Some of you might know that from Oct. 1 until the end of each year, I read only Christmas novels. I love to get into great Christmas-themed books. Right now I'm reading The Christmas Train by David Baldacci. My friend Michele Mirabile has just published a new short Christmas novel (with my own publisher, co-incidentally). Choir of Angels is at once cozy and tender, reminding us that, like her character, Riley, we know “exactly what Jesus would do” when the warmth of the Christmas Spirit is interrupted by adversity. Riley teaches us that when we let go of pride, a spirit of love will wash over us and settle into our hearts. After all the presents under the tree have been opened, only the gift of love and humble acts of sacrifice bring lasting meaning and happiness. Be prepared to fall in love with Christmas all over again. . .
I asked Michele to share with us how the story came to be, and an excerpt of the first pages:
"I drew on the emotions and trials of my own life over the past few years. Our oldest daughter passed away in January due to complications of the flu, leaving behind a husband and four sons. Shortly afterward, another daughter announced her first pregnancy. And all the while my husband bravely battled through one complication of his stage-four cancer, and then another.
"These trials of life and death filled us with joy, anger, and untold pain. But the angels of our community reached out with support and love and gave us a whole new perspective of the importance of service, and the gift of sacrifice. It was during this time I came up with the idea for Choir of Angels, the story of how a young boy’s redemption made for the “Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
"I always wanted to write a Christmas story, and my mind was constantly sorting through elements and wondering how I could pull them all together for a good read. My father was a band director, and he kept his kids busy with music lessons of one kind or another. I played the piano and flute, and spent years performing in concert and marching bands. So I understood the dedication and elation (the story's main character) Riley felt while competing for the part of Joseph and winning.
"I hope everyone who reads Choir of Angels will come away with a renewed desire to serve. And that their lives may be enhanced with the same degree of joy and satisfaction Riley experienced during Riverwood Elementary School’s best Christmas pageant ever."
And now, an excerpt from the beginning of Choir of Angels:
Riley loved Christmas as much as any other boy or girl. He loved how his breath
hung in the crisp December air like little puffs of clouds. He loved the way lights twinkled like tiny stars from the eaves of houses. And he loved the way his heart soared at the sound of Christmas strains.
As far back as he could remember Riley had been moved by the sounds of
Christmas. As each melody wafted from the radio or from carolers who strolled from
door to door, Riley’s soul filled with such bliss it was all he could do to keep his feet on
But this year, he had a whole new reason for such joy. He’d earned a spot in the
school choir, and today he was auditioning for the part of Joseph in Riverwood
Elementary School’s annual Christmas pageant.
Even now, the thought sent Riley’s heart soaring to grand new heights. All he
could think about was how great he’d be as Joseph—and how much everyone would
He’d worked very hard in preparation. He’d rehearsed every word of every song
until he could barely eat or sleep because of the music that rolled through his head. He was so consumed with the pageant and the prospect of playing Joseph he didn’t know
what he’d do if he didn’t land the part.
“Come on, Riley. Let’s hustle.”
Derek pushed through the open door and stomped his boots on the mat. He’d been
Riley’s best friend since Kindergarten, and he came by every morning at the same time to
pick him up for school.
Riley jumped at the sound of Derek’s voice. He’d been so lost in his thoughts he hadn’t heard him coming up the walk.
He scrambled to his feet and snatched his jacket from the back of the chair. The last thing Riley wanted today, or any other day for that matter, was to risk being late. Because late meant trouble. And trouble meant Sam.
“Good luck today.” His mother waved from the kitchen. “And don’t forget your
Riley grabbed his homework and his crutches, and made a beeline for the front door.
Riley had never been able to run like other kids. He wore special shoes with built-up soles and a leg brace for stability. Most of the time, he got around just fine with the help of crutches. But every so often, when his strength just wasn’t up to par, he needed a wheelchair.
Today, however, was a good day for Riley. He stepped outside into winter’s icy embrace and pulled his zipper to his chin. Draped in a blanket of new-fallen snow, the world had transformed into a wonderland.
Riley looked left and then right. Catching no sight of Sam or the Wilson twins, he followed Derek down the walkway, shuffling through the powdery wilderness like a boy without a care. He loved the way the snow crunched beneath his boots and clung to his lashes.