One Still Night, story by Julie Lindsell at

One Still Night

written by: Julie Lindsell


Part One

Esther peered out of the window of the train. Snowflakes stuck to it and melted with the heat of the train instantly. She was snug and cosy but couldn’t wait to get home. In the distance, the lights of her hometown blinked at her. She looked more closely, trying to spot the church tower.
“Ah! There it is” she said to herself, feeling her heart lift.
From outside that church, she would soon be leaving with her choir on a tour of the cathedrals of the South West of England. She was so excited, she loved music and architecture and they planned to do some carol singing in each city, raising money for charity as they went.
As the train doors opened, she gave a little shiver at the icy blast of air. Wrapping up warmly and taking her torch out for extra light, she trudged down the road toward the town.
As she came to the high street, the warmth and light from each of the shop windows radiated Christmas cheer at her. It had been a long day at work and she was glad to see the decorations, each lovingly prepared. Her phone pinged, and she paused in a doorway, stamping her feet to stay warm as she took off one glove to read it.

Love you. Miss you. Take good care and don’t forget to let us know when you are in Truro. Mum and Dad.

A tear slid down her cheek, threatening to freeze before it hit the floor. She missed them so much, but she was on a new adventure here in Hampshire and loving it. She quickly dashed off a reply, saying how much she was looking forward to seeing them, and set out once again into the snow.

“Hi Esther!” a voice called.
She turned to see her fellow choir member, Annie, hurrying to catch her up, her bobble hat bouncing along with her.
Annie gave her a hug as they met and they walked along, chatting about the forthcoming tour.
“I can’t wait to see all the different cities and cathedrals, I’m going to take lots of pictures, how about you?”
“Same, I don’t want to miss any of it. I’m hoping to get a guidebook for each cathedral too. I’m more excited that we get to be part of the concert at Truro Cathedral.”
“Oh, of course, your parents will be coming won’t they?”
“Yes, I’ve not seen them for months, work has been so busy. We’ve chatted online of course”.
“Hurrah for modern technology,” Annie said.
“Too true. How come you’re out so late?” Esther asked.
“Had a mountain of paperwork to finalize. Sales of country cottages have gone way up and lots of people want to move in before Christmas, so they can unpack and get their gardens all ready before spring. I think it’s nice. I wish I could live in the country again”.

Like Esther, Annie lived in a flat not far from the town centre, with her husband, David. They’d all moved into the same town, same block of flats on the same day two years ago. Annie and David as newlyweds and Esther starting a new job teaching music at a private school in a nearby village.

“I’ve had my eye on this place on the edge of town, lovely little house, with a garden. It’s not had many viewings and we’ve been saving so I’m hoping we can view it this week and maybe make an offer. It would be a bit of a stretch after the expenses of the choir trip, but I couldn’t miss out”.
“It’s gonna be great, and I’m sure David understands”.
“He does, best husband ever.”

They parted ways on the staircase of their flats and Esther was pleased to see a letter from her cousin Nat on the mat as she went in. Nat had texted to say she would be writing with some news that Esther would want to take on tour with her. Esther was intrigued and hopeful. Nat had been helping her look for her brother, who was adopted as a baby. Esther had gotten so busy at work that she had to stop for a while and Nat had taken up the challenge full-time. Esther got cosy on the sofa to read it. A look of surprise and happiness spread across her face.


Ben paced up and down the hall, sheet music in hand. He was determined to get his part right. He’d only joined the choir six months ago and was honoured to be allowed to join the carol singing concert tour. He’d heard about it online. Choirs from all different parts of the country were working their way around the cathedral cities, in their localities.
Ben lived in Worcester and his choir was going around the Midlands and Wales, ending in Cardiff. He was going to stay over in Cardiff for a few days, before going to see the South West choir team in Truro. It would be worth the journey.

A year ago he’d received a message online from someone called Nat. She said she knew his sister, Esther, and asked if he would like to meet her. She said she was also a relation of his, although distant. Ben had been confused and surprised at the sudden contact. He was adopted and knew only that he had a sister but he had no idea why she didn’t seem to know him. He had met his parents when he was eighteen and they had mentioned his sister briefly but mentioned nothing about the meeting. He was resigned to being part of the family he grew up with and he loved them dearly, but a part of him ached to be part of his real family too.

So he had quickly messaged Nat back for more details. She said Esther had learnt from her auntie while looking at old photo’s that she had an older brother, but he was given up for adoption as a baby. It wasn’t that they didn’t love him, but they were very young and concerned that they wouldn’t be able to provide for him. Their own parents didn’t have much and while they knew he would have had the most loving family he could ever wish for, love alone didn’t provide food and clothing.

So Esther had confided in Nat, not wishing to cause her parents the pain of remembering the separation and between them, they had begun a subtle search for him. All they knew was his name and that he had grown up in the Midlands. It was a long process but finally Nat had found the closest match and sent him a message.

Nat wrote that Esther lived in Hampshire, loved music and would be leaving on a choir tour of the cathedrals of the South West in mid-December. It ended in Truro on Christmas Eve and she suggested it would be a wonderful Christmas present for him to try to meet her there.

Ben had eagerly but with slight trepidation, messaged to ask for precise dates and agreed to stay in touch with Nat. He wanted to have something in common with Esther when they met, so he had joined the local choir as he enjoyed singing and loved music, but had never done it as part of a group. He was loving being part of a team and the choir was fantastic, so he knew they should have lots to talk about when they met.


Esther settled into her seat on the couch and wiped away some of the condensation on the window, drawing a star. They’d start at Winchester, technically not South West but it was too good to miss out, then head onto Salisbury, and work their way along and down before ending in Truro.

She clutched Nat’s letter to her. Ben. That was her big brother’s name. Nat had found him after hours of online searching and contacting parish secretaries with birth details hoping for a christening record. He had messaged her back and said he would do his best to meet Esther in Truro.
“He is five foot ten, blue eyes, brown hair” Esther read to herself “he loves music, but isn’t the best singer. He has joined his local choir to get better and wants to meet you”.

Esther stroked the paper with affection. She liked Ben already. She knew perhaps she shouldn’t be going behind her parents’ backs, but maybe it was time they were reunited?

Snow began to fall softly outside and she felt hope flutter in her heart.


“Ah, ah ah ah ah ah ahhh!” Ben took a deep breath and began again. His choir was warming up for their concert outside Worcester cathedral. There was a massive Christmas tree and lights draped around the surrounding trees. They stood opposite the river Severn, protected by the trees and buildings, a square of sacred space. Everyone was wrapped up snugly and a crowd began to gather below them.

Nearby he could faintly hear the sounds of the city rushing by, but in this place, it was still. He smiled at his fellow choir members as they took their places and began to sing. Their voices began gently, singing “Silent Night”, rising at the end of each verse to emphasise the good news and falling away to remind the captive audience, of the peace of that special still night. Ben felt for the letter he had written to give to Esther in his pocket. He wanted her to know all about him and was keen to learn all about her. He marvelled at how so many people come together and hear Christmas songs and wondered if they were part of families or alone. He hoped everyone in that crowd had someone. If not now, but that they would find someone soon. He smiled as they launched into “Once in Royal David’s City”, his favourite and wondered what Esther favourite carol was. Soon, he would find out.


Lining up to get hot chocolates at a Christmas fair in Winchester, Esther text Nat. She wished dearly to be able to talk to someone about how she was feeling but despite her hopes, she was a little afraid their meeting might not go well. She thought of talking to Annie. She knew her well, but it didn’t feel quite right talking about family stuff to her. Her phone began to ring and the display said it was her Mum.

“Hey Mum, how are you?”

“I’m really good Esther, how is the tour going? I didn’t call just before a concert did I?”

“No Mum, all good, we have a few hours. We’re going round a Christmas fair right now, they have so many trinkets and decorations I’m having to be very selective, there isn’t much room in my suitcase. I’ve got you and Dad something though.”

“Thanks love, that’s sweet. Don’t spend too much on us though, you know we just love having your company, we don’t need presents really.”

“I know. So what have you been up to?”

“That’s the thing Esther, me and your Dad have been doing some, well, some family history work and, I know its not much use over the phone, but I needed to ask you if you could stay a little longer when you come down. There are some things we need to tell you.”

Esther’s tummy did a backflip, would they tell her about Ben? Or was it bad news? Surely not, as her Mum had mentioned family history. Should she tell her what she knew? She decided to play it cool. “ Sure Mum, I don’t have to be back at work until January the fifth, so we have loads of time.”

“Thanks Esther, well I better let you get on, enjoy yourself and take care. Talk again soon, I love you”.

“Love you Mum, take care.”

Esther flicked the phone shut and frowned. She felt guilty. Paying for her drink she moved to one side and sat on a bench. No sooner had she had a few sips, the phone pinged with a reply from Nat.

No worries. I have work tonight but call me tomorrow morning, have a good show!”

Pushing aside the nagging feeling that she should have mentioned Ben, Esther smiled as Annie came to join her, laden down with bags.

“I know, I know, I’m going over the top. But David is coming to see us in Salisbury and said he’d take home any shopping I’d got. He wants to see the cathedral himself. I’m determined to have a proper Christmas, I think we’ve saved enough to warrant that”.

“To Christmas” Esther raised her paper cup and they raised a toast to awesome Christmas celebrations and stupendous shopping sprees. Annie began to take out her purchases and soon Esther was laughing over the cute decorations and exclaiming over the handmade ornaments. Her concerns temporarily forgotten, she looked forward to the evening ahead.


“I think we have to tell her the whole story Frank” Esther’s mother Charlotte said, as they sat down to dinner “she may want to meet him and if I’m honest, I’ve not felt the same since we met for that short time”.

“I thought we decided to let him go his own way? He was doing so well and I was so proud of him. It was clear how much he loved his adoptive parents. It, it hurt me Charlotte. They seemed so happy and I began to realise I wished we had tried to keep him. Got him into foster care while we got jobs and saved to become parents that could provide. Why were we so rash? Why so quick to decide?”

“Your mother was dying Frank, it was only natural you needed to be with her. And you know my parents had enough trouble providing for our family, what with job cuts and paying for the car and the boiler. It was one thing after another.”

“I know that sweetheart and I know we couldn’t have managed at the time. But even five years down the line, we might have made it. We might have”.

Charlotte took her husband’s hand “we did the best we could at the time. We were thinking of our son. But we should have built our relationship up more after his eighteen birthday. We should never have pulled away when we saw how happy he was. A person can have two families”.

“Do you think Esther suspects?”

“It’s not a crime Frank!” Charlotte put her hand to her chest, suddenly feeling fragile.

“I know, I didn’t mean..”

“I know you didn’t, I’m sorry. We will tell Esther, when we see her. Then we can take it from there.”

Frank squeezed his wife’s hand; “ We’ll be okay, we’ll be okay. Shall we have some music?”

“Good idea”. So Frank got up to put a Christmas CD on. The first song was “Away in a manger”. Tears fell freely as they slowly ate and thought of their son. So far away, yet so near in their hearts.


Ben stared deeply into his hot chocolate. As the milky contents swirled around, his stomach began to do likewise. They were in St Davids, close to the end of their tour. In just over a week, he would have had the chance to meet his younger sister. He’d been in touch with Nat, texting back and forth to try to decide if he should contact Esther ahead of time or just turn up. He knew Esther knew he was coming and some basics about him but how would she react to meeting him? He couldn’t decide what was best.

“Hey Ben, you okay?” Dan, his fellow choir member joined him at the table.
“Yeah, sorry I was miles away. You looking forward to later?”
“Definitely, I think tonight will be really magical. Did you know they are letting us start by walking through the grounds, the congregation following with candles as we sing “ Once in Royal David’s City”, then we lead the congregation right in, and we end up either side of the altar in front of carved stone screen”.

“Oh yeah, I did a tour of the cathedral earlier, it’s got a wonderful feeling to it. I couldn’t stop looking around. I think the guide thought I was a bit awestruck. I guess I was”.

“We are lucky guys.” Dan nodded to Ben’s phone “ you sure you’re okay mate? You’ve been hogging that phone ever since you got your drink and I’ll bet it’s cold by now. You look like you’re waiting for news”.

“Kind of. Dan, do you have brothers and sisters?”

“One sister. She’s ten years younger than me and a little monkey but I adore her. I’d do anything for her. How about you?”

“I didn’t..well I do but I’ve never met her.”

Dan looked on, intrigued. “Go on?”

“Well, I got a message months ago telling my sister, a younger one, like yours had just found out about me and wanted to meet me. My parents gave me up for adoption because they were very young and had difficult circumstances. I had a great childhood and wonderful adoptive parents, but I never knew my sister”.

Dan smiled encouragingly.

“So this other lady, Nat, is her cousin and mine I guess, and she said they’d found out about me and would we like to meet in Truro? I was nervous but I didn’t want to miss the chance. She is in the South West choir, so after our tour finishes, I’m heading down to meet her. I just don’t know if I should contact her before or wait until we meet. I was planning to watch her last concert, then ask someone to point her out. I’ve got a photo, but it’s a bit blurry, look I’ll show you” he said, scrolling through his phone to find it. He handed it over. Dan peered in.

“Blurry, but she looks really nice and friendly. I’m sure however you play it, she will welcome you with open arms, After all, she wanted to find you.”


Part Two

Esther stared into the font at Salisbury Cathedral, her reflection looking thoughtfully back at her. She still couldn’t decide if she should tell her parents she already knew about Ben, It felt like a betrayal, especially as it was going to be very hard for them to tell her the truth. Suddenly, a guide came up to her “ would you like a leaflet for our Christmas schedule?”
She blinked, coming back to the present “ oh no thank you, I’m part of the choir, I have one already”.
“Oh how lovely, are you in the program tonight? My wife and I come every year to the carol concerts, they bring such a lovely spirit don’t you think?”
“They do, I love Christmas. Do you have a favourite carol or hymn?”
“We both love ‘Away in a manger’, it was the first, and last carol we sang to our baby girl, She died when she was five. We still sing it every year, but to her photo. We know she is up there, watching us and listening”.

Esther felt completely overwhelmed. She knew ‘Away in a manger’ was her parents’ favourite carol too. She wondered if they had sung it to Ben before they left him in the care of his adoptive parents. How much hurt they must have felt, knowing they had to at that time, but knowing he would be apart from them for so long. It wasn’t the same, but suddenly the importance of family shone bright and clear to her. She turned to the guide.

“What was your little girl’s name?”
“How about we sing ‘Away in a manger’ first for you tonight and dedicate it to Annie?”
The guide took his glasses off and reached for his handkerchief. Esther put her hand on his shoulder as he silently wept. He replaced his glasses and looked deep into her eyes.
“Young lady, you are the epitome of what Annie stood for. She was the kindest little soul, right to the end. She wanted only to shine the light her Saviour and big brother had given her”.

It was Esther’s turn to cry. “I’ve just found my big brother. We are meeting soon, on Christmas Eve”.
“How wonderful. Enjoy the moment, family is so precious, take pictures on those smart thingies, share it online, print copies and write stories. You will never want to forget the Christmas you first met your brother”.

As Esther watched the man walk off to greet some other visitors, she found herself reaching for her phone. Pulling up her mum’s number, she began a text.

Hi Mum, hope you are well. We are enjoying Salisbury Cathedral here. We have a few hours before we need to get ready, can I call you?

Hi Esther, good to hear from you. Dad is just getting in from work. Do you need both of us?

Yes please. It’s important.

Okay sweetheart, call the landline in half an hour. Love you. Mum.


The conversation went much better than expected. Frank and Charlotte were surprised that Esther hadn’t asked or found out Ben before, but were glad to know that Charlotte’s sister, Caroline had told her in the end. She was touched Esther had kept it a secret to protect her from having to drag up painful memories. They shared briefly what they knew and agreed, it would be best to make a proper arrangement for meeting Ben.

“He knows, of course, that we live in Truro. We told him when we met him after his eighteenth birthday. It never occurred to us that we could meet at the concert. But we have been thinking of him, wondering if we should get in touch again”.

“I’m glad,” Esther said, “I think maybe this year was the right time, Nat finding him online, you wanting to meet again, maybe it’s meant to be”.

“Thank you for not judging us sweetheart, we will tell you the whole story one day, but for now just know that we love you both equally and we are so excited to be able to have the family back together for Christmas”.

“How should we do it? Do you want to contact him and say that it’s all out in the open? Arrange to meet then he can stay with us for Christmas? I don’t know what his plans are past meeting me”.

“Yes, we will call him, explain it all. Oh Esther, I can’t tell you how happy and relieved I am. Have you seen a picture?”

“I have, and he so looks like Dad in his younger days”

“Hey! I’m still young” Frank joked, leaning into the speakerphone.

“I know Dad” Esther smiled, “hey we should get him a Christmas present, oh I’ve got a marvellous idea!”

“Go on” Charlotte put in.

“Well, we all sing right? Maybe I can ask our choir leader if yourselves and Ben can join us for the concert, to be part of it? There will be an official photographer there and what better thing to share than music on Christmas eve”

“That’s a brilliant idea Esther” Frank agreed, “I’ll dust off the old vocal cords, if you post us a copy of the songs so we can get in practise, it’ll be wonderful”.

“It’s a plan!” Esther literally bounced in her seat. Looking up at the spire of the cathedral, she suddenly felt like nothing was impossible “I’ll call you as soon as I’ve got the go ahead, I’m sure she won’t say no. This will be the best Christmas ever!”

“I do believe it will,” Frank said, “bye for now, love, take care.”
“Bye Esther, see you soon!” called Charlotte.

Esther hung up and gave a little shiver of delight. She spotted the guide greeting his wife outside the cathedral and gave them a wave. He waved back, putting his arm in hers as they made their way towards the town. He was humming White Christmas. At that moment, it began to snow. Esther stuck her tongue out and caught a few, giggling with joy. Her heart was full and warm. Annie came running over to let her know they were about to warm up before dinner, and she jumped up, full of energy, running to join her, with a spring in her step, and a light in her heart.

Ben felt much better after his talk with Dan. Now they were in Cardiff and as he wandered around the bay, the free movement of the water seemed to reflect his new mood. The sun was low and bright in the winter sky and it was icy cold but Ben didn’t notice. He had made up his mind and was just about to dial Nat’s number to begin contacting Esther, when his phone rang.

It was his Mum, Charlotte. He quickly picked up “Hi Mum, how are you? This is a fab surprise.”

“Hi Ben, it’s so good to hear your voice. I’m sorry it’s been so long.”

“Don’t worry, it’s just so good to hear from you, did you get those last few pics I sent? The ones of me in my new offices? I spent a fortune on that suit but it was so worth it, the management were impressed with my work and how I looked. I think I’m in for a promotion in the new year”.

“Oh well done love, we will have our fingers crossed”.

“Thanks Mum, so how are you and Dad? What’s new?”

He heard her take a breath “Ben, we know that you know about Esther. I know we told you briefly about her in our letters but I apologise for not saying more. We want to all meet up when you come to Truro, have our first family Christmas”.

“It’s okay Mum, I’m just glad we can meet. I’m looking forward to it and it will be great to see you again.”

“You can stay for as long as you are able, until you need to get back to work, come home to us Ben, come home to family”.

Ben swallowed, the harsh wind blowing away the tears that began to fall freely. Christmas with his real family. He loved his adoptive parents but he never felt whole with them. Now he had a chance to start anew; with Esther and their parents. The sun was setting over the bay but it felt like it was just rising for him.

“Thanks Mum. I can’t wait! I love you”.

“I love you too Ben, take care. We will text before then.”

“Speak soon Mum, send my love to Dad yeah?”

“I will. Bye for now”.

Ben put his phone away and turned back towards the city. As he walked through the streets, the Christmas lights were starting to come on. Children ran excitedly along towards Santa’s grotto, tugging their parent’s hands in eagerness. A young couple stopped at a kiosk to get hot chocolate, they were laughing and hugging. She flashed her hand at the kiosk owner and he smiled, congratulating her. Her ring glinted, bouncing off the fairy lights hung around the stall. Ben smiled, his heart swelling.

He had had a good life, but he had always felt a certain emptiness. He had a good job, had enjoyed university and had good friends. He had even been on a road trip across America in his gap year. He had always loved an adventure but had never felt the need to settle. Now he felt he could do just that. Do the small but important things. Knowing his family now, he could look ahead to a complete future filled with love and life.

The coach pulled into their final stop in Truro and Esther yawned as she realised just how tired she was. They had been on the road for a little over a week and had taken in Wells, Winchester, Salisbury, Exeter and now finally, Truro. Feeling stiff, she grabbed her bag and clambered down the stairs to get her suitcase from the hold.

She was lucky the school where she worked had been able to get a supply teacher for the last week of term or she would never have been able to come. She wondered where Ben worked and how he had managed to get time off work in December. Annie was lucky that they had a Christmas temp who used to work in the estate agents and fell right back into the job so easily that Annie could happily take time off, leaving her work safe in their hands. Esther knew some choir members who worked in retail who had only been able to visit Winchester or Salisbury and she felt so blessed to have been able to make the whole journey. There would have been no question of her missing Christmas with her family, but to have had the musical and spiritual journey building up to it, along with the excitement of waiting to meet Ben, it was something special.

Thirty minutes later, she was knocking on her parents’ door. They had really gone all out this year, with two Christmas trees in the garden, lights on the palm tree and each gnome had a Santa hat. She gave a satisfied sigh, it was good to be home.

“Esther! Come in, come in, you must be freezing!”
“It’s not too bad, the walk warmed me up. The coach had to leave us in town but it was just magical to come back through, seeing what’s changed, what’s new. Whose idea was it to have a projection of a dinosaur with reindeer ears and bells, on the front of the museum?”
“Ah that was Tim’s, your father’s friend on the council. He likes to think outside the box”.
“Well, I think it’s great, good for him. What’s for dinner?”
“That’s my girl, ready for her dinner. We decided to have a roast early as a celebration of you coming home”.
“Mum, I come home every Christmas.”
“Yes, I know, but family means even more to us this year, so we are having roast”.

Esther grinned, she loved roast. “Can’t argue with that”.
“Drop your things in your room, get settled and we’ll eat at six”.
“Great, thanks Mum”.

As Esther looked around the dining table an hour later, there was more that warmed her than just her Mum’s brilliant roast. Laid out at the end of the table were pictures and letters from Ben, ready and waiting for her to learn all about him. She was itching to meet him now, but to have an insight into his life ahead of time, would, she hoped, take away any nerves. Nat had forwarded his number and they’d exchanged a few texts, but Esther still felt butterflies in her stomach.
He was twenty-five, she was twenty-two. They had each gone a lifetime not knowing each other. But they were family and she was sure it would all work out. She had to believe.

The next morning, Ben stepped onto the train that would take him to Truro. He had loved his visit to Cardiff, and their final concert had been amazing. His phone buzzed with a text, and he loaded his bag into the luggage rack and grabbed the nearest seat before settling down to read it.

Ben! It’s Esther, how are you? Sorry if I’m a little over-excited, but I am just that, excited to meet you. Mum and Dad showed me your letters, you sound really cool! I want to hear all about your trip to America. Anyway, I’m texting because Mum forgot to ask if there are any vegetables you don’t eat? Mum’s roasts are legendary and she wants to make Christmas Eve dinner perfect for you.

Ben laughed out loud. He had a very cool family, he thought. He read on.

This is very long, sorry, should have phoned. Anyway, let me know and we’ll see you later, 5 pm, outside the main entrance to the cathedral, under the star! Esther.

Ben quickly text back and closed his phone. His little sister already thought he was cool. He had often wondered what it was like to be a cool big brother and now he knew. It was still early and the journey was long, so he pulled out his mp3 player and selected a Christmas album. The first song was ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’. I think I will, he thought.

“Bit higher, bit more, stop!” Frank said as he watched Esther place the star on the tree. They had saved some decorating for her and Ben and her job was the star. They had a 3d cardboard painted star which now balanced over the top branch, shining gold in every direction.
“Frank, do you want to go over the songs now? The roast is all prepared and we should get some practise in before we leave”.
“Okay, you ready Esther?”
“Always,” she grinned.

Ben looked out of the train window in anticipation. They were one stop away from Truro. He felt his heart rate increase as he thought of what was to come. A family reunion. He watched as a young man greeted his mother with a hug as he stepped off the train at their current stop. A little girl was jumping up and down, trying to show him a picture she’d drawn for him.
Ben reached into his wallet and found the picture of his parents he carried around with him. He held it next to Esther’s picture on his phone. He smiled with fondness at them all.

He remembered the camera he had bought in Cardiff. He was used to using his phone for photos, quicker uploading, but he knew he wanted the proper thing for this. Maybe he could get some printed and framed. The guard announced Truro and he gathered his things together to leave.
A light snowfall was just starting and he hung his camera around his neck, ready to take some snowy shots. He was determined to enjoy every moment.

Esther, Frank and Charlotte, gathered with the choir outside Truro Cathedral a little before five that evening. The concert was to begin outside at five thirty. The path to the door was lit with lamps and there was a huge star positioned above the rose window. The congregation inside, watching a live stream of the choir standing beneath the star, holding candles, singing ‘O Holy Night’. They would then enter the cathedral, whilst continuing with ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ and ‘Away in a manger’ stopping to disperse into their seats either side of the nativity.

It was now Christmas Eve and there was something in the air that no one could quite describe. The night was very still. The choir had warmed up their voices inside and now arranged themselves quietly into position, whispering and pointing at the architecture of the cathedral and the beauty of the night sky.

“Do you think Ben will find us okay?” Esther asked her Mum “I’d forgotten how busy it would be, but it seemed the best place to meet. You can’t miss that star.”
“I’m sure he will love, he knows what we look like, and if he can’t spot us, he’ll ask”.
“Of course, silly me. I’m just so excited now, I don’t want anything to go wrong.”
“It won’t. You have to have faith Esther. I believe God wanted Ben to find his family this year”.

Then they heard a voice saying “excuse me, I’m looking for Esther?” and saw a choir member pointing in their direction.
Ben. Esther swallowed, and feeling overcome with emotion, rushed to him and threw her arms around him. Taken aback, but delighted, Ben carefully put his arms around her, then drew back to look at her.

“Hello, little sis.”
“Hello, big bro.”
They grinned at each other.
“You’re really tall, almost as tall as me!”
“You’ve got Dad’s hair! Well, his old hair!”

“I’ll have you know there is still some brown under this grey,” Frank said seriously, coming over with Charlotte to greet Ben, a twinkle in his eye.

Suddenly, they all began to laugh, tears streaming from their eyes. Charlotte put her arms around Ben and held him tight “my boy, my boy” she whispered “I’m sorry, it’s been too long..”
“Don’t Mum, you have nothing to be sorry for” he assured her.

“Hello son” Frank took Ben’s hand, then pulled him in for a hug “ how was the trip?”
“It was fantastic, this choir thing is brilliant! Our team raised nearly one thousand pounds for charity. How about yours, Esther?”

“I think we are at about eight hundred, but it’s getting busy here, so I hope tonight will add much more”.
“It’s looking good” Ben agreed, looking around “So, when do we start?”
“In about five minutes, come with me, you can store your bag in the cafe while the concert is on”.

Soon they were in position, ready to sing. The sky was clear, each star seeming to wink at them, as if heaven was smiling down. Their choir leader raises her arms and they began…

An hour later, Ben and his family gathered around the nativity. The congregation and other choir members were slowly heading home, but they decided to stay a little longer. They sat in the first pew, looking at the scene.

“I wonder what the baby Jesus felt, meeting his earthly family for the first time,” Ben said.
“I imagine he was pretty happy, Mary and Joseph were good people”.
“I bet he missed his Heavenly Father though, a bit like I missed you.”
“I’m sure he did son, but that’s part of the miracle He would go on to perform for us. One day, when he was grown, in the garden of Gethsemane, He felt each and every moment of our lives, big and small. He knew we would be parted for a while, but He also knew this moment would come”.

Ben looked thoughtfully at the manger “That’s quite something”.

“It really is. It all looks very still doesn’t it? I don’t suppose anyone sleeping in Bethlehem knew what a special night that night was. That one still night, when a Saviour was born”.

“It’s been a special night here too,” Charlotte said, taking Ben’s hand “I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of peace. From the moment you arrived, I knew it was meant to be”.
“I think you’re right Mum, it’s like the love of our family has never left us, despite the distance,” Ben said, squeezing her hand.
Esther got up and came over to Ben “I brought you something” and she held out the star from the top of their tree.
“I noticed that was missing as we left, I thought it had fallen off” Frank mused.
“It didn’t feel right, me putting it up this year. I want you to put it on the tree Ben, put it on our tree, your tree, when you come home”.
Ben took it carefully from her. “Thanks sis, I’d be honoured”.

The stewards came along then to say they were closing up. They thanked them, collected Ben’s bag, and headed outside. As they left the grounds, there was a light breeze and the silence seemed to envelop them in a gentle embrace. They turned around, feeling as though they were not alone. The grounds were quiet, the lamps lighting their pathway home.

“That star seems especially bright” Ben pointed out.
“Maybe that’s the one that guided you home,” Esther said; and she put her arm through his, as they headed onwards, back to celebrate Christmas, on that one still night when a family came together again.

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This publication is part 77 of 82 in the series 12 Days of Christmas