Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.~John 15:13 KJV
Would Mema’s gifts come today? For two children, this would mark the beginning of the Christmas season. But they would soon learn what is better than wrapped gifts.
Frankie and Michelle waited at the bay window for the mail truck to arrive. Frankie propped his Ba-Ba Bear on top of the sofa so he could watch too. Michelle read a primer.
Momma ladled out the ham bone out of the soup she was making, set it on the cutting board, and reached for her paring knife. She removed threads of ham, separating them from the sinew, and returning them to the pot. She hummed a tune, grateful she’d been able to find a butcher shop that still had leftover bones.
“Momma, look!” Frankie said, leaping from the arm of the couch, tugging on Ba-Ba Bear’s hat. “Ba-Ba see!”
“It’s Mema’s gifts!” Michelle said, dropping her book and running to the door.
Momma removed her apron and opened the door. Sure enough, Mema’s package had arrived. Together, they dragged the box into the house. Each gift was wrapped in colorful paper and topped with red and white striped bows. Each had a name tag attached with string. The children arranged, re-arranged, stacked, and then scattered the gifts around the tree to repeat the process.
“Can I open one?” Michelle asked, tugging on a corner of a package.
“You know the rules,” Momma 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 that if you peek, Mommy tapes the hole.”
Just then, Papa came home. He smiled wide as he hugged the two children and Ba-Ba Bear. He pulled Mama into his arms and kept her there as the children rushed back to examine the gifts.
THE BAD NEWS
“I knew it,” Mama whispered, “Your face showed it.”
“Do you think the children noticed?”
“No, we’re good. They are too interested in Mema’s gifts. Thank God they will have those presents for Christmas.”
“Why now? Couldn’t they have waited until after Christmas.”
“Perhaps the timing couldn’t have been better,” Momma said. “Why are Mema’s gifts under that tree anyway? It’s because Jesus’ love for us is real to her. Hon, I think we’ve lost our focus. We’ve got to worship God no matter what comes our way…”
“You’re right,” Papa said. “God will supply our needs. And we will focus on Jesus rather than on gifts. He is the best gift ever!”
TELLING THE GOOD NEWS
Papa walked to the couch and picked up his Bible. “Children, listen up. It’s story time again. Tonight, we are continuing our story about the greatest gift of all.”
Frankie and Michelle ran to Papa and snuggled under his arms. Frankie lifted Ba-Ba Bear onto his daddy’s lap, pretending his bear was listening.
“Papa is going to tell you ’bout Jesus,” Frankie said to his bear. “Papa’s gonna tell us, ’bout the shepherds, and the donkey, and the big star…” he said, pretending Ba Ba Bear was listening.
“That’s right,” Papa said, “At Christmas we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. And because it is His birthday He lets us give gifts at Christmas.” Papa turned to Luke 2:8, “And there were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night…” (Lk 2:8 KJV)
Michelle flickered a flashlight Mama handed her.
“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.” (Lk 2:9 KJV)
“Papa,” Michelle said, “are you ever, ‘sore afraid?'”
“When I’m afraid, or when things aren’t going well I run to Jesus,” Papa said, “Look at what the next verse says, “And the angel of the Lord 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.” (Luke 2:10-11 KJV)
“What Papa is saying,” Mama said, “is that as long as we have Jesus in our hearts, no matter what comes our way, we will be okay.”
“That’s right,” Papa said. “Jesus is always with us, whether it’s a scary time or a fun time. He never leaves us to fend for ourselves.”
Frankie spoke, pretending Ba Ba Bear was speaking, “Isn’t it neat that Jesus has the birthday, but we get the presents?”
“It’s not about the gifts, it’s about Baby Jesus who was born so we could go to Heaven,” Michelle said.
Papa and Mama sighed, relieved their daughter had said what they struggled to share.
“That’s right,” Mama said, “so whether we get lots of gifts or only the beautiful gifts Mema provided, or even if we get no gifts, we are blessed because Jesus is the best gift of all.”
“Papa,” Michelle said, “you lost your job. Didn’t you?”
“How’d you know…?”
“When Mamma hugged you, you were still sad. I’ve been listening when you shared with Mamma so I knew it could happen.”
“Papa,” Frankie said, “don’t worry ’bout it.” Frankie pushed BaBa Bear under Papa’s cheek.
“Papa,” Mama said, “I’m glad Ba Ba Bear is listening, because on the night Jesus was born, all the animals in the stable were listening too.”
“That’s right, Frankie, but do you remember what we learned yesterday?” Papa said. “What are the gifts Jesus gives that we cannot wrap up with ribbons and paper?”
“We get to live in Heaven with Him when we believe. That’s better than presents!” Michelle said.
“An’ peace…” Frankie added.
“Yes, children, Jesus gives us peace.”
“Papa,” Michelle said, “I think we should cheer you up.”
“And do you have an idea as to how we could do that?”
“Tomorrow morning when Mema gives out gifts, let’s go help Mema. She loves making people smile! Maybe she’ll let us help her at.”
“That’s a great idea. I’ll call her,” Mama said. “I’ll ask if we can meet her at the Mission.”
“Can Ba Ba Bear come?” Frankie said, taking BaBa Bear from Papa.
“Yes,” Momma said, winking at Pappa, “your bear can come.”
Peace filled four hearts, and Ba-Ba Bear’s pretend heart, as the family listened to Papa share more of the Christmas story. Ba Ba Bear became all the characters as Frankie listened with his imagination engaged.
After story time, Papa and Mama knelt. They did not know what would happen in the days to come, but they knew Jesus had never failed them. They thanked God for the opportunity to trust Him more.
HOPE AT THE MISSION
Mema ladled potato soup into a poor man’s bowl. She handed a woman a new blanket she had fastened with a raffia bow. She called for a helper who seated them at a table with other guests.
“Jesus loves you, sir. He loves you too, ma’am.” the helper said. “Would you like me to read you the greatest story?”
The two nodded.
A small child who was seated close by lifted her baby doll atop the table. The helper shook the doll’s hand, and invited them to listen to the story…
Mema ladled soup to more guests. Another helper invited them to a table and began to share the Christmas story. This, the helper said, was a gift so magnificent it could not be packaged…
Mema watched as her own family arrived. She ladled soup and invited her son to share the Christmas story with the next family who arrived. She wanted everyone to know the Savior’s love, for she had learned through her own trials, that Jesus was completely dependable, and when all hope seemed gone, He would still be with them. She watched a genuine smile lift her son’s broken countenance. She knew God would see him through. She also knew his spirit was being realigned, as he focused on Jesus, the best gift of all. Ba Ba Bear and another child’s toy acted out the story, through the children.
Mema reflected on a time when she, at a soup kitchen as this one, had received Christ Jesus as her Savior. She would never forget the peace that had filled her soul that Christmas morning. That peace had grown, and she was now so full of His peace she felt compelled to share the gift of Jesus with everyone who would listen. She was delighted her son was now part of the team.
Meanwhile, God arranged in the heavenlies a job Papa would soon say “yes” to–a position as Mission Coordinator. Mema knew all things, even the loss of her son’s current job, would work together for God’s glory. She was certain that 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.
Mema smiled as Ba Ba Bear, Frankie and Michelle distributed gifts. Then the children sat with Papa as he told the Christmas story to the next family who entered the mission. She knew that Christmas had taken on new meaning, and that they were grateful to share Mema’s gifts. But most of all, she knew they were thankful for Jesus. Mema sensed the gift of Jesus’ presence descend, as a blanket of love enveloped Papa, Momma, Frankie and Michelle, and everyone at the mission. Mema smiled as they snuggled close to their unseen Savior she knew so well.
Share a time when God worked good out of a tough situation you experienced.
Thank You, God, for working good in every situation. Thank You also for Jesus Christ, the best gift ever, and the reason my family celebrates the Christmas season.
Copyright 2016: MeMa’s Gifts: Diane Virginia: All Rights Reserved
Mema’s Gifts is a tribute to MeMa Cunio who loved to give gifts. Not until her home-going did her family learn about the scores of families she secretly helped at Christmas by paying off their layaways.