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The Missing Stocking

Suddenly I felt my cheeks turn red with embarrassment. How could I have never noticed? Every Christmas my mother enjoyed creating special memories and traditions for her family. Mom loved Christmas -- the shopping, baking, decorating, music, gifts... even the hustle and bustle the season brings. Her enthusiasm was contagious and that encouraged my brother, sister, and me to experience the joy and wonder of Christmas. Although Santa came to our home, we were taught that the real reason for the season was to celebrate the birth of our Messiah -- Jesus Christ.

Many years have passed since I was a child. Yet I can still smell the aroma of Mom's sugar cookies baking, as she prepared a special treat for her family and for Santa. These delicacies were a sure sign that Christmas Day was near. On Christmas Eve my mother laid all our stockings under the beautifully decorated pine tree my father had picked out and cut down in the forest. Later, in the middle of the night, Santa filled the stockings.

The next morning we excitedly opened our gifts, leaving our Christmas stockings for last. Santa always stuffed our stockings full of tiny toys, trinkets, nuts, oranges, apples, and colorful hard candies in various shapes, sizes, and flavors. In my twenties, I went Christmas shopping with a friend. She began looking for a small gift to place in her mother's stocking.

"You fix a Christmas stocking for your mother?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied. "Every year I fill a stocking with little goodies and have it waiting for her on Christmas morning. I couldn't bear for my mother to not have a Christmas stocking, especially since she prepares one for everyone else." That's when I felt my cheeks flush with embarrassment. I realized my mother had not had a Christmas stocking for as long as I remembered. And, even worse, no one had noticed her stocking was missing. My sister and I determined to start a tradition of our own that year. Excited, we bought jewelry, candy, socks, and an orange. We placed them in a small, red stocking. Christmas morning we snuck it under the tree while Mom was busy preparing breakfast. Eagerly we waited to see Mom's reaction. She passed out everyone's stockings; then noticed an extra one. She picked up the stocking and read the tag: 'To Betty Ann — Love, Santa."

Amazement crossed her face. "Is this stocking really for me?" We smiled and nodded. Tears glistened in Mom's eyes. "It's been so long... since I've had a Christmas stocking," she said. 'Thank you."

Though I don't remember the gifts I received that year, I have never forgotten how thrilled my mother was to receive a simple, red stocking. Seeing her reaction was the most precious gift of all. And once again, she taught me about the joy and wonder of Christmas... that it is indeed more blessed to give than to receive.

-- selected

For His Cause,
Tim Woodward