An Empty Stocking

by Christine Sine

by June Friesen

Why you may ask is there an empty stocking or two here in this photo? As I consider this time of the year and the many great family celebrations in some homes there are empty stockings. Maybe some choose not to display the empty stocking(s) while others do. Years ago as the Christmas season approached one of my friends was in grief over a family member lost. As we talked I suggested that they put up an empty stocking with the others with the name on it. Then each day during the advent season put a note or slip of paper in it of a special memory or short prayer. On Christmas day when other stockings are being emptied and enjoyed empty the notes and if you choose read them together as a family or read them silently. 

As I searched for a scripture to share as a comfort I found myself in the book of Philippians. 

Philippians 4:10-14
I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.

As I looked for a passage that spoke about joy or peace or hope in the midst of sadness and grief I first started with the resurrection of Christ yet somehow that just left me looking for something more. Paul first verbalizes here about having what he needs but if you notice he also recognized and appreciated the support the Christians were giving him. 

Paul embraced a certain contentment in his situation. His contentment was in knowing that His Creator was the Almighty One who had his life in His Hands was always in charge. For you and I here today in this world this is a good reminder for us as well. However, for those who have empty stockings in their homes this year it is more difficult to embrace that contentment. Well, maybe they can embrace a contentment but it is different from others. Sometimes in our lives contentment is understood, expressed and/or defined differently than from another. Each one of us embraces a different set of emotions and different ways of expressing those emotions. It is important for each of us to find that space to express ourselves in a safe place/community. While I wrote a writing years ago, I am choosing to share another fresh from my heart today.

All around me there are so many memories –
I see your presence as I walk through the house –
I miss your presence when sitting down to dinner –
I long to hear your voice one more time –
I long to hear your footsteps in the hallway –
Sometimes I wait for you to once again join me/us for dinner –
Sometimes I wait for you to change the channel to your favorite TV show –
Sometimes I wonder –
Will I ever not miss you?
Today as I decorated for Christmas there were memories so many –
I remember how you loved the bubble lights when we were first married –
I remember those Christmas parades we saw a few times –
And oh yes the Christmas browsing in the parks
Where there was live Christmas music, beautiful lights
And lots of sweet treats and hand crafted gifts as well.
And then those dinners with all of the related family
As well as often those who no longer had family –
Occasionally we welcomed someone who was going to be alone –
And other times we were the ones entertained by family and/or friends.
But this year it will be different –
Your chuckle, your kiss, your squeeze is absent –
And as I see the stockings hung once again –
Your stocking is also hung –
But as others are collecting special little things –
Your stocking remains empty –
Today I chose to add a few things to the stockings –
And as I stopped in front of yours
A tear – well a few tears leaked out of the corners of my eyes –
I remember the joy of little things I knew you would love
That I tried to sneak into your stocking –
But this year – this year – what can I put in your stocking?
Oh, I just thought of something –
The other day I saw this little note pad with beautiful flowers on it –
I bought it not having a plan for it –
But now I see it – oh yes, I see it –
I will write out my special memories of our lives together –
And I will add them one by one to ‘your stocking’ –
And I am thinking on Christmas when the family is gathered –
We will empty your stocking first and remember –
Yes, some of us might cry a tear or two –
But I am sure that Jesus will let you know
That you are still very much a part of our hearts this Christmas
While you spend your first Christmas in heaven with Jesus!
I love you – we love you –
Thank you for being a part of our lives.

Even as I wrote this fresh and new this year I am reminded of some who are no longer with my family. I am also reminded of some friends who are no longer here – some left this world far too young it seems. May your faith in God, in the Jesus whose birthday we celebrate this season be born in your spirit and may His gift to you be the gift of hope of one day being with your loved one(s) in heaven again. 

Writing and photos by June Friesen. Scripture from The Message translation. Please feel free to copy the writing in whole or in part and share with those who need a touch of hope this Christmas. I would appreciate if you credit it with my name. 

December 9, An Advent Quiet Day Retreat with Christine Sine.
Join Christine for a virtual retreat celebrating quiet anticipation and focusing on experiencing a meaningful Christmas. She will lead a morning of scripture reading and quiet reflection that will be for many of us a much needed oasis of quiet in the midst of this chaotic season. Register to participate here.

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