Empty Stockings

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“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

For the last three weeks there have been hanging from our mantle highly decorated Christmas stockings. They are mostly hand made, a testament to my wife’s skillfulness with a needle, thread and a myriad of sequins. They remind me of Christmases past in other times and places. Though the setting has changed, the stockings remain somewhat of a constant. They have names embroidered on them for each of us and of our three children and eventually their three spouses. It didn’t take long to realize that my wife made her own stocking the largest of them all. It makes you wonder what her expectations might be…But, that may not be such a bad thing, since greater space allows for more to be experienced.

Every year they come out of the box of decorations and return to their familiar place on the mantle above the fireplace. When we purchased our most recent home a fireplace became a significant aspect of what we expected. So, one could say our home design choices were driven by a celebration that occurs once a year. That being said, I enjoy looking at the hearth, fireplace, mantle and the stockings hung there. They are a familiar symbol of Christmas to me.

This Christmas season a particular thought occurred to me, which had little significance before. The stockings hung there are empty with an expectation of being filled. It seems an apt metaphor for the soul at this Christmas season. Blaise Pascal, the scientist and spiritual writer, described a God-shaped vacuum that existed in every heart. It was space only God could fill in any sort of adequate way. The apostle Paul prayed for those in the Ephesian church that they would be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”. It seems that our lives were always meant to accommodate something larger than we could imagine.

In this season there are constant reminders of the depth of longing and the great emptiness the human heart experiences. It is in these places of longing and emptiness that we are reminded that there is something more we need to truly experience fullness. It is on these occasions that we need to reach out to the larger reality of God’s life made available in His son Jesus. We are all, to some degree empty stockings hanging from the mantle of life waiting to be filled. The good news is that the hope of all the world has come that we might experience the fullness for which we were created.

Every year I see the stockings there hanging from the mantle of our home and I’m always reminded that they were meant to be filled. They were lovingly sown together with embroidered names at the top to remind each of our children that there was something good to be anticipated. God has lovingly sown our lives together, carefully embroidered our names at the top, and has something better with which to fill us, something that is eternal and satisfying. His desire is to fill us with His own glorious, joyous and loving presence. He has given Himself to us in Christ Jesus. It is the gift of Christmas.

Let me encourage you to turn and face Jesus in your places of emptiness and longing this season and may you anticipate and be filled with the gift of His presence. Here is a little Christmas song to make you smile. Merry Christmas.

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