By Fred BauerEveryone was surprised- everyone except Mrs. Brown, the choir director—when Herbie showed up in November to rehearse for the church’s annual Christmas cantata.
The C-C-Choir Boy
Mrs. Brown wasn’t surprised because she had persuaded Herbie to “at least try.” That was an accomplishment, for lately he had quit trying nearly everything—reciting in class, playing ball or even asking his brothers or sisters to pass the potatoes.
It was easy to understand: He stuttered. Not just a little, either, and sometimes when his tongue spun on a word, like a car on ice, the kids laughed. Not a big ha-ha laugh, but you can tell when people are laughing at you even if you’re only nine.
Mrs. Brown had figured Herbie could sing with the other tenors—Charley and Billy—and not have any trouble, which is exactly the way it worked. Billy was given the only boy’s solo and the rest of the time the three of them sang in unison, until Charley contracted the measles. Even so, Billy had a strong voice and Herbie knew he could follow him.
At 7:15, the night of the cantata, a scrubbed and combed Herbie arrived at church, wearing a white shirt, a new blue and yellow bow tie and his only suit, a brown one with high-water pant legs. Mrs. Brown was waiting for him at the door.
“Billy is home in bed with the flu,” she said. “You’ll have to sing the solo.” Herbie’s thin face grew pale.
“I c-c-can’t,” he answered.
“We need you,” Mrs. Brown insisted.
It was unfair. He wouldn’t do it. She couldn’t make him. All of these thoughts tumbled through Herbies mind until Mrs. Brown told him this:
“Herbie, I know you can do this—with God’s help. Across from the choir loft is a stained-glass window showing the manger scene. When you sing the solo, I want you to sing it only to the Baby Jesus. Forget that there is anyone else present. Don’t even glance at the audience.” She looked at her watch. It was time for the program to begin.
“Will you do it?”
Herbie studied his shoes.
“I’ll t-t-try,” he finally answered in a whisper.
A long 20 minutes later, it came time for Herbie’s solo. Intently, he studied the stained-glass window. Mrs. Brown nodded, and he opened his mouth, but at that exact instant someone in the congregation coughed.
“H-H-Hallelujah,” he stammered. Mrs. Brown stopped playing and started over. Again Herbie fixed his eyes on the Christ Child. Again he sang.
“Hallelujah, the Lord is born,” his voice rang out, clear and confident. And the rest of his solo was just as perfect.
After the program, Herbie slipped into his coat and darted out the back door—so fast that Mrs. Brown had to run to catch him. From the top of the steps, she called, “Herbie, you were wonderful. Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas to you, Mrs. Brown,” he shouted back. Then turning, he raced off into the night through ankle-deep snow—with-out boots. But then he didn’t really need them. His feet weren’t touching the ground.
From the vision of Nephi, the son of Lehi:
“And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
“And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: ‘Nephi, what beholdest thou?’ And I said unto him: ‘A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.’ Ad he said unto me: ‘Knowest thou the condescension of God?’ And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. And he said unto me: ‘Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.’
“And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: ‘Look!’ And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!’” (1 Nephi 11:13–21)
Carol: "What Child is This"