Gift * An Advent Reflection

Photo by Crystal de Passillé-Chabot on Unsplash

Gift * An Advent Reflection by Bethany Erickson

He Came to Bring Us Viva

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son… –John 3:16

Every Advent, I buy Viva brand paper towels as a special treat. It has become my secret annual tradition, just for myself.

Usually, I buy the cheaper paper towels, the ones on the lower shelves, and I feel a little bit like I don’t need to be buying paper towels at all. A voice inside me asks, “Aren’t these just the lazy woman’s dish rag?  You don’t want to do that much laundry, do you? THINK OF THE TREES.”

“These paper towels are made from post-consumer recycled paper,” I mumble, in vain attempt to justify myself to the accusatory voice as I drop the rolls of the off-brand paper towels into my basket.  This is how my grocery shopping goes.

I have been trained to buy from the bottom shelf.  Although we have more than enough money now, I remember a time as a child when my family lived paycheck to paycheck. It was a time of major family transition and stress and lots of Jack’s frozen pizza. We moved out of our home into an apartment, and though I didn’t have full awareness of the circumstances, even I knew not to ask for the big-ticket items in the American Girl catalogue for Christmas.

Every once in a while, back then, a Christian man would bring us groceries.  I don’t know how he met us, and I don’t remember his name.  I thought he was just a really nice guy.  Which he was.

I loved the days when he would bring us groceries because we got to eat things we didn’t usually buy.  Like, anything brand name.  He brought Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal and boneless chicken breasts and toothpaste that didn’t taste like glue.  To top it all off, he brought Viva paper towels.

Until this generous man set the paper bags full of groceries on our dining table, I had not known paper towels as soft and thick as Viva existed.   To this day, Viva paper towels say “luxury and opulence” to me.   They say “underserved gift” and “God’s miraculous provision.”  They mean a lot.

Now that it’s my responsibility to buy the groceries (and, well, almost everything), I know how easy it is to lose track of where all our money goes. My husband makes enough – more than enough, in reality – and yet I find my wants and needs are so confused that what I “really” want to buy is continually out of reach. It is easy to find that we have nothing left over, nothing more to give.

The more I examine my own spending habits, the more amazed I am at the man who brought us groceries.  That’s how I ended up crying at the kitchen sink one day, thinking of Viva paper towels, and how this nameless man gave some needy folks he didn’t know from Adam all the top shelf items.  He gave the highest quality goods when he could have done nothing. He could have given his leftovers, but instead he gave us the best.

The reality is that the choices we make with money are not always clear to us. Rarely do we see a homeless mother right next to this season’s winter scarf, such that our options are obvious. It is easy to put needy people on the bottom shelf, where we don’t see them.

So I buy Viva paper towels in Advent, to remind myself of God’s generous gifts, and to remind myself to be generous to others in turn. I want to remember the man who brought us Viva, the generous Christian man who saw a need and simply provided for it, no other questions asked, with hope that his memory will inspire me to do the same. To bless another family enduring a lean year, and then, the good work done, to fade back into the crowd, nameless and without recognition.

In my memory he has no face — like God the Father, who I cannot see. Like Jesus, who invites everybody in the world to his table to feast, gives us fresh bread, and choice wine, and spares no expense.   Like God, who gave a needy bunch of folks who didn’t know him from Adam the very best he had.  Like God, who gave us Jesus.

May your Advent be full of blessings and blessing others.


Bethany Erickson is a wife and stay-at-home mother of four kids, ages zero to eight. She lives in the suburbs of Chicago, drinks loads of peach iced tea every day, and only sweeps the kitchen floor under duress. She has a children’s storybook in the works, and she blogs at


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