The Christmas decorations are going up – in fact, most of ours are already in place. Yesterday, we added finishing touches around the house and finally got the stockings up. But it was a bigger production than you may have imagined. To understand it, though, a little history may be in order.
Way back in the mid fifties, when Janet and I were very young, we both had Christmas stockings that had been handmade for each of us. Mine was made by my great aunt Lucille and has my name on one side and the year of my birth on the other. Janet’s is similar, but much larger than mine and was made by a friend of her paternal grandmother, with similar information – her name and the year of her birth. My brothers both have stockings and it was quite regular, back in the day, at least where we grew up, to have a handmade knit stocking.
Each Christmas, Mom and Dad would hang the stockings on little nails that stuck out of the front of the fireplace – first Dad, then Mom, me, Doug and finally our youngest brother, Ken – Christmas morning was always just the five of us in the nuclear family. I cherished those days and after Janet and I were married, we received our respective stockings from our families and started our own tradition for Christmas morning.
Similar to the way that we had been raised, when we finally had a home with a fireplace, we pounded little nails in the front of the mantle and hung our stockings in order – me, Janet, Kristin, Jill and Andrew. A woman who worked for us watching the kids, Mrs. Dankert, made a stocking for each of our children – and those stockings stay at our home and are still there for the kids each Christmas morning.
Fifteen years ago, when we decided to downsize, we changed the way we hung the Christmas stockings and started using cup hooks that were installed on the underside of the mantle. As the kids got married and had children of their own, the number of cup hooks grew and it got to the point that we left the hooks in all year long – kind of a subtle reminder of the unity of the family. When we finally purchased our current home (this will be our third Christmas here), we went with stocking hangers and decided against making holes in any of the fireplace mantles. But in all honesty, they didn’t work very well. Neither Janet nor I liked the way the stockings looked and we kind of missed the cup hook idea. It has become sort of a tradition. But I just wasn’t ready to drill a bunch of holes and go to the trouble of making our stocking display a little more permanent. Until yesterday…
We have a wonderful large room in our lower level for everyone to get together on Christmas morning – no matter how many people come over – and believe me, the kids, and their kids, don’t like to miss Christmas morning. By the way, our tradition is that everyone shows up in their sleepwear – pajamas, or a robe or whatever you feel really comfortable in for opening all the family gifts. Then, after the opening of the gifts, we have a brunch that has been the same for many years now – and it’s awesome… But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Back to the cup hooks… Last week, Janet and I went past the hardware store and got everything we need to install all the hooks for the collection of family stockings. I did all the measuring and we tried to decide how many hooks to install. That’s when it got complicated.
For the first time, I stopped thinking about the past and all the Christmases that Janet and I have spent together – the traditions and the way our family does things. Rather, I started thinking more about the future. The grandchildren are getting a little older – still a long way from getting married with families of their own, but we do have one teenager already and another one getting ready to become a teen on his next birthday.
And those of you who know me well realize that I tend to plan ahead. So I started thinking about the upcoming years and how many stockings we may eventually need for kids, grandchildren and even great grandchildren. I know this could get out of hand pretty quickly so Janet and I ended up with a compromise solution. We installed hooks for all the current members of the family and then drilled two additional holes for future additions to the family. And that still leaves us the sides of the mantle to use should we run out of space. Come to think of it, I have figured out a way to put in a second row of hooks so we should be good for another generation or more!
What struck me was how I dreamed about the future as I was drilling those two holes for future additions to the family. I mean I really thought about the years still down the road and how awesome our responsibility is to be good examples for future generations. That’s what Jesus wants us to do. It is our fervent hope that future members of our family will be followers of Jesus and believe in the power of God and the Holy Spirit.
Whoever joins the family and whenever it happens, they can be assured that the family thought about them, and prayed for them, long before it came to pass. Just like God and Jesus did for us. The verse for tonight is from Psalm 102:18, “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord…”
My encouragement tonight is that God already knows how our families will grow in the years to come. My prayer is that you will pray for and welcome new additions as God blesses your family. May you hang your stockings with love and care! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…