As a pastor for thirty years I have encountered all kinds of people with different perspectives and approaches to life. Like any pastor worth their salt will confirm, bringing the love of Jesus Christ is an honor, a pledge and a call. At times, God’s unexpected love lands right in your lap. Here is one such story.
I was on a typical summer visit to a member’s home. Going on home visits has always been a part of my ministry; yes, it’s pretty old fashioned but it was how I was trained to be a pastor to my flock. This member and I talked about life without his spouse and changes unfolding in his life. Then we got up and took a little walk. He opened the door to the shed and then said, “I want to give Christie’s whole collection of Santas to the church family. All of them.”
“Well, how many ‘thems’ would that be, Dick?” I asked looking at a shed full of boxes.
Dick replied, “1,500 Santa Clauses.” Unbelievable, I thought to myself. What a beautiful gift from the heart.
So what does a church family do with 1,500 Santas? I shared the news with the trustees, who smiled and accepted the gift. We went about planning an event. First off, two volunteers from the church went to the house to get the boxes of Santas. This collector had all styles and types of Santas, including some very fine Santas from the Franklin Mint.
On Sunday, July 27, we held a nontraditional “Christmas in July” service. After the worship service that included brass music, carols, the text of Luke and a Christmas sermon, (I thought about a candlelight service for a few seconds but let that idea go) we gathered down in the fellowship hall for the Santa Sale.
A team of volunteers had put on display a small portion of the collection; 200 Santas graced our fellowship hall. It was an amazing sight—a sea of red, green and white beards. Neighbors and worshipers gathered in the hall and began to purchase the Saint Nicks. The proceeds of the sale, which was the first of three planned, went to our two mission projects in Honduras and Kenya.
I realize that Santa is an American icon of giving surely not found in the Gospel of Luke but the trustees found a creative way to take an unexpected gift and transform it into a moment of grace. The first sale brought $800.00 into our mission field. Some may think it was a silly event with no real depth, but so many times God uses us to find a gracious way to embrace the unexpected gifts that unfold in life.
John Wallace is pastor of First Moravian Church in Dover, Ohio.