Love in a Plain Brown Wrapper
By Mera Corlett
Nehemiah 8:10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
An apple. An orange. A candy bar. At nighttime worship on the Sundaybefore Christmas, those were the benediction after all the churchy things were over. There’d been angels donning tinsel haloes, shepherds in bathrobes bathed in candlelight as a narrator told the biblical story “by heart.” There’d be carols picked out on an old upright piano. Sunday School classes had drawn names weeks earlier. Just after they’d been handed out, there’d be jingle bells outside the church doors. Enter: Santa Claus! He’d hand out plain, brown-paper sacks to every child of God. It was said in hushed tones that some member of the congregation provided those sacks. Imagine! Someone in our little country church with enough money to see no one went away empty! I speculated it must have been a wealthy farm owner. When I reached the age of accountability regarding Santa, I learned “Miss” Fannye Wallace, one-room-school-teacher who later became elementary principal, was behind those sacks. (She was also the church superintendent, a pretty extraordinary thing for a woman in the 1960s.) Why, “Miss” Fannye wasn’t rich by any stretch of the imagination! She just loved God, loved children (of all ages) and gave from her heart.
I was brought up to believe true wealth was measured in generosity. Gifts given, however humble, were reminders of the best Gift ever given. That plain-brown wrapper was metaphor for a straw strewn manger. The fruit and candy bar were bounty found in the bottom of the bag. This season, surrounded by della Robbia, may we be reminded of the bounty of God’s love. May we give and receive in the Spirit of graciousness. And, may we ponder the mystery that multiplies the beneficence found in an apple, an orange, a candy bar, and a manger.
Gracious and Generous God, Teach us to be more and more like You. Amen.