There is a beautiful Brothers Grimm fable from 1813 that I share every year at the Sandalwood Community Food Pantry, a place of refuge from the storms of life, that I founded 14 years ago, where I joyfully serve our neighbors in need, reminding them that more is not better, it is simply more, and can sometimes cause great sorrow. I have taken the luxury of editing bits and pieces of this tale.
Once upon a time there lived a shrimper and his younger brother on a small coastal island. Their home was a broken-down rusty trailer with a small vegetable patch and a well. Every day the fisherman would go out in his boat and in the evening bring home his catch, sometimes good, sometimes poor.
But the fisherman’s brother was lazy, liked his liquor and was never happy. “Why should I have to live like this? Am I asking too much to live in a decent house with running water and electricity?” His complaining made the fisherman miserable until something happened that changed their lives.
Out on the water, he caught a strange and beautiful fish that startled him by speaking. “Please throw me back into the sea and I’ll grant whatever you wish.”
The fisherman thought a bit and replied, “I wish my brother lived in a house with running water and electricity.” When he returned, he found the wish had been granted and his brother was pleased.
As the months passed, his brother began to complain again. “Is it too much to expect something better? I wish I were living in a mansion. Why didn’t you ask for more? I’m sure the fish meant us to do better than this.”
Driven by this nagging, the fisherman tried to find the fish, and no sooner had he called than the fish appeared and agreed to his request. But the wealthy brother was still not satisfied. “What I really wanted all along is to be God.”
Sad and distraught, the fisherman again found the fish and made this last request. When he returned, he found no mansion, no cottage, not even the rusted old trailer. Then he heard crying. Noticing a small tent at the water’s edge, he looked inside and saw, lying in a sweetgrass basket, a little baby.
The fisherman’s younger brother was granted his last wish – only he had forgotten what God is like in this world, in human flesh. He’d forgotten that our God came down from heaven and dwelt among us in Christ and especially with the poorest of people.
It is so easy to forget that Almighty God and Creator gave up being worshipped and adored by angels to give us heaven. We must never forget that holy night, when the stars were brightly shining, a night divine when Christ was born.
Never forget that the Lamb of God left His glory above, to bear it to dark Calvary. This is Christmas love! Love is not just a feeling, love is a choice! As we prepare our hearts, let us choose love. Video games and toys will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust. But the gift of love will endure for that is what Christmas is all about. Such was, and is, Christmas love.
Rev. Dr. Nannette Pierson is an itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and pastoral associate at Campbell Chapel AME in Bluffton.