We had a wonderful little Christmas morning tradition in our home. At some point, after all of us had gone to sleep, Mom quietly came into our bedrooms and put a very stuffed Christmas stocking at the end of our beds. There were little toys and candies in there, sometimes socks and chapstick, often a book or two. All of the things you stuff in a stocking. Now, what it did for Mom and Dad was give them extra time to sleep … or to finish whatever they needed to prepare in the living room. We knew we couldn’t get up until seven, so this kept us busy.
Even as we grew older, Mom kept up the tradition. I think that we always expected it to end, but were joyously surprised to find the stocking at the end of our bed.
In a short little side story, I must tell you about the morning we woke up to immense Hershey bars at the bottom of the stocking. I don’t know where Mom found them, but they were bigger than anything we’d ever seen – my memory was that they were 1 lb. bars, but that seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? Now, most children would take a bite or two and move on, but not little Carolissima (Dad’s name for her when she was too sweet for words). Carol ate nearly the entire thing – thrilled to have chocolate and no adult supervision.
That Christmas was the end of large chocolate bars in our Christmas stockings. Poor Carol quickly grew more and more miserable and before we had even gotten through the gifts, was in the bathroom, ridding her body of chocolate overload.
This short little series would not be complete without the story of Jesus’ birth. Throughout the month of December, I heard it over and over. Mom wrote and re-wrote a narrative for the children’s program, using the words of Matthew and Luke to tell the story; Dad used it as the basis for his sermons; it was part of everything around us; and on Christmas morning, before anything else (except the Christmas stockings), we sat quietly while someone read these words.
(PS, the Nativity in the picture was sculpted by Mom with clay she dug here at Bells Dell.)
The Birth of Jesus
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.
— Matthew 1:18-25
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
— Luke 2:1-20
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
— Matthew 2:1-12