In 1947, a charming movie was shown in theaters called, The Bishop’s Wife. The movie told the story of a debonair angel, named Dudley, who came to earth to help an Episcopalian Bishop, and his wife, build a cathedral. Cary Grant played the part of the angel, Dudley. David Niven played the Bishop, and Loretta Young was the Bishop’s wife.
There is one scene in the movie of particular emotional power. The Bishop has prepared a Christmas Eve sermon to be delivered to a waiting congregation. Unknown to him, Dudley has taken the original manuscript and burned it in the fireplace, and then provided a substitute homily with the sermon title, “The Empty Stocking.” When the Bishop goes into the pulpit to preach, he is astonished to see the new sermon, but presses on, bringing conviction to his own heart, and a blessing to the congregates.
The Exempt Stocking belongs to Christ, he says. His stocking is empty because, while people give gifts to one another, they have nothing for Jesus. His stocking is empty because people are too busy thinking of themselves, or the holiday spirit. There are bottles of wine to consume, parties to attend, trees to decorate, and vacation time to enjoy. The reason for the season is forgotten. Christ is forgotten.
If we were to remember Jesus, if we were to put something into His stocking this Christmas, what would it be? What would please Jesus most of all, for that too is part of the celebration, giving to others what they want.
Let me suggest that faith in God be placed into the Empty Stocking. Jesus always turned the hearts of His disciples to the Father. “When you pray,” said Jesus, say, “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name” (Luke 11:2).
Of course, the fool, the self-sufficient individual, has said in his heart, “There is no God.” God replies to the atheist, and to the agnostic saying, in matchless grace, ““Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18).
Second, put faith in Christ in the Empty Stocking, and for a good reason. Jesus is the Savior of the world. No one else has died for you. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).
Third, place into the Empty Stocking of Jesus your heart.
“O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and freer!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”
Finally, place into the Empty Stocking a personal prayer. For those who struggle to pray, there is no better petition than to repeat, with sincerity, the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For, it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
When this is done, the Empty Stocking of Jesus during the Christmas Season, will be empty no longer. Fill the Empty Stocking, to the glory of God, and for the good of your own soul. Amen.