A light dusting of snow had just begun to coat the streets and houses that made up the quaint and peaceful village of Middleburg. As the cold frosty evening began to turn into night, most of the shops lining the town's main street were now dark and shuttered. Since it was Christmas Eve, many of the shopkeepers had closed their stores earlier in the afternoon so they could go home and begin celebrating Christmas with their families.
On Center Street, there was only one store with its lights still on. Inside Miller's House of Music, Philip Miller was preparing to close. He had already turned off the lights in the back of the store, locked the cases that held the small instruments and accessories, and just punched the worn red button on the cash register that caused the drawer to spring open. As he prepared to begin counting the money he was suddenly interrupted by a heavy rapping on his shop door.
At first Philip didn't even look up as he took out the money and began to count it. But the rapping persisted and got louder.
Shaking his head, he stopped and slowly made his way to the door. As he pulled up the shade he could see Jack Addams standing in front of his shop. The tall man was leaning down looking into Philip Miller's face as he peered through the glass of the locked door.
“Mr. Miller,” Jack Adams called to Philip through the door, “I know you're closed, but I was wondering if you could open up. I just got off work. I had to stay at the plant, there was a problem on the line and we all had to work overtime to get a big order out before we could close for Christmas. This is my last chance to get Jason's Christmas present. Could you please help me?”
Jason Addams was Jack's thirteen year old son and the young boy had just started to take an interest in music. Philip had noticed him coming into his shop almost every day after school for the past 3 weeks to stare at the guitar display in the front of the store.
“Please Mr. Miller,” Jack was now almost pleading, “I hate to disappoint my boy on Christmas by not giving him the one thing he really wants.”
Addams voice seemed to stir Philip out of his daze.
Looking through the door at the tall man who had bent down to get closer to his level, Philip frowned, reached out his hand and turned the knob that snapped open the latch on the door of his shop.
“Ok Jack come in, but I'm trying to get home, so if you know what your boy wants then pick it out and make it quick.” Philip said in such a gruff tone of voice that even he was surprised at how harsh it had sounded.
“I won't be long Mr. Miller,” Jack said with a smile on his face. “My boy's shown me so many pictures of what he wants that I know it by heart. Here it is,” he said as he put his hands on a red and chrome electric guitar.
Philip Miller quickly boxed the instrument, rang the register and hustled his last minute customer out the door.
“Thanks a million, Mr. Miller,” Jack said as he walked through the door. Standing once more in the snowy night air, he turned back to look at Philip framed in the doorway of his shop, then his smile brightened and he added, “and Merry Christmas to you.”
Philip looked away from the smiling man, abruptly closed the door in his face, turned the lock, and quickly pulled down the shade. After he finished counting the register money and put it in the safe, he turned off the last set of the lights and walked away from his dark and silent shop.
Because Philip's house was only a few streets from his store, he rarely drove. Tonight he was even happier that he lived so close to his shop as he quietly walked home through the deepening show that crunched under his feet. Half way across Market Street Philip Miller paused and looked up at the church directly in front of him. A warm glow of light streamed from its stained glass windows and he could hear the choir warming up for their annual Christmas Eve cantata. But he forced the joyous sound out of his head and rushed by. In years past Philip Miller would have closed his shop much earlier then he had this night in order to get to the church and its choir. In fact, he would have been standing in front of the choir, leading it as director.
Walking even faster through the snowy town, Philip climbed his way up the hill where he lived, passing rows of houses decorated with brightly colored holiday lights and Christmas trees cheerfully displayed in each and every window.
Only one house on the street was dark and cold. Not one light could be seen decorating the trees and bushes in its front yard. No Christmas tree stood in its window and its front door held no gaily decorated wreath. Quickly making his way past the other houses, Philip Miller pushed through his front gate, and trudged up the walk.
Reaching his porch, he unlocked the front door and prepared to enter his darkened house when suddenly he heard a swift WOOSH, followed by a loud THUD and finally a cry of “OUCH!”
Philip spun around and stared in the direction he had just come from. There through the veil of snow that was now falling even faster and heavier, he could see a young boy lying in the street. The child appeared to have been riding a snowboard down the steep snowy sidewalk and had fallen. Rushing down the walk and out into the street, Philip got to the boy just as he was beginning to stand up.
“Are you hurt?” Philip asked with concern in his voice.
“No, I'm fine; I think I hit a rock in front of your house. It was hidden by the snow.”
“Are you sure you're fine?” Philip frowned at the boy. “You look like you hit your head.”
And as he spoke Philip touched his gloved hand to the left side of the boy's head where a lump was quickly forming.
“Ouch!” the boy jumped back at Philip's touch. Then he wobbled and began to fall to the ground as he started to lose consciousness.
Philip caught the boy, picked him up in his arms and carried him into his darkened house.
After laying the boy on the couch in his living room, and quickly turning on a few lights he scurried into the kitchen and grabbed the phone hanging on the wall. Worried, Philip was just about to call 911 when he heard a stirring coming from the living room.
Putting the phone back on it's hook, Philip made his way back into the living room where he saw the boy now sitting up, rubbing the side of his head.
“What's wrong?” Philip asked with great concern.
“I guess I fell harder then I thought,” he said, “I really did see stars.”
“You're just lucky you didn't fracture your skull or break your neck young man.” Philip added as he continued to frown at the boy whose snow-covered boots were dripping water onto the Oriental rug on the floor of his living room.
“I'm ok… eh, Mr. Miller.”
“How do you know me?” Philip said with a suspicious tone in his voice.
“Well, don't you own Millers Music Store in town? I thought that's who you were?”
“Yes, I own the store,” Philip said in a short staccato answer. “But what are you doing out on a night like this? You should be home.”
“I wanted to try out the snowboard. I just got it. My friend gave it to me for Christmas. He's a great boarder and after watching him for so long I decided to try it for myself.”
Philip looked out his door at the scuffed blue snowboard lying on the porch. Something about it looked familiar, but he dismissed the thought-he was in no mood to entertain delinquent children on a night like this.
“Well, didn't anyone ever tell you that you just don't strap it on and take off like a fool?” Philip said as the furrows in his forehead got even deeper. “You need to practice balancing, and you don't take your first run down the steepest hill in town.”
“Sorry, I guess I didn't think about that,” the boy said as he looked sheepishly at Philip. “I know my friend can ride like the wind. He always made it look simple, but I can see that's not as easy as it looks.”
“I dare say its not.” Philip sighed.
“Are you sure you're alright?” Philip asked as he once more noticed the lump on the boy's head, “I still have a notion to call 911.”
“No Mr. Miller, really I'm fine, I just need a minute or two to rest.”
“Would you like some hot tea or cocoa to warm you up?”
“Oh hot cocoa would be so nice, thank you.”
“Very well, but then I want you to promise me you'll go right home. Little boys should not be out alone on nights like this.”
“Ok Mr. Miller, I'll leave after my hot chocolate, I promise.” the boy said.
Philip made his way to the kitchen. After putting the kettle on the stove, he took down two mugs from the cupboard. Then he walked over to the pantry and got a tea bag for himself and some hot cocoa mix for the boy. It had been a while since he'd made hot cocoa for a young boy he thought to himself… not since… but then Philip made a sour face and pushed the notion aside.
From the kitchen he shouted, “What's your name?”
“Hosanna,” the boy responded.
“What?” Philip shouted again. “It sounded like you said Hosanna?”
“That's because that's what I did say. My name's Hosanna.”
“Um….” Philip thought to himself, “that's a strange name.”
As if the boy were reading Philip's mind his voice echoed in from the living room.
“Well, that's what they named me.”
Philip didn't answer back. Instead, he tore open the pack of hot cocoa mix and emptied it into the mug. Then he placed the tea bag in the second mug, went to the stove and fetched the kettle just as it was beginning to whistle.
After the drinks had been prepared, Philip took them into the living room. He wrinkled his brow as he saw that the wet puddle from the boy's boots had grown even larger on the rug.
After handing the mug of hot cocoa to Hosanna, he sat in the easy chair opposite the couch and studied the boy as he drank his cocoa.
He looked to be about 12 years old. His ski cap had been rolled up and sat perched on his head showing a shock of blond hair streaming out of it. As he cupped the mug and drank the hot cocoa, he seemed to be enjoying every sip.
You know young man… Hosanna… you said?”
The boy nodded.
“Hosanna, you really should be home, after all it's Christmas Eve.”
“I know,” Hosanna said and looked deep into his now half empty mug. “I… well… I guess I ran away.”
“RAN AWAY?” Philip said with a gasp.
Not only was he dealing with a child who may have injured himself, but a runaway as well!
“Young man, I really think that I should call the police,” Philip said.
“NO, PLEASE Mr. Miller,” Hosanna pleaded. “I promise when I'm done I'll go. I'll go back. I only ran away because I was scared.”
Now a part of Philip that had long been dormant, or at least a part he had forced to be dormant, suddenly emerged and his fatherly instincts rose to the surface.
“Scared?” Philip startled. “Hosanna, did someone hurt you? Did someone do something bad to you?”
“No, Mr. Miller, its nothing like that. There's something I was supposed to do, but I got scared and thought if I left I wouldn't have to do it.”
The conversation was getting more puzzling by the minute. By now Philip's tea had gone tepid and he noticed Hosanna had finished his mug of hot cocoa. Standing, he went over to the boy, took his mug from him, and walked back into the kitchen.
Pouring his now cold tea down the kitchen drain and setting Hosanna's empty mug on the counter, he looked out the window.
In the alley behind his house he could see the snow falling furiously. The familiar shapes of his neighborhood were now slowly disappearing under a deep blanket of white silvery snow.
Suddenly finding himself concerned about someone had reawakened feelings that he thought he had locked away forever.
It had been ten months since Timothy had died. His little boy, his treasure, the only thing he had left from his dear wife who had been gone these past seven years. And it had only taken six months, six very short and sad months from the time the doctor in the clinic had told Philip that his son had an inoperable brain tumor growing with a wicked and terrible vengeance inside of him.
First Loretta, then Timothy; the God who had done this to him wasn't a God at all. In fact, no real God would have allowed this to happen; to take and then take again, leaving him with nothing but a dark and empty house and sad memories.
Suddenly he returned to his senses. Walking over to the phone he once again lifted it up and prepared to press the buttons that would summon the police, when without warning the sound of a piano drifted through the air.
Philip released the receiver of the phone from his hand and it quickly dropped to the ground and bounced on the floor. Propelled like a wild beast, he tore through the dining room, across the living room and into the music room where he saw Hosanna sitting in front of the keyboard softly playing.
“What do you think your doing?” he screamed at the boy. “What are you, some kind of little thief going through my house, making a mess and touching things you have NO BUSINESS touching?”
At the very beginning of Philip's tirade Hosanna's eyes opened like saucers. He moved to the opposite side of the piano bench and almost fell off of it. Terror spread across his face.
“I'm sorry, Mr. Miller, I'm sorry. I didn't… I just… I'm sorry… Hosanna kept repeating over and over.
Staring down at the cowering little boy, Philip suddenly stopped. He caught a glimpse of his face in the mirror on the opposite wall and didn't recognize the man glowering back at him.
“What kind of a monster…” He thought to himself, then he dropped to the opposite side of the piano bench slumped down, laid his head in his hands and began to sob.
For a few minutes, the only sounds in the room were the sobs and gasps for breath that came from Philip Miller as he sat in the music room of his house and cried.
In fact, it was the first time he had even entered this room since Timothy's funeral.
Philip had been in love with music since he was a small child. After he and Loretta met in college, he confided to her that his secret dream in life was to own a small music store and teach music lessons to the children in his old home town of Middleburg.
With her encouragement, they moved back to the town after they graduated and Philip opened his store. At first it was a struggle, but Loretta took a job as a music teacher in the local elementary school and they managed to live off her income. Every time he would get discouraged, she wouldn't let him quit. Eventually his business became successful. His knowledge of music and instruments won him respect from not only the local musicians in his area, but even the professional musicians from Jackson City who played in the symphony orchestra.
Soon the word spread that Philip Miller was a fair and honest businessman who went out of his way to serve his customers. Even his teaching was prized as the people sent their sons and daughters to him for music lesions. Philip's kind and gentle ways made him an excellent teacher.
After his son Timothy was born, his life was complete. As Timothy grew, he seemed to be a natural at music. Like his mother, the little boy could sing like an angel and his strong clear voice often could be heard throughout the church where Philip was the choir director.
But it seemed that Philip's happiness had been just a cruel joke played on him by an equally cruel God. Five years after Timothy was born, Loretta had been killed in a car accident. Devastated as he was by the death of his beloved wife, he took consolation from the fact that she would live on in their son, whose looks and gentle ways reminded Philip so much of her.
Then Timothy had been taken and the only other thing he had ever loved and cared for was gone.
Music had been such a central part of his entire life, but when Timothy died it seemed that that part of him had died along with his son.
The cruelty of it all was that he still owned the music shop. It pained him every day to have to listen to customers, beating on drums, playing keyboards, strumming guitars and blowing on horns. He had stopped taking students and cancelled the lessons of the ones he already had, until one by one they went to other teachers or just stopped taking lessons all together.
He had closed his beloved music room at home and never ventured inside it. His vast collection of records, tapes and CD's sat gathering dust along with the beautiful baby grand piano he had always meticulously kept tuned. He had even removed the cheery tinkling bell that rang every time a customer entered or left his shop. The sound of any type of music sickened him. And once spring came, he would begin to make plans to sell the store and move far away from the memories that he had created in Middleburg.
Now he sat sobbing on the piano bench in front of the baby grand piano in his cold and dark music room.
After his sobs had ceased, only the quiet of the room and the ticking of the clock in the hall remained.
Hosanna quietly slid off the bench and began to make his way out of the room.
Philip, hearing the boy shuffle across the floor, looked up at him.
“Stop,” he said in a dry and rasping voice. “Please.”
Hosanna stopped and turned around to face the man who earlier had screamed at him. His eyes were still wide with fear.
“I'm really sorry, Mr. Miller. Really I am. I'll go now.”
“Wait,” Philip drew himself up on the bench.
“No, I'm the one who's really sorry Hosanna. I shouldn't have done that… it's just… well… it's because…” and Philip once again slumped over.
“I know Mr. Miller, everyone knows you're sad,” the little boy said.
“Yes I am sad Hosanna, but sad or not, I shouldn't have frightened you, you didn't do anything wrong, it's just that when I heard you playing… I…”
“I'm really sorry Mr. Miller. I should have asked,” Hosanna said as he slowly approached Philip. “It's just that I promised you that I'd go back and if I do I have to do the thing I'm scared of, so I thought maybe I'd practice one more time.”
“Practice?” Philip said in a puzzled voice. “You mean you were supposed to play something?”
“Yes, tonight's the Christmas Eve Cantata, and well Jonathan asked me to play… I always loved music from the beginning… it started with my friend… the one who gave me the snowboard… he loves music and when he would practice... well, I kinda started to like it, then love it, and Jonathan said I could learn and he would teach me… and I was supposed to play with my friend… he was gonna sing and I was gonna play… and…
Hosanna said all of this in rapid fire without taking a breath and said it in such a matter of fact way that it seemed he expected Philip to understand exactly what he was talking about.
Philip took the boy by the shoulders and moved him closer to him.
“Slow down, little boy.” Philip said, once again feeling a tug deep inside himself as his fatherly love tried to fight the sadness that wrapped itself like a blanket around his heart.
“I was supposed to play at the Christmas Eve Cantata,' Hosanna blurted out again, “I was supposed to accompany my friend, he was gonna sing and I was gonna play, but then I got scared… I don't know if I'm good enough… so I kinda ran away and then got hurt and then came here and…”
Once again Hosanna's words poured forth like a flood.
Philip could see fear in the boy, no longer there because of him, but because of the task he was expected to perform- a task that he was having grave doubts about.
“No one ever solved anything by running away, Hosanna,” he said as he guided the boy back to the piano bench.
“Why don't you play it for me? I'll be honest with you.”
Hosanna looked apprehensively at Philip.
“Go on, I promise this time I won't yell.”
Hosanna slowly and carefully took his seat on the piano bench next to Philip. Once more he warily looked up at the man sitting next to him.
Philip smiled and gently nodded his head.
Hosanna raised his arms, brought his hands to the keyboard and rested his fingers on the keys.
Slowly and deliberately he began to play, at first his nervousness shone through as he self-consciously performed for Philip, but after a few bars he seemed lost in thought and concentration as his fingertips brushed over the keys and he moved his way along through the prelude.
Philip immediately recognized the song as an old German carol that he hadn't heard since he was a child. He was surprised that the little boy even knew it, let alone played it as skillfully as he did. The music flowed and resonated throughout the room, and for the first time in ten months Philip Miller was listening to music that didn't make him cringe, or get sick to his stomach, or break out in a cold sweat. The gentle melody seemed to flow directly into his body, giving it and his spirit comfort.
Suddenly there was a pause, a few dissonant notes and then silence.
Philip, who had been lost in thought, suddenly looked down at Hosanna whose hands were now at his side as he stared at the piano's keys.
“I always mess that part up,” he said quietly as he made a fist and slammed it against his thigh, “and that's the MOST IMPORTANT part! It's right where the soloist comes in and begins his aria. That's why I ran away. I CAN'T do it.”
“Of course your can,” Philip said in a voice that all his long-time students recognized as one of hope and encouragement. “Anyone who plays as beautifully as you can do it. Try it again-here, just before the solo part begins.”
Once more Hosanna began to play, but this time as he had done so often before with the hundreds of other children he had taught, Philip carefully observed the little boy.
Suddenly the dissonance of misplayed notes began again, and Hosanna immediately stopped.
“See, I told you! I just can't get it.”
“Of course you can,” Philip said, “You're thinking about it too much. You're making it harder then you need to. Here, watch.”
And suddenly Philip Miller, the Philip Miller who swore that he would never play again, was going over the ancient melody and explaining to the young boy the best way to get through the transition.
“Now you try.” Philip said.
Again Hosanna began to play, but this time when he got to the part that was causing him trouble, Philip put his hands on the keys at a lower octave and played along with him talking to him at the same time as they slowly played note by note.
Over the next hour, Philip had Hosanna play the piece again and again, each time giving him more confidence and courage.
“I think you have it,” Philip said in his best music teacher's voice. “No Hosanna, I'm wrong. I KNOW your have it.”
“Do you really think so, Mr. Miller?”
“Yes Hosanna, I really think so.” He said again giving the boy his warmest fatherly smile.
Suddenly Hosanna jumped from the piano bench. “I have to hurry, the cantata's starting any minute and I don't want to be late.”
As he ran from the music room, Philip followed him, but the boy was like a bolt of lightning as he grabbed his snowboard and zipped out front door into the snow… he exited so fast that he didn't even close the door behind him.
Philip called after him as he scurried out the door.
“Hosanna, take your time and don't get hurt again. Hosanna?”
But the boy was gone as Philip looked out onto the wintry scene before his eyes and saw only Hosanna's footprints leading off into the darkness, then disappearing.
Suddenly, the heavy lead weight that he usually carried around in his chest in place of his heart made itself felt again. Quietly Philip closed his front door and walked slowly across his living room to where he had laid the injured boy when he first carried him into the house.
Staring at the couch, he backed up against his easy chair and dropped into it like a stone. For a few minutes, he just sat and stared into space, but little by little depression overtook him as his eyelids became heavier and he nodded off to sleep.
After what seemed like a few hours of deep dreamless sleep he awoke with a start. The room had suddenly gotten brighter. As he rose to his feet he realized that he wasn't in his living room anymore.
Stretching out before him were great vistas of sky and clouds. As his eyes adjusted to the light he realized that he was somehow above the clouds, walking in the sky.
A flourish of movement caught his eye; as he turned to see what it was he gasped in shock and surprise. To his left was a great orchestra filled with instruments of all types, but what was even stranger was that the instruments were being played by angels.
Beyond the orchestra of angels stood a great and mighty choir. It too was made up mostly of angels, but here and there he noticed some men and women standing among the angels.
As he looked closer he could see that one of the men was Michelangelo Rosso, one of the great Italian tenors of the mid 20th century. Philip recognized his face from an old opera album he had in his music room. A few rows down from the famous tenor was Aaretta Jennson, one of the greatest Jazz singers of her day. As he continued to survey the choir he kept recognizing well known and famous singers standing among the angels.
The sound was magnificent, as voices mixed with music filled the sky and his heart felt like it had when Hosanna first played for him.
The song eventually came to an end and silence filled the dome of heaven. It was then that Philip noticed an intense light coming from his right… it was far too bright to look at but around the edges he could see great, handsome angels kneeling in adoration. He squinted and tried to look closer, but the light was far too blinding for his mortal eyes.
“Yes Philip,” a gentle voice said behind him, “it's the throne of God.”
Philip turned to see a beautiful angel standing behind him. Startled, Philip stepped back and almost fell. The angel grasped him and steadied him.
“Welcome to the Christmas Cantata,” the angel said with a broad smile.
“But what… How…?” Philip stuttered.
“You've been invited through special invitation by two of our members.”
Philip eyes scanned the scene before him when suddenly from behind the choir a little angel appeared and began walking down the golden stairway on which the choir was massed. As he got closer, Philip recognized him as the boy who had hurt himself snowboarding down his street.
“We all want to thank you for helping him,” the smiling angel said.
“Helping him?” Philip looked at the angel
“I apologize, I didn't introduce myself. I'm Jonathan, Director of the Heavenly Hosts. When angels are created they're given various tasks based on their skills and talents; most assume the position of guardian angels, a very serious and important post, but not considered one of the glory assignments here in heaven. Greater respect and honor are given to the choir and its musicians, along with the Cherubim and Seraphim that worship at the throne. One of the greatest posts is Heavenly Organist. I held that post for fifteen centuries before I was named choir director, and for fifteen centuries before that I was junior organist.
“A few years ago, Hosanna approached the Heavenly Hosts and asked if he could tryout for junior organist, but unfortunately he was a guardian angel and guardian angels just don't have a talent for music. The most music they perform are the soft and gentle lullabies they sing to the humans they watch over when they are infants.
“But something happened that no one ever expected. Hosanna's first assignment as a guardian angel was to a new born baby named Timothy Miller of Middleburg.”
At the mention of Timothy's name Philips face and heart fell.
But the still smiling Jonathan continued. “Over the years that he guarded Timothy, he was surrounded by music - music that you preformed, and taught, and created. Once again, he came to me asking if he could try out, but I told him that he would have to learn much before he would even be considered for the position.
“So over the years as you taught Timothy, Hosanna was by his side, learning and absorbing. When Timothy slept Hosanna would practice, then in the morning resume his post as guardian angel for your son.
“As Timothy learned, so did Hosanna and over time a true miracle occurred, and an everyday guardian angel became a musician, and not just any musician but a great one.”
“But I don't…” Philip was now stammering.
“You don't understand, do you Phillip? Well I think you're about to: Philip Miller, you were the teacher of one of God's heavenly organists.”
Philip stood as still as a statue, partly from the grandeur of what he was seeing, partly from the words that the angel had just spoken.
Slowly Hosanna made his way to the great organ. It was magnificent, with pipes and bellows, trumpets and bells. Philip had never seen such a noble instrument.
The older angel who had been sitting on the bench playing for the choir slid off, and the little blond angel with a bump on the side of his head climbed up onto the bench. He was so small that his feet didn't even touch the pedals.
Just as he had done in Philips house, Hosanna raised his arms, brought his hands to the keyboard and rested his fingers on the keys. He paused for a few seconds, then turned his head and looked at Philip with a bit of fear in his eyes.
Philip smiled and nodded his head in encouragement.
Suddenly Hosanna's fingers pushed on the keys and the beautiful carol rolled from the organ like thunder though the great vaults of heaven. The notes seemed to dance among the clouds and echo through the sky.
With skill and determination Hosanna fingers raced across the golden and silver keys of the great organ. Then Philip held his breath as the little angel abruptly slowed down. This was the part where the soloist would soon come in. He grinned as the noticed the little angel move his tongue to the side of his mouth and bite on it. But just as he had done for Philip in his music room, Hosanna crossed over the bridge and started on the solo part.
Then a beautiful, crystal clear sound, almost like a ringing of the sweetest silver bell ever rung began to fill the air. Philip turned his head in the direction of the singer who had begun to sing in the sweetest and clearest soprano voice he had ever heard.
Philip blinked, then blinked again, for there in front of the Heavenly Hosts stood Timothy, his Timothy, Timothy Andrew Miller, and the clear voice he was listening to was the voice of his young and handsome son. As he looked closely he could see that around Timothy's neck was a single note on a golden chain. Philip recognized it as the very one he had given Timothy on his eleventh birthday, the year before he became sick. And he remembered how he had kissed him and gently put it around his son's all too thin and frail neck before the casket he was resting in closed for the last time.
Philip stared, marveling. Gone was the thin and tiny child who had lost his hair and needed to be carried about in his father's arms. Here stood his son, strong and whole once again, singing in a voice more beautiful then the entire choir of the heavenly hosts.
For at least 10 minutes, Timothy sang, his voice floating on the notes coming from Hosanna's skilful fingers and rolling like thunder through the great vaults of heaven.
Then the song came to an end and Hosanna turned and smiled once again at Philip. Leaning against the organ, Philip saw, was the blue scuffed snowboard that Hosanna had ridden down his street, and he recognized it as the same board that Timothy had often ridden before he became ill. It was then that he realized that Timothy was the friend of whom Hosanna had spoken.
Philip's vision was becoming blurred with tears and he began to feel a bit disoriented when he felt a tugging at his arm. Looking down, he saw Timothy standing beside him.
“Here Dad,” Timothy said with a broad sunny smile, “take this and keep it until we're singing together again.”
Then the boy grabbed Philip's hand and thrust something into it… as he did the light coming from the Heavenly Throne flared, overpowering the scene and Philip was once again blinded
Waking with a start, he almost fell over as he bolted up from the easy chair he had fallen asleep in. `What a strange dream!' he thought to himself, when suddenly he noticed something in his hand. He opened his fist and a flash of gold tumbled from his fingers onto the floor. Bending down, he picked up a single golden note attached to a golden chain and stared at it.
Then as if suddenly released from a spell, he ran into the kitchen and looked at the clock. 10:30: there was still time.
Throwing on his coat, Philip burst out the front door of his house not bothering to close the door, just as Hosanna had hours earlier.
Running through the deep drifts of snow he would fall and roll only to get up and run some more until he fell again. Finally he reached Market Street and St. Paul's church, where he burst through the doors and ran to the choir room.
The choir, who had been diligently practicing, abruptly stopped and turned in the direction of the commotion behind them.
“Philip?” Wendy Jones said with a bit of surprise in her voice, “it's good to see you.”
Wendy had been the assistant director under Philip and had stepped into his post after he resigned.
“I came to hear you tonight… to wish you all luck… to wish you all a Merry Christmas, and to say I'm sorry for abandoning you,” Philip said as his voice began to choke.
“Hear us?” Wendy said with a smile. “Why don't your direct us?”
“Ah no… really… I…”
“Nonsense, of course you can, it's all your material anyway Philip, and we haven't changed a thing. I know that you remember everything by heart.”
Just then old Mr. Kelly stepped forward. He was bent over from age and his choir robe gave him a slightly amusing appearance, but he was a kind old man who had been faithful to the choir since he and his wife Nancy joined the church almost fifty years ago.
“Philip,” he said with a pause. “We'd be honored.”
That night, as Philip led the St. Paul's Church Christmas Cantata, the voices of his choir floated through the air in joyful song as their spirits soared under the baton of their old director.
But Philip didn't hear them… instead he heard a single solitary soprano voice clear as a silver bell and bright as the sun as it floated on the notes of a great and mighty organ, played by a little blond angel with a bump on the side of his head, while the music he played danced among clouds, filling the sky with joyous song and rolling like thunder through the great vaults of heaven.