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A Christmas gift from Dad

Delivering poinsettias with Dad

The Rev. John Kasper shares what he learned about our relationship with God when delivering Christmas poinsettias with his dad.


JOHN KASPER

Superintendent, Central Bay District

This time of year brings back fond memories of my childhood.

My dad was a horticulturist by career and a florist by trade. Back in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, all the retail stores on Main Street in my hometown of Ionia stayed open Monday through Friday till 8 pm from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. Running the Flower Shop as a sole proprietor meant we didn’t see dad much at all. I typically would see him for breakfast before school and, by the time he came home, I would see him for maybe a half-hour before being sent to bed. So, dad would include us boys (I’m the eldest of six boys in my family) as much as possible in the flower shop’s Christmas-time activities.

One of my favorite activities and memories was having Dad get me up at 6 am and climb into a cold van to head for Grand Rapids to pick up a load of poinsettias. He typically needed to pick up a load four times, so one of the four older brothers would get to “help” dad each time. One reason I loved to go with Dad was that I could be late for school and not get in trouble for it.

Of course, the first stop was at a “mom & pop” restaurant for breakfast. Since breakfast at home was typically a bowl of hot cereal, bacon, eggs, and toast with orange juice and hot cocoa was a real treat! Once we were all fueled up, we were ready to go to work.

The order was called in to the greenhouse the day before, so the poinsettias were individually sleeved to protect against the cold and trayed waiting for us. All we had to do was pack them into the now warm van and head back to the flower shop in Ionia. That’s where my “help” came in. Dad would climb into the van and pack the trays inside so they wouldn’t get damaged in transit. My job was to carefully carry the trays from the bench to the van as fast as my little legs could go. Once back at the flower shop, I would help unload the poinsettias, go to a local coffee shop for a quick break with Dad before heading off to school.

Looking back on it, my brothers and I all agree that Dad could have packed the van so much faster by himself. But efficiency of task wasn’t the reason he took us along; bonding and spending time with his sons during the busy Christmas season was. It’s a fond memory my brothers and I all have to this day.

Isn’t that how it is in our relationship with God? Having accepted what was done on our behalf by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we have been adopted as sons and daughters of God (John 1:12-13). As Jesus prepared to return to heaven, He gave instructions to his disciples, and us as well, to carry on the mission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Now let’s be real. If efficiency of task was God’s intent, surely God could have completed the mission a whole lot better without our help. But God isn’t about efficiency of task. God is about relationship. That’s why Jesus came, born of a woman, to be one of us. In his life, Jesus showed us how to have a relationship with God and how to be better in relationship with one another. In his death, Jesus took upon himself our sin, allowing us to be restored in our relationship with God, and rose again to life, ensuring that we can be in relation with God for all eternity.

If we have not been given the mission of making disciples for efficiency purposes, then why give us the task? I mean, look at the original 12 disciples. By human standards there is no way that Christianity should have gotten off the ground, let alone last for more than two millennia. Could it be? Is it possible that God wants us to work with Him so that God can be with us, and we can be with God?