Tag Archive | "The Bishop’s Wife"

The Empty Stocking

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This is the time of year when broadcast television – both network and cable – besieges its viewers with sentimental Holiday movies.  During this season, many people – myself included – look forward to watching classic Christmas films, films like A Christmas Carole, Miracle on 34th Street, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

All of these films instruct us that “good” ultimately triumphs over “evil,” that the lives of each of us – no matter how poor or lowly – have value in our world, and that through belief our dreams can and will come true.  With angelic choir voices swelling to a crescendo, these films provide the “Hollywood endings” that can make even the most hard-hearted Scrooge teary-eyed.

If only this was how the world actually operated, it would be a “wonderful life.”  But, such is not the case.  Our world is a cruel and largely heartless place driven by greed and self-interest.  Those who have much often want more, regardless of potential detrimental effects upon others.

Large segments of the population in much of the world live in dire poverty.  In the industrialized nations, hunger and homelessness persist despite the “high standard of living” boasted by their societies and governments.  In the United States, the middle class, decimated by job losses and falling property values, teeters on the brink of poverty as millions of American families face this Holiday Season burdened by the prospects of impending home foreclosures in the New Year: a Merry Christmas indeed!

For those of you who do care (and I believe that most people fall into this category) and are solvent, financially secure, and preparing to celebrate this year’s Holidays, you likely believe that there is nothing that you can do to help, that you as an individual surely cannot solve the problems of mankind.  And, if you feel this way, you certainly are correct.

Yet, if each of us takes care of only ourselves and our families, the problem of those who cannot care for themselves persists and grows – as it has for the millennia that mankind has held sovereignty over the Earth.  The problem, I believe, is one of perception and attitude.  Since the scale of the problem is so overwhelming, we each as individuals feel powerless.  Thus, we pacify our sense of responsibility with whatever charitable work we perform or contributions we make.  But, I believe that each of us can do more.

For inspiration, I draw from yet another, albeit less well-known, Holiday classic motion picture, The Bishop’s Wife.  For those of you unfamiliar with the movie’s plot, the film begins with a bishop praying for Divine guidance regarding the troubled building of a new cathedral.  The guidance he receives from an angel dispatched to assist him, however, has a much deeper personal meaning than securing funding for his project.

At the very end of the film, almost as an afterthought, is appended a sermon about the real meaning of Christmas and of life itself.  Its thoughts, I believe, represent a pearl of wisdom of incalculable value.

“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.”


If many were to read this sermon, take it to heart, and put it into action in their lives, we might all witness many more “Hollywood endings” in the world around us.

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