Every December, followers of Jesus enter a season of expecting and remembering the amazing gift of Immanuel, “God is with us.” No present tops this: God entrusting the future Savior to Mary and her husband Joseph. But we sometimes forget the reason for the season. Right? It’s such a hustle, bustle time: post Thanksgiving busyness, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, last minute details. Soon, sparkling gifts under the Christmas tree will draw lots of excitement. But after December 25 , my family will say they enjoyed their stocking stuffer gifts the most–miniature “love” expressions: a poem, a candy bar, a coupon for a back rub. I’m hoping the following six spiritual stocking stuffers will help you soar through the rest of 2015 and beyond. They are yours for the taking.
1. The first stocking stuffer is a “God Bless Our Home” magnet. Do you hear the Shopping Sirens beckoning you to give someone happiness with an object? Consumerism makes it more difficult to be grateful for what we already have. Think a little deeper about this magnet’s cliché. If we have food to eat, a furnace that works and shoes on our feet, these are gifts. Our homes may not be mansions, but the space is ours. The Ecclesiastes Wiseman declares, “Likewise, all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God” (Eccl. 5:19, NRSV).
2. Reaching into the Spiritual Stocking for gift number two, we pull out several “Small Framed Pictures,” tied in ribbons. Perhaps inside your stocking is a framed photo of a new family member– a baby who dazzles you as he is dazzled by his first Christmas lights. Or maybe, during this season, an engagement ring has been given, and suddenly in your stocking materializes that first snapshot of a stranger who will be there for future holidays. The Ecclesiastes preacher tells us, “As the saying goes, A rope made from three strands of cord is hard to break.” (4:12). In other words, there can be strength in numbers. These photographs can represent gifts from God. With his influence they will make your family stronger and more unique.
Maybe your framed pictures feature friends rather than family. In my former city, relationships ebbed and flowed quite frequently because of job transfers. Sometimes, just as friends became family, they moved away. I used to mourn these losses. Then I realized I was not trusting God’s will for others. During Advent, I review with gratitude those who have left and those who have arrived to make me a better person (“Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another,” Prov. 27:17).
3. The third stuffer is an “I Love My Work” button. The Ecclesiastes Wiseman declares that finding satisfaction in work is “the gift of God” (Ecc. 3:13). Some of us live with stressful jobs and difficult bosses/co-workers, but sometimes we rise to a place where our projects turn out so well we celebrate! Whenever you complete a job and realize, “This is good work,” then you have received a gift from God. Even the unemployed and shut-in can appropriate this stocking stuffer, because there are unique opportunities for “good works”: volunteering, praying for others, keeping a cheerful spirit, encouraging others.
4. The fourth stocking stuffer is a child’s drawing of flowers. What I like about this stuffer is that it illustrates an effort to pause and appreciate nature’s beauty. God has shown many of his invisible qualities in creation. I hope you savor sunrises and sunsets. Or, slip on your coat and view a sky filled with stars. Maybe, pause two minutes and watch a bird in flight or listen to its song. Nature lives under sin’s mark, but incredibly God’s gifts shine through. They’re free daily, just for the taking. The Psalmist puts it: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge” (19:1-2).
5. The fifth stocking stuffer is a “Shiny ornament shaped like a gift-wrapped box –Scripture states that each believer has received spiritual gifts from God. These gifts need attention to develop. The Apostle Paul encourages Timothy (and us) to “rekindle the gift of God that is within you” (II Tim. 1:6). Maybe it is time for prayer, reevaluation and action. Take your shiny, spiritual gifts out of the stocking and hang them on the tree for others and yourself to enjoy! Rekindle!
1. Jesus’ promised return is closer than it was last year. Hurray, evil will be vanquished!
2. This soldier reminds us who the real enemy is. Our God does not give us a spirit of fear but of love, power, and a sound mind. He provides gifts of armor to stand against anything that comes our way: belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes for gospel proclamation, the shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word (Eph. 6:10-18). Is it a season to reevaluate if you are fully using these gifts?
A lump of coal–If you are sad or angry this Christmas, you may feel the only spiritual stocking stuffer God has given you is a lump of coal. You may hate your job. Your home may have been wiped out by flood or fire. That new baby in your family is severely handicapped. Or, maybe someone dear to you is not with you this Christmas and your depression has colored everything in twilight limbo. I understand. I have had a Christmas or two when I doubted the trustworthiness of God based on hellish realities. My suggestions of spiritual stocking stuffers just won’t cut it.
But if you must hold that lump of coal, remember there is something for you this holiday: that “indescribable gift” hanging on God’s Christmas tree. From the present of a baby in a manger came a cross, a tomb, and a resurrection for you. In Him, you can survive this Christmas and have the assurance of wonderful gifts in the future. That coal will compress into a diamond, and someday you will enjoy spiritual stocking stuffers galore!