Advent 2021 – December 6

December 6 – Father Christopher

“I agree, wholeheartedly,” Jade said, smiling down at Zoey. “I’m so happy that we could get to know you.”

Zoey stepped back, and Jade looked out over the crowd. “Who would like to go next?”

When should we go? And should we go together? Schrodinger looked up at Molly. All three of them had chosen an ornament to put on the tree. 

“I’m thinking more towards the end,” Molly said. “And yes, we can all go up together.”

Several of the townsfolk had stepped up, and soon the tree had more ornaments. Each time, Molly and Schrodinger were shown the images of the stories that were attached to each one. Then Father Christopher, the priest of the little church Molly had gone to for service since she’d been a child, came up and offered his choice.

“I’m another one who came from out of town,” he said, turning to the others. “I too was welcomed in as if I’d always been here, and although I’ve been offered other parishes, I’ve never once considered leaving. But when I received the invitation for this, there was only one ornament that I knew I had to bring.”

He held up a shining brass ornament. It was about the size of a tea saucer, and held the cut out scene of a church in the snow. “When I was a young priest, my very first parish was not in an rural setting. In fact, we didn’t have snow at all…”

The now-familar grey fog surrounded Molly, and when it cleared, she and Schrodinger were standing on a strange city street. It was hot and full of people rushing around, the din of hundreds of thousands of living bodies all around them. Schrodinger’s ears went back and his eyes widened. This is NOT the Cove!

“No,” Molly agreed. “I think this must be…” Her voice trailed off as she watched a younger version of Father Christopher stride up to the large church that rose up from a patch of dry grass. This Father Christopher had no grey in his dark hair; indeed, the hair on his head was long and held back from his face in a braid with a multi-colored string tying it up. Instead of the long pants and soft sweaters that Molly knew him in, he was wearing a short-sleeved blue teeshirt that said “St. Andrews Softball League” on it, and long shorts. Instead of boots, there were what looked like Birkenstock sandals on his feet. His long legs and arms were tanned. Indeed, the only thing that was still the same was his smile, full of caring and warmth. Time hadn’t touched that at all.

“Father Christopher! Please, wait!”

Father Christopher paused on the top step of the church and turned. A young man came running up to him, sweat slicking his face and dark hair. “I know it’s late, Father, but please, I need a few minutes.”

“Of course! I always have time for you, Edward! What can I do for you?”

Edward reached him and dropped his head briefly, catching his breath. It was clear that he’d run from wherever he’d been.

“Is it true, Father?” he said finally. “Are you leaving?”

Father Christopher nodded. “I’ve been reassigned, I’m afraid. There’s another new priest coming in, but you know you can always write or call me.”

“That’s very kind, but that’s not why I wanted to catch you.” Edward swallowed. “I got the letter today, Father. I…” He paused, and then blurted out, “I got in! I’m going to art school! I got the scholarship!”

“That’s wonderful!” Father Christopher enveloped him in a bear hug, despite the heat. “I knew you could do it!”

“Not without your help, Father.” Edward’s smile was shy. “I wasn’t exactly on the right path when you came here.”

“No, but you did the work, son. Don’t ever forget that. God helps those who are trying, whether or not they fail along the way. Only God is infallible. The rest of us are just mortal and trying to do the right thing.” Father Christopher laid his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “When do you leave?”

“Not for a few weeks. The next semester isn’t until January, and I’ve got to make sure Mom is set up.” Edward handed him a small wrapped package. “But I wanted to give you this.”

The brass ornament flashed in the sun, momentarily blinding Molly, and then the scene was gone, the noise of the city replaced by the murmurs of the people in Carter’s Cove. “I’ve hung this church on every tree I have ever had since that Christmas, and I get a card from Edward every year. He’s an art teacher now, and still makes amazing ornaments,” Father Christopher finished. “I would love to have him come live here, but he says his blood is too thin to survive a Maine winter.” He winked at Old Man Winter. “Sometimes I think mine is too.”

Old Man Winter laughed. “Your blood is full of Molly’s tea and Katrina’s coffee, Father. Not even I can fight against that magic.”

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