Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"The Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney With Care . . ."

Matthew 17:27
"But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."

When we were growing up, my brother, Bill, and I never knew fancy Christmas stockings existed. We would always hang a pair of my knee socks for Santa to fill. Of course, as I grew, and my socks grew with me, it was a boon for both of us!

I can still picture those navy, nondescript knee socks dangling, limp and lifeless, from our mantelpiece. The ones I either saw or wore on a daily basis. Nothing special here. Just ordinary socks . . .

Until Christmas morning!

Bill and I tiptoe down the stairs. It is still dark. The sleep that eludes us wraps our parents in blissful slumber.

"Is it too early to wake them?" Bill whispers anxiously.

"Let's check the clock in the kitchen," I whisper back.

"Don't you dare peek at the tree!"

"Me? Peek? No way! That would spoil the surprise."

Bill sits restlessly on the bottom stair as I creep into the kitchen. To read the clock on the stove, I have to flip the light on. I fumble for the switch on the wall.

I blink furiously as harsh light floods the room. It takes a moment to get my bearings. When I do, I realize that in walking toward the stove, I run the risk of seeing at least a silhouette of the Christmas tree and its spoils through the archway entrance to our dining room.

My hands become blinders as I approach the stove and peer at the hands on the dial.

"Five-thirty?" I groan. "They'll never want to get up this early!"

"Merry Christmas!"

"Dad!" I whirl around to see Mom and Dad, somewhat disheveled from sleep, standing in the kitchen doorway. Bill is peeking around them, grinning like the Cheshire cat.

"You woke them up, didn't you?" I point accusingly at my brother.

"Actually, no," Mom says. "You two have the loudest whispers I know!"

"Sorry," I say, blushing.

"Well, let me brew some coffee here and then we'll see if Santa came."

Worried storm clouds gather on Bill's face. I know exactly what he's thinking.

"Of course, he came!" I declare happily. "He wouldn't forget us, right, Bill?"

Sunny skies return.

With steaming cups of coffee at last in our parents' hands, it's time to begin (insert drum roll) "The Ritual of the Stockings"!

In our house, we always open them first. The difficult part is fetching them from the mantelpiece without catching a glimpse of the tree and what lies beneath it.

With our backs to the tree, Bill and I sidle along in the gloom. There is just enough illumination from a street lamp to make out our stockings' shadowy shapes.

Closer . . . closer . . .

Got 'em!

Full, heavy, bulging, the yarn of the socks stretched to absurd lengths.

Squealing and laughing, we hurry as fast as we dare in the dark. Straight to our parents' bedroom we go! There, plopped on the bed, in the warm and welcome glow of light, we unearth our Christmas treasures.

We take our time, savoring each toy, trinket, or goodie pulled from the stocking. As we do, my knee socks shrink and morph slowly back into their original shapes.

For a brief moment, they were magical vessels containing untold riches. Now, they are plain, old, navy, ordinary socks again.
What, for us, could be more ordinary than a sock? What, for Peter, could be any more ordinary than a fish?

Jesus challenges us to go beyond the ordinary, to see everything in this world with fresh perspective. With awareness. With appreciation.

He urges us to examine what is within, not just what is without.

He wants us to see the miracles all around us. All the time. In everything.

Behind the veil of "ordinary", great treasures await!

How can you look at ordinary objects and find the extraordinary?

Will you pray with me?
Grant us the vision, Father, to see beyond the ordinary. Let everything we see in creation remind us of the miracle behind each one. Help us to see others as extraordinary, remembering that we are all created in your image. Amen.

I am thankful for today's soft, gentle rain.

Psalms 101, 109:1-4 (5-19) 20-30 or 119:121-144
1 Maccabees 3:42-60
Revelation 21:9-21
Matthew 17:22-27


  1. Wonderfully said Martha. To look beyond superficiality.

  2. Hi, Janu!
    Thanks so much for being the first to stop by today.
    Yes, it is so easy for our eyes to dull at the miracles all around us. We always need to look deeper . . .

  3. Loved this sweet post.

    The way you led us from stockings to life is just wonderful.

    We also had soft gentle rain here and I'm very thankful.

    Joy always,

  4. Christmas gifts, Santa... and the myths.. all the myths of childhood, which our parents bring to life to make us happy... :) :)

    Everybody is a miracle... good or bad, we learn :)

    Merry Christmas Martha :)

  5. Thank you, Susan and PNA, for stopping by today!
    @Susan - So glad you enjoyed today's post. :) I had so much fun writing this one!
    @PNA - Yes, everyone is a miracle! Merry Christmas to you, too!

  6. What a warm and lovely narration that is! I am like fuzzy all over with the love in that evening of your life. There is something special in everything ordinary around us - its just that mere mortals like me fail to see what it is. I promise to make an extra effort though.

  7. Hi, Kriti,
    Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment. You made me feel warm and fuzzy! :)
    I know you will make the effort to see beyond the "ordinary" - it's something we all have to work at, but it is definitely possible.

  8. like this post , i remember a Christmas socking with a big Orange a snow globe that was a bare to get out of the sock. lol fun times god bless <3

  9. My mother had ours hand knit by a lady who made wonderful creations and like you, the stockings were always the way we started the morning. When the boys were born, she took to knitting them their own special socks so the tradition would continue. It's been quite a few years since we've done that now. (My sons are 24 and 28), but the memories linger. Great post!

  10. Hi, Roy and Jamie, thanks so much for stopping by today!
    @Roy - What a sweet memory! Thank you for sharing this with everyone. :)
    @Jamie - Hand-knit stockings - what a treat! It's so wonderful to know you kept this tradition going and have treasured memories.

    Blessings to you both! :)

  11. what a wonderful memory...

    thank you for sharing -- it most definitely brightened my day :)

  12. Hi, Amy!
    Thanks for stopping by today. It warms my heart to know your day was brightened by this. :)


  13. To behold the wonders all around us, we have to see through a child’s eyes.
    This is a WONDERFUL message Martha! Keeper :-)

  14. Great post Martha! The practice of mindfulness has helped me become aware of the treasures that God has blessed us with in each given moment. There's always so much more to discover..within and around!


  15. Hi, Debra and Jessica! So great to see you both here today!
    @Debra - Tomorrow's blog has even more about seeing with the eyes of a child. So glad you enjoyed this one! :)
    @Jessica - And may we never lose our curiosity, our questions, our longing to draw closer to Him!

    Blessings, as ever, to you both!

  16. Hello.
    This post brought back so many memories of when I was a child on Christmas mornings. Even though there was never much money, the house was always filled with much laughter, excitement & love. We were poor, but my mom & dad (when he was alive) brought us up to always be grateful for even the smallest things in life.

    A lovely post Martha.
    Thanks for sharing & visiting. I appreciate it.

    Cry Not For Me

  17. Hi, Andy!
    So pleased to know this brought back such happy memories for you. "Laughter, excitement & love" - that is the true meaning of Christmas! You may have been poor financially, but your parents gave you one of life's most valuable treasures - a grateful heart.
    Thanks so much for stopping by today!

  18. Martha, you have such a refreshing writing style! I love how you begin with a verse, move into a story, and then relate the two together. This was a wonderful post! I enjoyed my visit :)

  19. Hi, Mary, I am so glad you took the time to stop by today! More than that, I'm so heartened by the fact that you enjoyed it!
    In these daily devotions, I work ahead (way, ahead) with the readings from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.
    I read, and I pray for God to speak to me, to write what He wants. I know this is from whence refreshment flows!
    Unto me, unto you, unto us all. :)
    He is good, all the time!

    Blessings always!

  20. What a fun memory Martha! Seeing past the earthly world and enabling us to glance at the extraordinary is something that Christ brings to our heart when we open to Him.

    Great post!

    Have a Blessed Day!

  21. I love your closing prayer today, Martha, as well as the drama expressed in your Christmas morning memories. You do have a way with words (from one writer to another). Keep up the good work, my friend.

  22. I like the way you weaved a lesson to be learn't or an inspiration to be inspired into this cute story

  23. Great post Martha,I always like to read what you write,God bless u always.

  24. Thank you so much, everyone, for stopping by today!
    @Phather Phil - Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I believe the Lord wants us to "open the eyes of our hearts" in all we see each day. :)
    @Galer - so glad you liked the closing prayer! Thanks for the compliment, too.
    @Savira - Thanks for the encouragement; glad you enjoyed the story!
    @Alpana - Thanks for your encouraging words, too! So glad you enjoyed being here.

    Blessings to all!

  25. This wonderful post brought past vivid memories from my childhood when stockings were a must for Xmas. Money, toys, oranges, apples, etc filled the stockings to the brim but we usually left these until the larger gifts were opened lol. Erin always got a stocking and Cody will get one this year. Nice post!!

  26. Hi, David!
    I'm so glad you liked the post and that it brought beautiful memories to mind for you!
    When my children were little, we always hung stockings for our pets. They loved helping the "other children" open them and enjoy.
    Glad Erin had one and Cody will get one, too.
    Blessing always, my friend!


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