An excerpt from
T E S TA M E N T
A n U n e x p e c t e d R e t u r n
by T . M . B R O W N
Several unfamiliar faces filled the sanctuary pews Wednesday evening. Only the Arians were absent among our circle of friends. They left town earlier that day headed to their family’s home on Saint Simons Island. Nick and Joe said they wanted their family to enjoy the house for a few days before deciding whether or not to sell Momma Arians beloved vacation home. Fortunately, Megan and Andy’s arrival overshadowed the absence of the Arians family.
Before the service began, Andy, Pete, Jay and Jim cracked jokes with one another just like when we first moved to Shiloh a year earlier. Hal helped Hillary and Judy tend to the young children filling the front two rows. Phillip settled in between Megan and Jeannie.
Silence filled the sanctuary when Arnie rose from his chair, gripped the edges of the podium and smiled. “I look out at all the familiar and new faces and stand before you humbled. This service marks the twenty-sixth Thanksgiving Eve service I’ve shared with you or at least those old enough to remember back that far.” He stared at Judy and Hillary. “In another three weeks, Judy, Hillary and I will also witness our twenty-sixth Christmas in Shiloh pageant as well. Sadly, this will be the first one without the Honorable Harold Archer presiding. This year, our new mayor, the Honorable Henry ‘Hal’ Archer, will preside in his place.” Arnie motioned to Hal to join him on the platform.
“Thank you, Doctor Wright. I’m quite nervous about filling my father’s large shoes this year and will certainly miss his supportive smile the few times I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of the city. This edition of Christmas in Shiloh will kickoff the seventeenth, the Wednesday preceding Christmas Eve. All the decorations on Main Street and Town Square are ready to welcome the arrival of another magnificent Christmas tree to be lit that first night. We have a special night of music planned, and I received confirmation from the North Pole this morning that Santa will once again be with us.” Hal focused on the young faces smiling up at him. “I hope to see all of you and lots of your friends there.”
Arnie’s message spoke about how thankful we should feel this year because of God’s greatness. He stood over his open Bible, read the 145th Psalm and then shared, “This timeless passage speaks of God’s goodness, greatness and graciousness. Over this past year, God manifested himself right here in our community, changing many lives forever. Maybe we got a bit sidetracked in recent years by tragic events, but that didn’t mean God stopped working in our hearts.” Arnie panned the room as he stepped away from the pulpit.
“There are two related questions I’d like to offer this Thanksgiving Eve. How have you over the course of this past year testified to the Lord’s goodness, greatness and graciousness in your daily life and the lives of your family members? How have you offered him the praise of thanks he deserves? Please bow your heads and allow your hearts to speak privately with God as you feel led.”
A minute later, Arnie’s pastoral voice broke the silence. “The apostle Paul wrote: ‘Is there injustice with God? Of course not! He shows mercy to those whom he wants to show mercy and offers compassion to whomever he chooses to show compassion. God’s mercy and compassion do not depend upon our will or effort, but on God alone.’ May we all find a reason to give thanks to God this Thanksgiving. Amen.”
I raised my head as Liddy squeezed my hand and smiled. Beside Liddy, John and Marie shared tears. In front of us, Sam, Susanna, Megan and Andy hugged one another as smiles erupted. Jeannie leaned close to her mother to exchange whispers. Jeannie beamed and immediately turned and embraced Megan.
Liddy nudged me and asked, “What’s going on with them?”
“Beats me. I haven’t seen Sam smile like that before.”
Liddy scooted from our pew first and pulled Susanna aside. They whispered back and forth. Liddy walked back with a smug grin and whispered, “It’s a secret until tomorrow at their house, but—-.”
You’ll have to grab your own copy of TESTAMENT, An Unexpected Return to learn about the Thanksgiving secret in the story.
To order your copy of TESTAMENT, An Unexpected Return
Or any of the SHILOH MYSTERY stories