The Mantel, Post #7

Gift giving is a natural part of Christmas. It seems most of us, though, get our checklist, and just go to town buying and checking off the list as quickly as possible. Then we’re onto the next Christmas party or task.

More than 15 years ago my pastor, Rev. Dr. Danny Massie, told a story about his childhood, and it transformed the way I give gifts and the meaning behind them.

Danny grew up in Canton, Mississippi. His Daddy ran the Madison County Feed and Store. When he was a little boy, his Dad proudly built their family’s two-bedroom home, and they finally moved from their little rental home. His family was so proud, especially of the cedar mantel, the symbolic center of the home. Danny’s Dad had taken a cedar tree, and had cut, hewn, and beautifully carved that mantel. Danny remembers the hours and hours his Dad put into sawing, shaving, sanding, and polishing the prized mantel.

A year later, because Danny’s Dad had extended so much generous credit to customers who couldn’t pay, he lost his business. Danny’s Mom suffered a serious bout with depression. They sadly had to sell their home and move into a rodent-infested tenement apartment. Leaving that home was like ripping out the warmth and security from his soul. Danny begged his Dad to take the mantel with them, but his Dad, quiet and reflective, said it needed to stay with the house and that the apartment couldn’t hold it. Danny and his brother graduated from high school and went on to college and seminary.

Years later, Danny and his wife Tita had four children and were living and pastoring the First Presbyterian Church in Kingsport, TN. Their church was raising funds for a Habitat for Humanity house. Danny recalled the painful, emotional memory of his father’s mantel in a sermon to illustrate the importance of having decent, affordable housing.

Unbeknownst to Danny, some of his church members were so moved by the story that they contacted his old home church in Canton. They reviewed the tax records and found Danny’s old homeplace in Mississippi.  They drove from Tennessee to Mississippi on a mission. They contacted the owners. As it turned out, nearly 40 years later, the mantel had been taken down from the fireplace but was still on the property.  The owner said he had thought of disposing it so many times. There must have been a purpose behind the preservation of that mantel.

A few weeks after the trip, on June 28, 1992, during what Danny thought would be the closing Benediction to his sermon, triumphant music played as Danny’s son and one of the church elders processed the beautifully restored, 100-pound mantel down the aisle to Danny.  Tears flowed. Hearts overflowed. What a gift…what a meaningful gift.

We are blessed that Danny has been our Senior Pastor at First (Scots) Presbyterian Church since 1997. Danny brought His Father’s Mantel from Tennessee, and it hangs on the wall in his office in Charleston, SC.  That meaningful mantel has warmed hearts in three states.

Others who knew how to give meaningful gifts were the wise men as they welcomed the new Baby Jesus. Gold is the gift for a king. Frankincense is appropriate for a diety, a god. Myrrh is embalming fluid, used in preparing a burial. It makes me teary-eyed just writing those words. When you sing the Christmas Carol “We Three Kings,” you see the gifts’ symbolism explained. What gifts…what meaningful gifts.

Ah, and the sweet, baby Jesus—He was/is the Ultimate Gift to the whole world. What a Gift…What a Meaningful Gift.

This Christmas, really for any holiday and special occasion, go deep, my friend. Get to know your family and friends’ hearts, their stories, their passions, their history. Meaningful gifts don’t have to cost much, except perhaps your time, your effort, and your heart.


–As you consider the loved ones you will see over this Christmas, how can you present them with a meaningful gift?

–How much of yourself are you sharing with loved ones, both sweet and painful  memories and dreams, so that they may give you meaningful gifts?


–“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! ” –2 Corinthians 9:15

–“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” –James 1:17


–We have eight days before Christmas. If all your gift checklists are complete, consider writing a meaningful letter to each loved one. Tell each loved one at least one way your life has been impacted by him/her. Or tell a fun/sweet memory. Tell your dreams.

–Please comment and let me know how this “meaningful gift” idea resonates.

–Speaking of Gifts, Congratulations to Ann Rowland of Greenville and Linda Hydrick of Charleston, SC, for winning the two $25 Target Gift Cards. Thank you for everyone who added their comments to last week’s “Rushing the Sunrise” questions about waiting.



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  1. Bertha Smalls Middleton says:

    Happy Holidays Danya

    Thank you so much for this Post! Last night I had a conversation with one of the Board Members for the Community Center, and this is what we shared( in our words) to each other in frustration over what the Christmas Holiday has become, or what it means to some…In short thank you for this message that will be shared this morning at the Senior Center…In 2014 I am looking for the Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward ALL men/women. God Bless you and know that you are indeed a blessing to others. Bertha

  2. Thanks for the touching of my Christmas Spirit. During this time of the year, I always feel sad because of what I don’t have to give ,especially to my boys.I always tell them ,”just give your presence” .Just be with the ones you love.

  3. A mantel has so many meanings. Thank you for this story.

  4. Carole King says:

    This is beautiful- all of it. Such a wonderful gift to the world, Danya.

  5. beautiful story! Thank you. It brought tears… : )

  6. beautiful simple acts of kindness are the most appreciated and meaningful. Let me always see the need in others and share our Prince’s love in practical ways! Blessings my cousin xo

  7. Happy Shiny New 2014, Bertha! I am so grateful that this “Mantel” post touched you enough to share with your Senior Center. Thank you for remembering the “Reason for the Season.” I look forward with you that 2014 will bring Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward all men/women, starting with my heart and efforts. Keep shining, Bertha!

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