A Tradition-ful Advent:
A Little History:
Yesterday we talked about Saint Nicholas. One of the most popular stories about his life tells us the story of the stocking.
There once was a poor peasant who lived happily in a small cottage in Saint Nicholas’ hometown, with his wife and three daughters. But their happiness was short-lived when the wife suddenly died of an illness one day, leaving the poor man and his three daughters very sad. All the burden of household chores now fell upon the daughters, who worked hard along side their father. When the daughters reached a marriageable age, the poor father was sadden by the fact he had no way to marry his hardworking and kind daughters to good men. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value – a dowry. Without a dowry, this poor man’s daughters were unlikely to marry.
Meanwhile, Saint Nicholas had come to know of the poor peasant and his daughters. Knowing the financial condition of the father, the kindly saint felt a pull on his heart from God to help him. He wanted to do this secretly so all the thanks would go back to God. So he went to the peasant’s house one night with a bag of gold and waited for the family to go to bed so he could secretly leave the gift. When he found the windows and door locked, he climbed to the top of the roof and dropped the bag of gold down the chimney instead.
Earlier that night, after finishing their washing for the day, the daughters had hung their stockings by the fireplace to dry. When Saint Nicholas dropped the bag of gold down the chimney, it had landed inside the eldest girls stocking. When the family found the bag the next morning and opened it, they were ecstasic. There was enough gold in the stocking to pay for the dowry of one daughter. It seemed like a gift from God to him. Who could have sent it, he wondered. With this timely gift the father was able to provide for his eldest daughter and saw that she got married to a nice groom.
Soon after, Saint Nicholas set off with another bag of gold in order to provide for the second daughter. Once again, he carefully dropped it down the chimney. And once again, the bag of gold landed inside a stocking, this time the stocking of the middle girl. When his daughters excitedly brought the bag to their father the following morning and opened it, he could not believe his eyes. With this gift the father was able to marry off his second daughter too.
But by this time, the father had grown eager to discover his mysterious benefactor, and he kept a look out at night, hiding from sight. Then, for the third time Saint Nicholas came with a bag of gold and climbed onto the roof. The pheasant at once recognized Bishop Nicholas. He fell on his knees before the kindly Bishop, cried out in joy and gratitude and thanked him with all his heart. Saint Nicholas asked him to keep his identity a secret, and instead to give all praise to God. The poor man lived a long and happy life thereafter, but eventually word did get out about Saint Nicholas’ secret deed. Since then children have been hanging Christmas stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting for gifts from Santa Claus. Originally, children simply used one of their everyday socks, but with time special Christmas stockings were created for this purpose.
The stockings the girls hung by the fireplace to dry were really just socks. Nothing fancy, nothing appealing, just ordinary socks. Until they were filled with gold. Then they became a treasure. They brought hope, joy, and a future. Not because of what they were, but because of what they held.
When we look at our stockings hung by the fireplace, we can remember that we have something in common with those stockings. Until Jesus fills us, we are just socks. We are playing a basic role in life just like a sock is a basic piece of clothing. But when Jesus fills us we become like the stockings – something extraordinary and amazing – we become children of God. As such, we must work hard to continue to fill ourselves with things that honor Jesus. Just like you wouldn’t want coal in a beautiful stocking, Jesus doesn’t want sin and disobedience or unrighteousness in our lives either. It says in the Bible that our bodies are his temple, meaning a place for his Spirit to live. So we want to give him a beautiful place to live! That means we want to fill our physical bodies with good, healthy foods and take care of them so they are equipped to do whatever tasks God has for us. However, it also means we want to fill our minds with the truth found in The Bible, things that build us up in righteousness, and teach us how to live for Jesus. We want our hearts to be full of love, just like Jesus’ is. Then we will not only be like the beautiful stocking on the outside, but our inside will be filled with beautiful treasures as well.
Verse(s) to Remember:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable (noble), whatever is just (right), whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable (respectable), if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about (or fill your mind with) these things.” Philippians 4:8
Ideas to Make it Stick:
- Have the kids help fold laundry and find the matching socks
- Do something healthy as a family – make a healthy snack or cook a healthy meal, go for a walk together.
- Read A Stocking For Jesus – An Advent Story
- Hang a “Jesus stocking” on your mantel. 1 extra special stocking “fit for a king” that you fill during the month of December. Invite children to put gift money or chore money into the stocking and then, right before Christmas give it to a charity. If they aren’t old enough to have their own money, have them do acts of kindness for others, then write them down on slips of paper to fill the stocking along with little notes of thankfulness. These are our gifts to Jesus for Christmas.
Please feel free to share with friends and leave comments… Do you have other connections between the tradition and the heart of the holiday? Creative ideas to make it stick? I’d love to know what you and your family do with this!