By Diane Virginia
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
Frankie propped his Ba-Ba Bear on top of the sofa, waiting for the mail truck to arrive. Michelle also waited, quietly reading a primer, while glancing out the window at intervals. Would Mema’s gifts come today? For these two, this would mark the beginning of the Christmas season.
Meanwhile, Leslie stirred a pot of potato soup. She ladled out the ham bone, set it on the cutting board, and reached for her paring knife. She removed threads of ham, separating them from the sinew, and returned them to the pot. Leslie hummed a tune, grateful she had been able to find a butcher who still had bones.
“Mama! Look!” Frankie said, leaping from the arm of the couch while tugging on Ba-Ba Bear’s hat. “Ba-Ba see!” He pretended the stuffed animal could see the mailman’s arrival.
“It’s Mema’s gifts!” Michelle said, dropping her book and running to the door.
Leslie removed her apron and opened the door. Sure enough, Mema’s package had arrived. Leslie, Michelle, Frankie and Ba-Ba dragged it inside. The children arranged, re-arranged, stacked, and scattered the gifts around the tree repeatedly.
“Can I open one?” Michelle asked, tugging on a corner of a package.
“You know the rules,” Leslie said with a wink, “no peeking until Christmas.” She took cellophane tape from the drawer and set it on the coffee table. “And that tape dispenser is a reminder. If you peek, Mommy tapes the hole real tight!”
Just then, Dwayne came home. He smiled wide as he hugged the two children and Ba-Ba Bear. He pulled Leslie into his arms and kept her there as the children rushed back to examine the gifts. “It happened…”
“I knew by your smile,” Leslie whispered. “It was as pretend as Ba-Ba Bear’s.”
“Why now? They could’ve waited to lay us off after Christmas.”
“Perhaps the timing couldn’t have been better,” Leslie said. “Why are Mema’s gifts under that tree? Perhaps we’ve lost our focus.”
Dwight walked to the tree and lifted a gift. Frankie and Michelle snuggled under his arms. Frankie lifted Ba-Ba Bear onto his daddy’s lap, pretending his bear was listening.
“Children, listen up. Do you know what inspires Mema to give generously? It is her love for Jesus, and her love for you. Let me tell you the Savior’s story…”
Peace filled four hearts, and Frankie hoped Ba-Ba’s pretend heart was attuned to his Papa’s message.
* * *
Meanwhile, Mema ladled potato soup into a poor man’s bowl. She handed the man a new blanket she had fastened with a raffia bow, and seated him at a table with other guests.
“Jesus loves you, sir.” Mema said. “Would you like me to read you His story?”
The man nodded. A small child who was seated close by lifted his teddy bear atop the table and pretended the bear was listening. Mema shared the best gift of all. It was one so magnificent it could not be packaged. She did not know the man or the child, but to Mema, they were part of her extended family. Mema’s gifts. Are they special? If you believe in power of the Savior’s love, they are.
The best gifts are those that cannot be packaged: the love of one’s family, and faith in the Savior who binds us together with ribbons of love.