We like to dress them up and call them “stockings” – oooooo – but they’re really just decorated socks large enough to stuff things in.

Reality check:

We hang them up (weird).

We hang them up over a fireplace off a mantle so everyone can see them (weird).

We do this with the expectation that they will be filled with something other than feet (weird).

Filled by a clean, fat man (despite having come down a very thin and nasty chimney) who will ascend back to a sleigh parked on a steep slope hitched to flying venison steaks (scary weird).

The other day, I was looking at our stockings.  My mom and grandmother made all of ours and they are exquisite and fun and festive.  But (as usual) I asked myself, “what are they doing up there?”  I thought about what my kids might expect to happen as a result of them being hung up over the fireplace.  Of course, they expect them to be filled!

Santa (the aforementioned fat man) keeps a list of who’s naughty and nice, right?

We still hang up the stockings.

Ask any kid around Christmastime whether he’s been nice or naughty and you know his first response would be “nice.”  Do an obvious double take and he’d likely make a modification, “not so nice” or “naughty.’

We still hang up the stockings.

Why do Christians hang up the stockings?  Well, we all want them filled with good stuff.  But what about the symbolism?  Any contemplative Christian when asked whether he’s been naughty (“sinful”) or nice (“holy”) would respond with the former.

We still hang up the stockings.

Had you ever considered that stockings are tokens of grace?  When you think about the Christmas tradition of Santa filling them whether we’ve been naughty or nice, our expectation in that case is, “C’mon, Santa, fill mine anyway!”  Don’t we always expect the same from our Heavenly Father?

What about them, anyway?

They are large! I’ve seen some enormous stockings.  I’ve seen some decent sized ones made of stretchy material (like Glad “Force Flex” trash bags that stretch so much you could fit a Volkswagen in them).  These huge stockings mean we want a lot of good stuff crammed into them.

They symbolize that we want a lot of God’s grace in our lives.  After all, He is the only One who only gives good gifts:

Luke 11:13,”If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

James 1:16-17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

We hang the stockings knowing that we really don’t deserve for them to be filled or if filled, only with coal.  We have nothing to offer God except that we:

Lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord!

Hang ’em!

They are hung in prominent display.  For some reason, we don’t hang them in the bathroom or the garage.  Surely, if the fat man can do the impossible and come down a skinny, dirty chimney, he could more easily navigate a window or a garage door!

We hang them out in front of everyone’s eyes. It’s like we want people to see, “I want God to fill my life with grace.  I’m even making it plain and ‘easy’ for Him by making my desire obvious.”  We don’t want Santa to have to traipse all over the house looking for stockings.  We want to make sure he gets it!  That large stocking in the middle of the house symbolizes our urgent plea with God that He fill us with His grace.

Hang ’em!

They are festive and fun. The only time people hang ugly or plain stockings over the fireplace is when they’ve forgotten to get one!  I think about the ones my mom made for my family and I think the woman must’ve spent weeks on each one!  Glitter and quilting and stitching and colors and figures!

Grace is festive and fun.  Do we forget that grace isn’t just about giving us what we don’t deserve but that gift is excellent and fun and exciting?  Our playground is heaven!  All of what we know in our lives as good – places, relationships, food, activities – these are “good” because they are from God!  He doesn’t give boring gifts!  Have we forgotten?  Paul said it convincingly:

If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?

The question is rhetorical – of course He will!  He has!  Look at your life and for a moment don’t focus on the clouds in your life’s sky.  Look at the stockings you’ve hung: see what He has done?  When you awake on Christmas morning to a full (undeserved) stocking, see what He has done?

Those stretchy socks that you and I hang aren’t the greatest symbol: for a time, they hang empty.  In the life of one who loves Jesus Christ, the socks bursts – all the time – even when it looks empty.

Hang ’em!