Alicia Minshew Alicia Minshew

Nobody needs a Christmas miracle more than All My Children's Kendall Hart (Alicia Minshew). She's about to receive one — but it's not the one she's hoping for. On the soap's December 27 episode, the Pine Valley heroine, still in deep mourning over the plane-crash death of her husband Zach (Thorsten Kaye), has a visit from Father Clarence, the magical, mystical priest who always appears on the show at holiday time to help those in need. (The terrific Malachy McCourt who played the role for many years had to bow out this time. He's replaced by Michael McCarthy).

"Kendall has this feeling that something big is going to happen on Christmas Eve and when Father Clarence shows up at her door she thinks he's going to tell her that Zach is somehow still alive, since they never found his body," says head writer Dave Kreizman. "Unfortunately, Clarence can't help Kendall with that, but he does lead her to the journal Zach had been writing — one that details his feelings for her."

Zach's words bring her some much-needed healing. "Thanksgiving was a really hard one for Kendall, what with Zach's death happening just the week before — now the full force of the loss is hitting her around Christmas," Kreizman says. "She's been very angry and not really sure where to place that anger, so she's pushing away everybody who cares about her, especially Ryan [Cameron Mathison] and her best friend Greenlee [Rebecca Budig]." In fact, she's hating Greens a whole lot right now because of her relationship with David (Vincent Irizarry) and his connection to the plane crash. Notes Kreizman: "It's easier for Kendall to blame others because she really wants to blame herself — she's the one who sent Zach on that plane."

It's Zach's journal that convinces Kendall to mend things with Greens. "In order for Kendall to heal, she needs her friend," Kreizman says. "Zach was the light of Kendall's life, but in a way, Greenlee is her soul mate. Despite all their ups and downs, those two really love each other."

Father Clarence also works a little Christmas magic on Kendall's mom Erica (Susan Lucci), who is having (what else is new?) man trouble. "Erica still wants to marry Jack [Walt Willey] but she also has a connection with Caleb [Michael Nouri] that keeps growing," says Kreizman. "Clarence doesn't nudge her one way or the other, but he does tell her not to be afraid of doing what she feels is right. He tells her she can't stay in denial, that she must face her feelings and make a decision."

Erica is soon at Caleb's side, urging him to reconcile with his son, Asher (Trent Garrett). "We want to make sure we hit all those great emotional Christmas moments AMC fans expect," says Kreizman. "But we're also using the holiday to move the story forward."

Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!