Unto Us this Day a Child is Born
Nettie woke from a restless sleep early. It was Christmas morning and the sun shone brightly through the window. This was the day a child was born long ago in Bethlehem. How she longed for the birth of her child this day.
Raymond slept beside her. His soft snoring had come to comfort her over the past months.
Will our child be born today, Father? I pray the child is healthy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a boy or girl. Please protect this child on the day of its birth. Today, I want to apologize for asking for a daughter. I shouldn’t have been so presumptuous.
You have blessed us with this child, and I promise we will do everything in our power to raise him or her in the faith. It is our duty to teach the child Your Holy ways.
Thank You, Father, for blessing us with a friend like Bertha. She has truly been a Godsend this past month. Today, I’m frightened. I keep having the same dream. Please, Father, if anything happens to me make sure that Bertha and Raymond are able to raise this child together. I know Bertha loves Raymond. If the dream is true and I won’t be here to see my child grow up, there is no one I want to raise her but Raymond and Bertha. I beg You to bring them together.
This is your day, Father. You gave your own son so my child could have life everlasting. You have so blessed my family and me over these many years. Shower these same blessings on the child in my womb and the parents and godmother who love her.
In Jesus’ name, I pray.
Christmas – Early Morning
She heard Raymond stir. Turning her head toward his, she watched as his heavy eyelids struggled to open.
“There’s my beautiful wife.”
Raymond dressed quickly.
“I swear, Raymond you’re like a small child on Christmas.”
He rushed across the room, gathered her in his arms, and kissed her gently on the mouth.
“My dear, it is the most glorious day of the year. We must hurry and get to the tree so I can get off to church in time for the nine o’clock service.”
“We can wait on the presents until after the services.”
“Perhaps you can, but I can not.” He grabbed her grandmother’s pink quilt off the end of the bed, wrapped it around her, and carried her to the living room.
As they passed the buffet that Bertha had so beautifully decorated, he smiled at her wedding picture. “There’s my beautiful wife.”
“I wish I looked as good this morning as I did that day.”
“Oh, you do, my dear. You do.”
Raymond gently placed her on the divan. The room was filled with the scent of pine and candles. Across the room the fireplace crackled and sent a warm glow through the room, making Nettie feel safer than she had in weeks.
“Good morning you two, Merry Christmas!” Bertha came in from the kitchen, carrying a tray of fresh sweet rolls.
“You are so wonderful to us,” Nettie breathed in deeply as the scent of cinnamon filled the room.
“Let’s get to this tree, we can eat later.” Raymond already had a wrapped present in his hand. “Let’s see, this one is to Nettie from Bertha.”
“May I open it?” Nettie eyed the cinnamon rolls as Raymond handed her the gift.
“Of course you may.” Bertha poured coffee from the silver pot she’d already set on the table.
Nettie carefully removed the satin ribbon from the wrapping. As she unfolded the paper, her eyes grew large.
“It’s beautiful, Bertha! Did you make this?” She held up the dainty garment adorned with lace.
“Of course I did. Our baby shall have the most beautiful christening dress ever seen in Menomonie. Your mother sent me the lace and fabric. I couldn’t have done it without her help.”
“Unbelievable, Bertha. I love it, and I love you. The child is truly blessed to have a christening dress this elegant.” Tears streamed down Nettie’s face as she stroked the fabric.
Raymond stood off to the side as Bertha knelt on the floor to give Nettie a hug. He cleared his throat as he used his thumb and forefinger to smooth his mustache back.
“Bertha, the next gift is for you.” Raymond handed the package to Bertha.
“Oh, Nettie, the wrapping is beautiful.”
“It came from the Franklin Square Lithographic Company. Raymond arranged to have it sent to us.”
Bertha carefully unwrapped the package. She opened the small jewelry box and gasped.
“Nettie, Raymond, I can’t possibly accept this. It’s far too much!” Bertha fingered the elegant golden brooch embedded with opals and diamonds.
“I will not hear talk like that. You have done so much for us. If I have a daughter, you can give it to her one day.”
“Then I will accept it. I consider it on loan until your first daughter is married. On that day, I shall give her the brooch as the ‘something borrowed’ for her wedding day.”
The Church Service
“I hate to seem pushy, ladies, but I need to get to church and I want to open at least one present before I go,” said Raymond.
“Open the one wrapped in the flour sack.” Nettie rubbed her hands together.
Raymond pulled at the string, lost his grip, and dropped the package. The vestments spilled out on the oak floor.
“Nettie! How in the world?” He held up the black cassock and the white surplice. “This is everything I’ve been hoping for.”
“Then you’d better get into them and get to the church. It’s Christmas and everyone is going to be arriving at any minute.”
Raymond was at Nettie’s side in two strides. “I love you more than life itself.” He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. “And, I love the child within you.” He stroked her bulging stomach.
Nettie giggled. “Now everyone will see what a handsome preacher you are!”
“I’ll take the horse. If I’m going alone, I don’t need the buggy. Take good care of her, Bertha!”
“You know I will.”
Ten minutes later, Raymond tied his horse at the rail in front of the church. He raced inside with his new robes tucked securely under his arm. No one had arrived yet, so he had some extra time to review his notes for his Christmas morning service.
Thirty minutes later, the congregation packed the building. Their excitement filled the air as the pianist began playing Silent Night. Raymond’s deep voice led the congregation in song.
“Please be seated.” Raymond smiled down at the children in the first row. One day soon, his child would join them.
“I will read to you from Luke, chapter two, verses one through twenty.” Raymond held the Bible in one hand and brushed down the front of his white surplice with the other.
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. This taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. She brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn…”
“Pastor!” The voice came from the back of the sanctuary. “You need to go home now, it’s time.”
A Last Minute Change
Raymond frantically looked for Reverend Welch in the audience.
“I’m here, Raymond. Go, I think I’ve done enough of these to get through it.” He chuckled as he walked forward, leaning heavily on his cane.
Raymond ran past him and out the door, forgetting his coat.
“Well, ladies and gentlemen, shall we continue?” Reverend Welch chuckled. “Let’s see, where was he? Oh yes, And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Raymond charged into the parsonage.
Bertha rushed out of the master bedroom. “I’m here, Raymond. Calm down. The labor has started in earnest this time. Mrs. Sprague is here, but they haven’t found the doctor yet.”
“I’ll go.” He turned to leave, but Bertha grabbed his arm.
“Raymond, it’s being handled. We have three men out looking for the doctor right now. I need you to go to Nettie.”
He nodded his head before rushing past her toward the bedroom.
“Oh, Raymond, you’re here!” Nettie’s face was mottled red. Her eyes grew wide, as she clutched the sheets and moaned when another contraction began.
“What can I do?”
“Hold my hand and squeeze when I have another contraction. I need something, anything, to take my mind off the pain.”
“Please Pastor, don’t sit on the bed. Sit on the chair there.” Mrs. Sprague was most definitely in charge in this room.
“How long does she have to suffer like this?” Raymond shoved his fingers through his now disheveled hair.
“It won’t be much longer. Why don’t you go out and make yourself a cup of coffee? Things are going to get a bit busy here and I think it’s better if you do your waiting in the other room now.” Lucy Sprague wasted no time rushing him out of the room.
Raymond paced back and forth from the kitchen to the living room. He paused and looked up at the star at the top of the tree and smiled. His child was also going to be born under a star on Christmas Day.
Thank you, Father, for the abundance of blessings you have bestowed on my family and me.
Bertha rushed past him, headed for the kitchen, so he followed her.
She grabbed a large kettle from the cupboard and put it on the stove.
“Water, Raymond, I need a bucket of water, please.”
Raymond rushed out the back door to collect a bucket of water.
When he returned, Bertha poured the water into the kettle to boil before busying herself with preparing another kettle where she placed the rest of the water and a large soup bone.
“Christmas dinner probably isn’t going to happen today,” she said. But we still need to eat. I’m going to fix some soup and we’ll have that with the bread I baked yesterday.”
“Sounds good.” Raymond stared into the pot.
“It’s never going to boil if you keep staring at it.”
The Blessed Event
Raymond was beside himself with worry. It was very nearly the dinner hour and he’d been alone in the kitchen for almost an hour.
The sound of a baby wailing carried through the house.
Raymond knocked the chair over as he sprinted toward the bedroom. He stopped when he reached the door. His hand came up to knock, but he forced it back into his pocket. His teeth clenched as he stared at the closed door.
The baby’s cries stopped and everything got eerily quiet in the house.
Raymond’s hand jerked out of his pocket and he rapped at the door.
The door finally opened.
“Come in, Raymond. There’s someone here I want you to meet.” Bertha stood aside so he could enter.
He crossed the room quickly, but quietly, and knelt down next to Nettie’s bed on one knee.
“Darling,” Nettie smiled up at him. “I’d like you to meet our daughter, Martha Virginia Henson.” She pulled back the swaddling blanket and he saw his daughter’s face for the first time.
“The child is as beautiful as her mother.” Raymond beamed.
If you haven’t read the previous chapters, you can find them below:
Emma – Chapter 1
Nettie – 1883 – Chapter 2
Maria, June Bride – Chapter 3
Moving to Menomonie – Chapter 4
The New School – Chapter 5
Independence Day Celebration – Chapter 6
New Seasons – Chapter 7
Nettie’s Wedding – Chapter 8
New Life – Chapter 9