The Bishop’s Empty Stocking

One of the favorite traditions of the season is the hanging of the Christmas stocking.  If you had a fireplace, the mantle served very well since the decorated tree would be nearby for the jolly old elf to slide down, deposit his bag of gifts and jet up the chimney to the waiting reindeer.

Of course as children we never thought about all the chimney soot that Santa collected that night.  Perhaps, Mrs. Claus had a few choice words for the weary traveller when he returned home about how difficult it was to clean that magical suit.

Unfortunately, the above mental sleigh rides of fantasy paint a snow-tinted bay window of abundance on Christmas morning.  For many their cornucopia on Christmas morning is empty without hopes and dreams since Santa did not come to visit them the night before on his global trek.

Their empty stockings are not hung on a mantle.  If they are fortunate, their socks are well worn but not holey.


In the delightful 1947 film THE BISHOP’S WIFE an angel comes to earth to teach some residents the true meaning of Christmas.  The Bishop is raising money to build a great cathedral, but in his obsession he neglects his family and compromises his principles.

It takes an angel to teach him what the essentials of life and the season are.  The Bishop finishes his Christmas’ Eve sermon and sets out to woo the rich patron who could build a number of cathedrals from her inherited wealth which she earned by marrying for money not true love.  Of course she has an angelic visit to remind her of life’s true joys and what love is.

When the Bishop shows up at her mansion, she gleefully announces that she is using her wealth to help the poor.  His dreams of a magnificent cathedral to dominate the town’s skyline are dashed to the ground like an icicle broken off by a rocky snowball.

Later that night as he mounts the lectern, he looks at his well crafted sermon to find it totally eradicated and in its place the words of an angel.  The succinct sermon simply and elegantly reads

Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.

Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts.

But especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe. For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It’s his birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that.

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.



Perhaps, in the pure essence, the ousia (οὐσία) of reality, the message of Christmas in its empyreal magnificence is to fill the empty stockings of those within your sphere of influence.  Life down the street from your Fifth Avenue may be treeless this Christmas.  Add some sparkle and cheer for its denizens.

Remember Ebenezer Scrooge on that London Christmas morning, but do not wait until Christmas morning to touch the lives of those around you.  Reach out and share your beneficence.  Let no empty stockings be found.

In the words of Tiny Tim, “And God bless us everyone!

G. D. Williams       © 2012

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