Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care….” So begins the famous Christmas poem.
Those stockings were filled only with hope until they would be filled with joy. They were not expected to be found empty when Christmas morning dawned. It would have been better not to hang the stockings at all than to have eager expectations pitifully dashed.
The vision of stockings found empty on Christmas tears at our hearts. It is a sad scene that we would strive to prevent. But it does happen. Hopes are not always turned into joy.
That’s why a certain sadness can come to even the people of God at this time of year.
This sadness comes not from missing loved ones who once celebrated Christmas with us. That happens, but this is a different form of sorrow.
Nor does this one grow from a lack of wrapped gifts to be shared.
Instead, this sadness is the painful realization that so many around us are missing out on Christmas.
As the Christmas music begins to fill the airways following Halloween, as the Christmas sales are announced, and the television brings feel-good stories of people at Christmastime, it begins to dawn on us: “Many don’t know!”
They don’t know what Christmas means. They don’t know the Christ of Christmas. They don’t know he is their Savior. They don’t know he is Christ, the Lord. They just don’t know.
Their spiritual Christmas stocking is empty.
Many eagerly search for the reputed joy of Christmas. They hope they can find it in decorations that “make the spirit bright.” They turn to the joy of getting and giving. Some rely upon the stimulants of food or drink.
They are determined to have a merry Christmas. They sincerely wish this for others.
They just do not know that, without Christ, there can be no Christmas joy.
The sad evidence is there. Check the police logs for Christmas Eve. Domestic disputes? Alcohol-caused car wrecks? Suicides? Far too many!
Without Christ, there can be no true Christmas joy.
Yet, many do not know they are missing it. They even resent our idea that their Christmas lacks something.
That puts the Christian in an uncomfortable position.
Do we just tell them their Christmas is empty of anything lasting and meaningful? Will they believe us? Will that prompt them to seek the Christ of Christmas?
Or will they just shake their heads at our apparent arrogance? After all, who are we to tell someone else that they are not as happy as they should be?
Does that mean we should just go on our merry way and not care about those with a Christmas empty of heavenly hope and joy?
The poem gives the reason for hanging those stockings. “In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.” How sad if this is the best that can be hoped for!
Can’t we do something about that? Can’t we ask the Holy Spirit to enter their homes and hearts? Can’t we somehow share the hope that is within us? Can’t we show the peace and joy that Christ brought to us?
Think of how many Christmas carols are actually Christmas hymns. Do they not proclaim the true message of the season? Does not “Joy to the world the Lord has come!” say what needs to be said?
Can we not invite others to our worship services where these words are sung, explained, and believed?
If it pains us to think of a child with no present in a stocking, what about one with no Christ in Christmas?
Our hearts know where true joy can be found. We know this is a joy to be shared.
But if we find our joy is tinged with sadness when the Christ of Christmas is rejected, we may recall Jesus weeping over a Jerusalem that also closed its heart to him.
On this side of heaven, sorrow often intrudes upon joy. This Christmas will again reveal lives empty of God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love. That pains us.
Thus, we work, and we pray that this year Jesus will enter where he is unknown.
Then, they will know true Christmas joy.
To have a merry Christmas is more than a wish. It is a gift from heaven.
It more than fills those empty stockings.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, bring joy to the lives of people everywhere by filling their hearts with a child-like faith centered upon the Christ of Christmas. Amen.
Points to ponder:
- Would we better celebrate Christmas if we stripped away all the trimmings? Or not?
- Why do children often have a better grasp of Christmas than adults?
- Which Christmas celebration was the most memorable for you? Why?
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.