Disheveled Theologian: Theological Stocking Stuffers, Week 1 -- Filling the stocking
If you were a Disheveled Theologian reader last spring, you’ll know that I had a seven-week series during Lent on things that stood out to me from the Easter story. Well, how could I let Christmas pass us by with any less attention? And so, for the next seven weeks (yes, there are seven Saturdays until Christmas, ready or not!) we will be looking together at the Christmas story.
Or, rather, we’ll be looking at some Theological Stocking Stuffers.
In our family, stockings are the highlight of Christmas. It is true that presents under the tree are anticipated with great joy, but it is the stockings, full to overflowing with fantasticness, that inspire the most glee. They are the first things to be opened on Christmas morning, and they tide us over through breakfast as the presents beneath the tree continue to beckon.
Back when my father was a boy, his mother began the family tradition of knitting wonderful stockings for her family. My father’s — knitted with wool yarn and still in working condition — was joined by a new stocking in 1958, again knitted by Grandma, when my mom married into the family. When my sister was born a few years later, Grandma got to work again. And so the tradition continued, up until the time when Grandma could no longer remember how to work her needles and my sister — that first-born grandchild — took up the needles in her stead.
Filling a stocking — stretching it to the extent of its abilities and hanging it from the chimney with care — is important as a parent on Christmas Eve. The idea of being “filled” is also an important concept in the Christmas story, one which stood out to me as I read both Matthew and Luke, chapters one and two, this past week.
The very first character in the Christmas story, Zechariah, has an interaction with an angel early on and is told in no uncertain terms that his yet-to-be-born son will be “filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.” This comes as a shock to Zechariah, though he, too, after the birth of John, is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies as a result. Elizabeth (his wife), carrier of the Sprit-filled child, is herself filled with the Holy Spirit the moment she hears Mary, bearer of the Christ-child, call out to her when she comes for a visit.
But that’s not all the filling going on. Mary, in her hymn of praise to God, otherwise known as the Magnificat, says that the hungry are “filled with good things,” which is surely a promise that any hungry person would find comforting. And Zechariah and Elizabeth’s neighbors were “filled with awe” at the things they heard and witnessed concerning baby John and his parents’ behavior. And then there’s the Christ child himself, who, as he grew, was “filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” And let’s not forget the Wise Men, who, though Scripture doesn’t use the term “filled” were described as “rejoicing with exceeding great joy” — which, I submit, could easily be re-phrased as being “filled with joy.”
So … filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with good things, filled with awe, filled with wisdom and even filled with joy … I’d say those are some pretty good stocking stuffers. Stocking stuffers I would like more of, thanks. Stocking stuffers I would like for my family. I want my kids to be filled with good things. To be filled with awe, wisdom and joy. And yes, to be filled with the Holy Spirit as well.
Money cannot buy those stocking stuffers. They come through prayer. And love of God. Through knowledge of God and of Scripture. Through commitment and study and relationship with the Lord.
It is my prayer, not just in this holiday season but also in the seasons and years to come, that all of our stockings — all of our lives, both yours and mine — be filled with the good things of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. That we would be filled to overflowing with the awe and wonder of who He is, the wisdom of a life committed to his Word, and the joy of knowing we are within his will.
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:17,18 NIV