"One ought, everyday at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and speak a few reasonable words." --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The White Stocking

"Christmas means giving. The Father gave his Son, and his Son gave his life. Without giving there is no true Christmas, and without sacrifice there is no true worship."
 --Gordon B. Hinckley

The White Stocking
One of my family's most cherished Christmas traditions is the White Stocking. There are six people in my family, but every year we hang seven stockings. Six stockings are embroidered with each family member's name and decorated with the traditional symbols of the modern Christmas culture: Santa, reindeer, elves, and jingle bells all trimmed in red and green. 

But the seventh stocking is not like the others. 

It is plain white with white beading as its only embellishment. There is no name embroidered on the cuff, just some strings of hanging beads that lightly knock against each other when we open and close our front door or someone breezes by the mantel in the hustle and bustle of the season. 

This White Stocking belongs to Jesus. 

Every year on Christmas Eve the six of us gather together to read the Nativity story (Luke 2) and fill Jesus' stocking with gifts we think He would like most. We never put anything tangible in the stocking, just little slips of paper upon which we write specific goals/promises to make the world a better place by aligning our lives and hearts more diligently with His. The gifts are very personal, so we usually don't share them with each other. We fold the little slips up and address them like a gift, making sure to note the year.

We keep these little folded slips of paper in the stocking even after it has been taken down and stored away until the next year. We love to read our gifts from the last year and ponder on how well we gave the gift. We have several years of slips stored in the stocking and it is really interesting to read them year by year.  

Below is the article we read immediately before we filled Jesus' stocking with gifts this year. It was extremely moving. I'm not really a cryer, but I wept three times while I read it aloud to the family. This article will definitely become part of our yearly tradition. It just puts you in the right frame of mind to give gifts to the Savior. Enjoy!

Three Levels of Christmas
William B. Smart 

Christmas is a beautiful time of the year. We love the excitement, the giving spirit, the special awareness of and appreciation for family and friends, the feelings of love and brotherhood that bless our gatherings at Christmastime.

In all of the joyousness it is well to reflect that Christmas comes at three levels.

Let’s call the first the Santa Claus level. It’s the level of Christmas trees and holly, of whispered secrets and colorful packages, of candlelight and rich food and warm open houses. It’s carolers in the shopping malls, excited children, and weary but loving parents. It’s a lovely time of special warmth and caring and giving. It’s the level at which we eat too much and spend too much and do too much – and enjoy every minute of it. We love the Santa Claus level of Christmas.

But there’s a higher, more beautiful level. Let’s call it the Silent Night level. It’s the level of all our glorious Christmas carols, of that beloved, familiar story: “Now in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus....” It’s the level of the crowded inn and the silent, holy moment in a dark stable when the Son of Man came to earth. It’s the shepherds on steep, bare hills near Bethlehem, angels with their glad tidings, the new star in the East, wise men traveling far in search of the Holy One. How beautiful and meaningful it is; how infinitely poorer we would be without this sacred second level of Christmas.

The trouble is, these two levels don’t last. They can’t.

Twelve days of Christmas, at the first level, is about all most of us can stand. It’s too intense, too extravagant. The tree dies out and needles fall. The candles burn down. The beautiful wrappings go out with the trash, the carolers are up on the ski slopes, the toys break, and the biggest day in the stores for the entire year is exchange day, December 26th. The feast is over and the dieting begins. But the lonely and the hungry are with us still, perhaps lonelier and hungrier than before.

Lovely and joyous as the first level of Christmas is, there will come day, very soon, when Mother will put away the decorations and vacuum the living room and think, “Thank goodness that is over for another year.”

Even the second level, the level of the Baby Jesus, can’t last. How many times this season can you sing, “Silent Night?” The angels and the star, and the shepherd, even the silent, sacred mystery of the holy night itself, can’t long satisfy humanity’s basic need. The man who keeps Christ in the manger will, in the end, be disappointed and empty.

No, for Christmas to last all year long, for it to grow in beauty and meaning and purpose, for it to have the power to change lives, we must celebrate it at the third level, that of the adult Christ. It is at this level—not as an infant—that our Savior brings his gifts of lasting joy, lasting peace, lasting hope. It was the adult Christ who reached out and touched the untouchable, who loved the unlovable, who so loved us all that even in his agony on the cross, he prayed forgiveness for his enemies. 

 This is Christ, creator of worlds without number, who wept because so many of us lack affection and hate each other – and then who willingly gave his life for all of us, including those for whom he wept. This is the Christ, the adult Christ, who gave us the perfect example, and asked us to follow him.

Accepting that invitation is the way - the only way – that all mankind can celebrate Christmas all year and all life long.