remember writing about them..."

"I suppose..."

"What did JenniAnn say about it?" Marty asked.

"That... that it was part of the story.  And my job is to tell stories."  Shelby clutched the purple cross around her neck.  "But it's just...  I mean...  I was even upset when she told me about it."


"She yelled at Joshua on his birthday!" Shelby exclaimed.

"It hadn't been an easy year, Shelby.  COVID was still raging.  U.S. politics were..."  Marty shook his head and grimaced.  "And then she and Andrew got attacked by demons and he ended up with TBI again.  JenniAnn had a lot on her shoulders."

"But... his birthday!" Shelby protested.

Marty shrugged.

"Maybe you need a break.  Maybe... I should tell a story," he tantalized.  "A story about another beloved parent celebrated for their faith... but who also got angry at God."

Shelby perked up.

Marty laughed when she grabbed a cushion and settled in front of him like a pre-schooler waiting for their teacher to read aloud from a story book.

"Did they yell at Joshua?" Shelby questioned.

"Yell at a baby?  No.  But the Father..."  Marty nodded.

"Oh..."  Shelby's eyes glowed with recognition.  "Joshua was a baby..."

"He was.  Our story begins long, long ago... on a very important journey to Egypt."


Circa 1 BC

Maryam and Yosef huddled together, with the baby snuggled between them, as they listened to the cacophony of sorrow that surrounded them.  They were on their fifth day of journeying to Egypt when the horrible news had reached the caravan of fellow refugees they'd been welcomed into.

Yosef stared at the tiny fingers wrapped around one of his own.  Yeshua was sleeping peacefully, safe and secure.

But so many like him were not...  They'd been pulled from their mother's arms and murdered. 

"I do not understand," Yosef murmured.

Maryam brushed a lock of hair from his forehead.

"You are a good man, Yosef.  How can you expect to understand why an evil man does what he does?"

"I don't.  Herod is... is evil.  As you said.  I don't understand... God.  He sent an angel to tell me to flee with you and Yeshua.  Where was the angel for those other mothers and fathers?"

"Perhaps God knew they would not heed His warning."

"But He could have tried!" Yosef spat out.

"But if He knew they would not listen...  Their grief and sorrow is deep enough, Yosef.  Imagine if they also had to live with the guilt of knowing that they had been warned but did nothing." 

Yosef said nothing.  He and Maryam both shuddered when a mournful shriek sounded.

Yeshua awoke and began to fuss.

"There, there, my own," Maryam consoled. 

The baby still cried.

"Are you hungry?"

Maryam offered the baby her breast and he calmed down and began to nurse.

As he did, fresh tears ran down Maryam's cheeks.

"It is awful to think of the parents... the mothers especially... their breasts full and aching with no child to feed."

"Why did He not strike Herod down?  He turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt for so much less!"

"Herod will be punished... in time."

"I... I wish I had your faith," Yosef muttered.

Maryam gripped his chin.

"It is not a sin to question.  I did.  I asked the angel how it was I could become pregnant."

"That's different."

"How so?"

"You were not angry."

"No.  Only confused.  But... You were angry with me once, Yosef mine.  When you learned about this little one." 

Yosef's face flushed.

"And yet... I loved you still.  And if I could love you even when you were angry at me, God... who is so much greater... surely can."

"I... I still loved you.  And... I still love Him."

"I know.  He knows."  Maryam smiled at Yosef.

Yosef shakily returned her smile and mulled over her words in silence.

After a few minutes, Maryam handed the baby to her husband.

Yosef held Yeshua closely and peered into his beautiful eyes, the eyes he'd gotten from his mother.  There were no answers there.  But Yosef felt peace as he held the Deliverer, the One who would triumph against death.

His son.


Circa 2050

"If even Yosef could have doubts... could get angry, why would you hold it against JenniAnn to feel the same?" Marty questioned after finishing his recollection.

"I... I guess I don't really know.  And it's not like I hang onto it.  It's only really come back as I've started to write about that time.  And..."  Shelby stared down at her hands.  "It's not as if I haven't also had moments of doubt and anger.  Months of it, even."

Marty squeezed Shelby's hand, knowing she was thinking of the months leading to Penny's birth.

"I suppose part of it is... well, Psyche's always been like Maryam was in your story... memory.  She was always saying we shouldn't blame God when people do bad things.  Free will and all.  But... she did blame him."

"Maybe it would help if I share the story... the way I was told it," Marty suggested.

Shelby smiled.

"I wouldn't turn down another story."

Marty chuckled.

"Well, then...  Our story begins late Christmas Eve, 2021..."


Friday, December 24th, 2021

JenniAnn stared at her phone.

11:35 PM.

As tired as she was, she wished daylight would hurry up and come.  Whatever sleep she was going to get, it clearly wasn't going to be restful.  And at least in the morning she could be cheered by the sight of her children and grandchildren tearing through their stockings and gifts.

JenniAnn heard creaking above her. 

Could be someone in the rec room... or the hallway.

Or it could be Joshua.

He'd shown up that morning, smiling and wearing a truly horrible sweater festooned with lights that actually blinked.

Since then, Friends had been dropping in and out of the castle.  JenniAnn had to admit that it had helped her mood to have that bit of normalcy restored.  Praise be to God for vaccines and rapid tests!

And, of course, she had hugged and kissed him when he'd shown up.  And it had felt good to be hugged and kissed back... and to see Andrew's face light up when he saw Joshua. 

Tears welled in JenniAnn's eyes as she recalled how Joshua had tenderly caressed Andrew's face.  They'd whispered something to each other.  JenniAnn didn't know what it was but her anam cara had seemed happier and lighter since.

And he, at least, was sleeping soundly.

JenniAnn nuzzled Andrew's chest and closed her eyes again.

There was more noise from up above.  Then JenniAnn thought she heard someone creeping down the stairs.

She really ought to check...  Whoever it was, she was the hostess and if someone was having a bad night, maybe she could help.  And she was feeling a bit peckish.  Grabbing a bite from the kitchen wouldn't be a bad idea.

With a sigh, JenniAnn grabbed a notepad from her bedside and scrawled "Gone to get a midnight snack.  Be right back, love."

Maybe in the new year she and Andrew could stop with the notes explaining brief absences.  They just hadn't gotten there quite yet.

JenniAnn kissed Andrew's forehead then slipped into her robe and slippers and made her way to the kitchen.

And there he was... filling two mugs with milk.  A plate of cookies rested on the table.

"Those for Nick?" JenniAnn asked.

Joshua looked up and smiled.


He pulled out a chair.

"The day of your and Andrew's ceremony... during our dance... I told you we'd talk," he reminded.

"So... you want to talk now?"

"I do."

JenniAnn nodded, inhaled deeply, and sat down.

"Thank you," she murmured as Joshua pushed her chair in.

"You're welcome."  He took the chair across from hers.  "And... go!"

"But...  It's your birthday," JenniAnn protested.  She glanced at the microwave clock.  "Almost."

"Yes.  And, for my birthday, I would like the chance to defend myself," Joshua responded.
JenniAnn's face reddened.

"It... it's not like I want to put you on... on trial or anything.  A-again."

Joshua's face softened and he reached over to take JenniAnn's hand.

"I know, little bird.  I know you'd never want that.  But we need to talk.  Because I do have some things to say.  And I know you do, too.  And... I miss hearing from you like I used to."

A tear slid down JenniAnn's cheek.  It wasn't as if she hadn't been praying.  She did with the kids.  And she still prayed the old standbys.  But, no, she hadn't had that running mental commentary going with Joshua that she usually did.  Not since October.

"I love you.  Nothing you say can change that," Joshua murmured. 

JenniAnn nodded.

"I appreciate all prayers.  I do," Joshua continued.  "And I’m so glad my prayer is a comfort to you.  And the Serenity Prayer is a good addition.  But… I miss those ones from the heart."  Joshua’s eyes misted but he smiled.  "The rambling ones that you’d pick up throughout the day.  Those are my favorites."

JenniAnn stared down at their hands.

"Talk to me now?" he implored.

JenniAnn’s shoulders began to shake and she released Joshua’s hands only to move closer and rest her cheek against his shoulder. 

Joshua wrapped his arms around the woman and softly swayed for a few moments, humming his Ama’s lullaby.

Once JenniAnn had calmed, she spoke.

"I... I just don't understand why you let Andrew suffer like that... for a month!  He... he was so, so sick..."  JenniAnn shook her head at the painful memories.  "I... I didn't blame you for the demons attacking us.  Free will and all.  But that... that... it... it was on you!  And I am grateful that Raphael came.  I'm grateful that Andrew is better now.  But... but what was the point of letting him feel so lousy?  He... he did nothing wrong!"

"JenniAnn...  This world is filled with sickness and suffering."  Joshua's face clouded.  "Now especially...  You know that getting sick isn't a punishment from me nor from my Dad.  Do you think of your epilepsy as a punishment?  Or Belle's?"

"Well... no.  I... I mean Belle's probably came from her birth mother's drug use.  Mine?  Environmental toxins, maybe?  Weakening the genome or whatnot?  So... free will.  Again."

"Then why do you think Andrew would be spared just because he's good?  You're good.  Belle is good."

"B-but Andrew is your angel!"

"And you're my human!" 

JenniAnn wasn't sure what to say.

Joshua was silent for a few moments before beginning to speak again.

"You're right.  Your epilepsy, Belle's epilepsy... they're the result of poor decisions made by people using their free will.  And I know it's not fair that you have to live with the consequences of eons of poor decisions that you had no say in."  An edge crept into Joshua's voice.  "Just like it's not fair that someone can do everything possible to protect themselves and their community and still get COVID because other people refuse to do anything.  It... it breaks my heart."

JenniAnn looked into Joshua's eyes and saw that it did... utterly.

"But if I swooped in and fixed everything... what would community even mean?  What would love mean?  It's heart wrenching and it makes me angry that people choose to hurt others and be careless with others.  But if I did fix everything in this world, what opportunities would there be to show love or compassion or self-sacrifice?  I created all that is so you could love and care for each other.  And, yes, I knew that sometimes... too often... my children would choose not to love, not to care.  But I also knew that so often... they would."  Joshua gave JenniAnn a teary smile.  "What I've seen in hospitals... in homes... in schools... so many places.  Amazing, giving, inspiring, agapic love!  And I saw it here.  Yes, Andrew was in pain.  But he also knew he was being loved and cared for.  And that means something, JenniAnn."

JenniAnn shook her head.

"But... but I love and care for him always!  He didn't need to be that bad off to know that!  I just don't understand why you didn't send Raphael earlier or... or have Andrew come Home just long enough to be healed."

"He didn't want to leave you.  And he didn't think it would be fair for him to find solace in Heaven when you couldn't."

"But you're the parent!  Sometimes parents make kids do things for their own good even when they don't want to!" JenniAnn cried.

Joshua sighed and rubbed at his temples.

"And sometimes parents let their children live with some discomfort... even pain... when they know it'll make things better for them later on.  I know it's not the same but remember when you broke your arm in the third grade?  It probably would have been less painful, at the time, if your parents had listened to you when you begged to not go to the doctor.  Because it did hurt when he set your arm.  The cast was ferociously itchy.  But if your parents hadn't insisted... you'd be going around with a crooked arm.  But now?  You can't even tell it was ever broken, right?"

"Right..." JenniAnn begrudgingly admitted.  "But TBI is a little more than a broken arm."

"I'm aware.  But tell me this... How's your relationship been with Andrew since October?"

In spite of her anger, JenniAnn smiled.  A little giggle even squeaked out as she looked over to the pantry.  She and Andrew had recently had a very enjoyable rendezvous there.

Joshua smiled.

"And do you think it would be that way if I'd whisked Andrew away or sent Raphael around the day after the attack?"

JenniAnn bit her lip, feeling a bit foolish.  She shook her head.

"That month, all the surfacy things that Andrew brought into this relationship were stripped away.  He couldn't protect you.  He couldn't work.  He couldn't even give you the physical intimacy that you've both come to enjoy.  And yet... you were still there.  You still loved him.  More than ever.  I couldn't give him that.  Raphael couldn't.  Only you could.  And, trust me, Andrew is going to remember that for a whole lot longer than he's going to remember the dizziness and the nausea and the seizure."

"Yeah..."  JenniAnn gave Joshua a tearful smile when he handed her a handkerchief. 

"I can use pain, JenniAnn.  I know sometimes it's hard to see the good in it... but I can.  Just like I did with your epilepsy.  Those demons wanted you to remember every awful thing Andrew had to witness.  But because of a seizure, your memories were dulled.  Only the ones that truly mattered... the ones that would help win justice for Natalie and her family... only those remained.  And so it will be for Andrew.  The memories of the pain and discomfort and confusion will fade.  But the memories of you... of your children and your friends and family... how all of you came together for him... those memories will last forever."

JenniAnn hugged Joshua's arm.

"That makes sense.  Thank you.  I... I do still wish that he didn't sometimes still have nightmares about the attack... about bad things happening to me."

"Those will grow less frequent in time.  But it's part of the human condition to have fears about harm coming to those we love.  And while he's not human... Andrew is going to experience that, too.  But you're there to comfort him, hmm?"


Joshua kissed JenniAnn's hair, causing her to smile.

"And there were good things to come from it," she admitted.  "Jamie found healing.  Vonnie found peace... and maybe a girlfriend?"  She peered at Joshua.

Chuckling, Joshua held up his hands.

"Not saying...  That's for Vonnie and Rhiannon to decide."

"Well... a good friend, at least.  And I even feel more peaceful.  It was good to see Vonnie with Avi with, yeah, some wistfulness.  But not regret."

"No," Joshua confirmed.

"And Crowley has started meeting with Jamie regularly.  So that's a good thing."


"And, well, everyone just kinda slowed down.  Max, Violeta, and Shelby spent a lot more time with Andrew than they had since the start of the pandemic." 

Joshua beamed.

"That was really nice," he agreed.

"And... and the dream."  JenniAnn's eyes welled again, this time with happy tears.  "The stars... the bubbles...  A-Andrew and me... before we were Andrew and JenniAnn but still somehow... us.  Together."

Joshua's smile grew.

JenniAnn straightened up and peered into Joshua's eyes.

"That's what you needed us to know... what you needed us to take away from that experience.  As... as awful as it was, it made us realize who we are... who we've always been.  Together always, no matter what.  Pain... demons... not even death can separate us.  Not really."

Joshua squeezed JenniAnn's hands and nodded.

"They attacked you both because they wanted to drive you apart.  But Dad and I... we had other plans."

"Yeah..."  JenniAnn hugged Joshua tightly.  "I... I'm so sorry that I refused to... to see that.  It was just so... so hard to... see him like that.  A-and I missed you.  I wanted you to be there.  Not even just to... to heal Andrew.  Just... be there."

Joshua also cried as he held the weeping woman.

"I was there," he whispered.  "I know not in the way you wanted.  But I was holding you both.  Every moment.  And I made sure you were surrounded by people who could help you... who needed to help you.  It meant so much to them, JenniAnn, to be there for you."

JenniAnn again thought back to October... especially to Crowley and Marty who had kept such watchful eyes on her and Andrew.  She nodded against Joshua's shoulder.  She understood.

Over JenniAnn's shoulder, Joshua saw a figure standing in the doorway and smiling.

Andrew admired the scene before him for a few moments.  When he had seen the note from JenniAnn, he had hoped she was spending the time reconnecting with Joshua.

The godfather clock chimed midnight.

Andrew moved into the kitchen and wrapped his arms around both JenniAnn and Joshua.

"Happy birthday, Joshua!" the angel of death greeted.

"Yes... happy birthday, Joshua!" JenniAnn echoed.

Joshua beamed at them both.

"It is happy.  Thank you.  And now... cookies and milk." 

Joshua retrieved a mug for Andrew then the trio sat down to enjoy the treats together.

As they chatted, Andrew studied his anam cara and his creator.  His heart swelled with happiness.  The awkwardness and stiltedness was gone.  JenniAnn even reached over to brush a cookie crumb from Joshua's beard.  All was well between them.

Andrew's Christmas wish had been granted!


Circa 2050

Shelby swiped at a tear.

"I... I never knew that.  The part about Andrew's Christmas wish."

"He saw how much the distance was paining JenniAnn.  And he knew it had to hurt Joshua, too.  So, yes, what he wanted most that Christmas was for JenniAnn to make peace with what had happened and Joshua's part in it," Marty averred.

"I guess it must have been really hard for her.  It's hard enough watching someone you love be in pain and struggling.  But... she felt some responsibility for that, surely?  I mean... Andrew was protecting her."

"She did," Marty confirmed.  "And she and Joshua would talk about that, too... in time.  But on that Christmas Day... they were happy and untroubled."

Shelby beamed.

"It was a good Christmas.  Just like this one!"

Marty returned her smile and held out his hand.

"I think we should let the writing wait and go get some milk and cookies.  Telling that story made me crave them."

Shelby laughed and took the angel's hand.

"Me too!  I was gonna say something but ya beat me to it."

"Then off we go!"

Together, the two writers left Marty's garret and made their way to the main floor of Willowveil. 

Shelby could make out the opening song from The Muppets' Christmas Carol coming from the living room.

"You go.  I'll get the cookies and milk and bring them by," Marty offered.

"Okay, thanks!"

Shelby hugged the angel then made her way to the living room.  Before entering, she peeked inside and her heart swelled with happiness.

Andrew and JenniAnn were seated together on one of the couches, their heads touching and their silver hair mingled together.  To Andrew's other side was Penny.  She was hugging her Grampa's arm, watching the film with rapt attention.

Shelby's eyes welled as she thought back to her own childhood, to evenings spent watching movies with Andrew and JenniAnn.  They hadn't been as close back then.  But even as a child she'd been able to sense the connection between them.

JenniAnn looked up and met Shelby's gaze.

"Hey there, baby girl.  We've just barely started, wanna come watch with us?"

Shelby nodded.  The last vestiges of her frustration disappeared as she snuggled up beside her surrogate mother.

"Hi, Mommy," Penny greeted, looking away from the screen only to briefly smile at her mother.

"Hi, sweetheart."

Marty returned with the tray of cookies and milk, much to the delight of the others.

"You gonna join us, I hope?" Andrew asked his fellow angel.

Marty smiled and nodded.

"Yes.  I rather enjoy this version."

Marty took a seat in an overstuffed chair.  Though he truly did enjoy the movie, his attention kept shifting back to the family on the couch.

Shelby was not alone in struggling to understand what had happened nearly thirty years before.  Marty still couldn't fathom how some of his once-beloved siblings had targeted two people he cared so much about.  And that hadn't been the last time...  And there had definitely been unrelated struggles since.

But right now... now the Chandler-Darcy clan was happy.

And things were only going to get better!  More family and friends would arrive.  And then the Birthday Boy Himself would be among them.  And Marty would be there to record it all.


The End

ETA- Unfortunately, I won't be able to finish today, January 6th, as I'd hoped.  But I'm close.  I just have a very needy dog who isn't letting me write more than a sentence at a time which doesn't exactly help with flow and inspiration!

ETA 2- And I finished today, January 7th... while feeling nostalgic about Alan Rickman in case that's not obvious.

Works Cited:
"Do You Hear What I Hear?" by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne
Matthew 2:16-18- Massacre of the Innocents
Mark 15:2-4/Luke 23:5- Jesus' trial before Pilate
The Lord's Prayer/Our Father/Matthew 6:9-13
"The Serenity Prayer" by Reinhold Niebuhr
The Muppets' Christmas Carol

This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for giving me this Christmas tradition.  It's rushed, it can be stressful, but, for now, I can't imagine not writing a Christmas story every year.

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