Faith, prayers and a brown bag Christmas


 Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh made headlines recently by stating he’ll give his bonus money to employees of the athletic department who suffered Covid-19-related pay cuts. Michigan defeated Ohio State November 27 to secure the Big Ten East division crown.

One week later, Michigan defeated Iowa for the Big Ten championship. Total bonus so far? $1.5 million going to hundreds of employees “who have stayed while taking voluntary or mandatory pay reduction during the last eighteen months,” Harbaugh shared.

Most of us don’t have an extra million to spread around, but maybe we can find a way to make Christmas 2021 unforgettable for someone.

Pastor Joe McKeever once asked his newlywed class he taught to share a favorite family Christmas story and one young lady told about “The Brown Bag Christmas.”

In the early 1930’s, in the heart of the Great Depression, the Canady family, Mom, Dad and seven children, faced tough times simply existing. Christmas would be skimpy that year. Mom told the children to go find a Christmas tree and decorate it. They found a dead branch, placed it in a bucket of sand and strung colored paper decorations. Little Judy, nearly four, remembered that tree all her life.

The excited Canady children pestered Mom and Dad about what presents might appear under their “tree.” Dad pointed out the pantry was bare; they were barely getting by, and this year’s hardships left no money for presents.

However, the Mom said, “Children, say your prayers. Ask God to send us what He wants us to have. Pray, children.”

The dad feared Mom was setting them up for disappointment, but they prayed anyway. On Christmas Eve, the children watched out the windows, anticipating a Christmas miracle, hoping somehow someone would remember them.

“Blow out the lamp and go to bed,” Dad said, “No one is coming. No one even knows we’re out here.”

The children got into bed, pulled up the covers, but were too excited to sleep. Wasn’t this Christmas? Had they not asked God to send gifts? Did Mom not teach that God answers prayers?

They finally settled in, but later one of the children spotted headlights in the distance. Everyone jumped up and ran to the window. The commotion woke up Mom and Dad.

“Don’t get excited, children,” Dad said, “it’s just a car over on the highway.”

The children watched as the car kept coming, eventually turning into their yard. Dad lit a lamp. A car door slammed, and a voice called out, “Could someone help me unload these bags?” The children bolted out the door to help, except for little Judy, who stayed with Mom.

What happened? How did God come through? He used a deacon from the church in town who fell into bed that Christmas Eve, lay there tossing and turning as the Canady family came to mind, and couldn’t get to sleep.

Later he said, “I didn’t know what kind of shape you folks were in, but I knew you had all those kids.” He’d gotten up, dressed, and gone around town, rousing people from their sleep to ask for a contribution for the Canady family. He filled his car with bags of groceries, canned goods, toys, and clothing. Little Judy got a rag doll that remained her favorite for years.

The next Sunday, Mrs. Canady stood in church and told what the members and this one particular deacon had done for her family. She was deeply grateful and touched. There was not a dry eye in the place.

Years later, the oldest daughter Eva reflected, “We were so thrilled by all the wonderful things in the bags, for a while we lost sight of the most special gift. The best gift that Christmas wasn’t in the brown bags. It was my Mom’s faith as she taught her children to bring their needs to Jesus and trust Him to meet them. And a Dad’s love that wanted only to protect his children from hurt and disappointment.”

At Christmas, we celebrate devoted mothers, caring fathers, and child-like faith. We give thanks for people who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and follow His prompting to bless others. And most of all, we celebrate Jesus.

 When the newly wed finished telling her story, she added, “Little Judy is my grandmother.”

How can you bless someone this Christmas?


David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, 352 McDonough Road, Fayetteville, Georgia. Join them this Sunday for worship at 10 a.m. and Bible study at 11:10. Visit for online viewing options. Visit to see other Chancey columns.