Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
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, Mama 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. Mama hummed a tune, grateful she had been able to find a butcher shop that still had leftover 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.
Mama removed her apron and opened the door. Sure enough, Mema’s package had arrived. Mama, Michelle, Frankie and Ba-Ba Bear dragged the big box into the house. Inside were gifts, each wrapped 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 repeatedly.
“Can I open one?” Michelle asked, tugging on a corner of a package.
“You know the rules,” Mama 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, 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.
“I knew by your smile,” Mama whispered. “It looked as pretend as Ba-Ba Bear.”
“Why now? Couldn’t they have waited until after Christmas.”
“Perhaps the timing couldn’t have been better,” Mama said. “Why are Mema’s gifts under that tree? It’s because Jesus’ love for us is real to her; that’s why. Hon, I think we’ve lost our focus. We’ve got to worship Him no matter what comes our way…”
“You’re right,” Papa said. “God will supply our needs. And we will focus on Jesus rather than gifts.”
“Perhaps He will even give you a better job,” Mama whispered. “And thank God for Mema’s gifts.”
“If it were not for Mema’s gifts, the tree would remain bare. And regarding my employment, we will pray tonight. Agreed?”
Papa walked to the couch and picked up his Bible. “Children, listen up. It’s story time again. Tonight, I’m going to continue our true story about the greatest gift of all.”
Frankie and Michelle ran to Papa and snuggled under Papa’s arms. Frankie lifted Ba-Ba Bear onto his daddy’s lap, pretending his bear was listening.
“His name is Jesus,” Frankie said to his bear. “Papa’s gonna tell us, ’bout the shepherds,” 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.” 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?'”
“Yes,” Papa said, “But 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. Do you know what inspires Mema to give us presents? It is her love for Jesus, and the fact that she knows 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 had struggled to share.
“That’s right,” Mama said, “so whether we get lots of gifts or only the beautiful gifts Mema provides, or even no gifts, we are blessed.”
“Papa,” Michelle said, “you lost your job. Didn’t you?”
“How’d you know…?”
“I saw Mamma hug you but you were sad still, and I’ve been listening when you shared with Mamma.”
“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 where Mary gave birth were listening too.”
“That’s right, Frankie, but do you remember what we learned yesterday?” Papa said. “What are the gifts Jesus gives that He cannot wrap up with ribbons and paper?”
“Salvation.” Michelle said. “We get to live in Heaven with Him when we believe. That’s better than presents!”
“An’ peace…” Frankie added.
“Yes, children, Jesus gives us peace.”
“Papa,” Michelle said, “I think we should cheer you up.”
“And you have an idea as to how we could do that?”
“Let’s go help Mema…She loves making people smile! We can help her at the kitchen and maybe she’ll let us give out the gifts!”
“That’s a great idea. I’ll call her,” Mama said. “I will ask her if we can help her tomorrow morning.”
“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 received Papa’s message.
After story time, Papa and Mama knelt. They wondered what would happen in the days to come. But they knew Jesus had never failed them, and that He never would. They thanked God they had an opportunity to trust Him more. They also trusted God for the tough time because their family now had a renewed perspective.
Meanwhile, Mema ladled potato soup into a poor man’s bowl. She handed a woman a new blanket she had fastened with a raffia bow, and seated them at a table with other guests.
“Jesus loves you, sir. He loves you too, ma’am.” Mema said. “Would you like me to read you the greatest story?”
The two nodded.
A small child who was seated close by lifted his teddy bear atop the table pretending the stuffed animal was listening. Mema shook the stuffed animal’s hand, and invited the bear and the child to listen into the story…
Mema shared with her guests the best gift of all. It was one so magnificent it could not be packaged. She did not know the man or woman or the child to whom she shared personally, but that was of no consequence. She considered all of them to be part of her extended family.
Mema wanted everyone to know the Savior’s love, for she had learned, through her own trials, that Jesus was always there. Jesus was completely dependable, and when all hope was gone, He was still with her.
She reflected on a time when she, at a soup kitchen as this one, had received Christ Jesus as Lord. Now, she owned a soup kitchen. She would never forget the peace that had filled her soul when she first accepted Jesus. That peace had grown, and she was so full of His peace she was compelled to share the gift of Jesus with everyone who would listen.
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’s Gifts is a tribute to our MeMa, who loved giving gifts. Not until her home-going did we learn of the scores of families she had helped by secretly paying for their Christmas layaway gifts. It is a fictional story based on these real life events.
Copyright © 2016: MeMa’s Gifts: Author Diane Virginia Cunio; Pen Name Diane Virginia: All Rights Reserved: http://www.vinewords.net/memas-gifts/devotion