Sergei Prokoviev wrote a fairytale like opera, “The Love of Three Oranges.” I am too much of a concrete thinker to really get into fairy tales and the only thing I remember about the opera is the famous march. I think it was a themesong for a long ago TV show about the FBI.

But I do have a story about oranges that is not a fairy tale; it is a true story and one that helped me find Christmas this year. I have to go back to a Christmas long ago ~ 53 years ago. I may not be able to remember names or what I had to eat for breakfast but somethings stick with me.

I was in the early stages of pregnancy and sicker than a dog. Not only did I have morning sickness, I had all-day-long sickness, and we were new in town, Washington, DC, and didn’t know a soul, not a living soul. But we were young and happy living in a little one-bedroom apartment just across Memorial Bridge with a lifetime ahead of us and a new baby on the way. We needed to find a church and so on one of our first Sundays in our new life, we went to Old St. John’s in Georgetown. The rector was a grandfatherly, portly gentleman named Bill Sharp. Oh, I can remember names. On our first meeting, feeling wretched, I blurted out that I was pregnant and felt like sin. The very next morning there was a tap at our apartment door and there stood Bill in his clerical collar with a jaunty beret set at a French-style angle covering his round bald pate. In his hand was a bag of oranges. He said that his daughter was a nurse and she had told him that oranges were good for pregnant women. With that one gesture of kindness and pastoral care, Bill and Claude and I became good friends and remained so until his death many years later. I don’t remember a single sermon that Bill ever preached but I remember his kindness and that bag of oranges. Maybe that is when I learned about the simplicity of pastoral care.

Now we will fast-forward to December 2009 To tell you the truth, the Christmas Spirit has been hard coming for me this year. My life has undergone a rather radical change and Advent and the coming of Christmas has been different mostly in that I am not involved in the Church with all of its wonderful preparations for the coming of the Christ Child, although I did have the opportunity to preach at St. Paul’s Wilkesboro, NC last Sunday. I think of my friends in Africa who don’t celebrate Christmas in any way as we do. They simply go to church on Christmas day to welcome Jesus. There are no gifts, no trees or pointsettias, not even a special meal. It’s just all about God and his coming manifested in a baby in a manger. My new friends have changed my own heart in many ways. But here I am fretting over whether to have turkey or beef for Christmas dinner when they will have the same old same old ~ beans and rice and maybe oranges. Oranges are their frequent dessert and they are not orange but green. Something of their simple life appeals to me. They will find joy even with a draught looming.

In my bah-humbug mood I came home late one afternoon this past week and hanging on my front door knob was a plastic bag. Now what’s that I wondered. There were two oranges in the bag with this note:
“Love and joy. Ed Conklin” Christmas came afterall and even a few days early.
I found Christmas in memories of Bill Sharp and in a little bag with the gift of 2 oranges. Maybe Santa will put an orange in the toe of your stocking and if so, think of Bill Sharp and Ed Conklin, two priests who loved their people and fed their sheep. There are only a few more shopping days til Christmas. I’m off today to buy oranges. Love to Bill Sharp in heaven and love to Ed Conklin, still on this earth serving the Holy One of God.

May God grant you joy and peace and a delicious orange.