Parishioners at St. Matthew’s By-the-Sea United Methodist in Fenwick Island will welcome a newcomer this Christmas Day — a young lad, and to his parents a miracle who had arrived even as their hopes grew dim.
Rev. Bruce Miller said little Nicholas Patrick Hitchens’ baptism this Sunday will be St. Matthew’s first-ever on a Christmas, as far as he is aware.
Tina Hitchens is adopting the little tyke with her husband, Keith. While they didn’t necessarily plan to have him baptized on Christmas Day, Hitchens said they’d been putting it off for a while. “It’s important, and we were getting tired of waiting,” she said.
“So, we asked (Miller) when would be a good time,” Hitchens recalled, “and he said, ‘Well, Christmas morning we’re not doing anything.’ I thought that would be perfect.”
“This would have been a beautiful gift at any time,” Miller noted. “But especially for this family, when they had almost given up.
“I think the symbolism’s obvious,” he continued. “God’s great gift to the world is Jesus Christ, and young Nicholas is certainly a great gift to this family, and this church family.”
Miller remembered the thrill in Tina Hitchens voice when she first shared the news of her good fortune. “And that has not abated since,” he added.
Some of Hitchens’ friends had expressed aversion at the very idea of giving up a child for adoption, but she said she’d reminded them how many young mothers decided to terminate their pregnancies instead. “This is the ultimate gift,” she emphasized.
And especially poignant for Hitchens, whose birthday happens to fall on Christmas Eve.
Her voice brimmed with gratitude to the birth mother as she spoke of her amazement at the woman’s love for little Nicholas. “I pray for her every night,” Hitchens stated.
She and her husband spent a few years trying to conceive, she said, and eventually tried in vitro fertilization. But she was unable to carry a child to term.
Time passed — with both she and her husband now in their 40s, she said they’d come to realize adoption would be their only chance.
“It was a long process,” Hitchens said. “But I never stopped believing there was a baby for us out there.”
On Christmas Day, Miller will preside as the Hitchens family brings Nicholas to St. Matthew’s, giving the entire congregation an opportunity to share in Christian kinship with this young family.
Families are a focal point for St. Matthew’s. The church’s primary outreach consists of assistance with heating bills (in partnership with the Pyle Center and state services), Miller pointed out. But upon discovering that disposable diapers were more expensive than Miller had realized (and probably very nearly as essential as heat), he said they’d held a “Diapers Sunday” last week.
According to Miller, quite a few parishioners brought in packages of diapers and stacked them by the altar. “The focus has been on babies of late,” he noted.