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The Jesus Stocking- A Family Tradition of Unconventional Gifts

Greetings from the North Pole!

Ok, so I’m not really at the North Pole, but my family would argue our house does looks like a Hallmark Movie is being filmed here. (Sorry, not sorry.)

I can’t help myself. I mean, I can- I just don’t want to. I love all that glitters and gleams this time of year. Any remotely darkened corner of my home will find itself quickly strewn with a strand of lights. (No plug, no problem! Battery-powered lights have stepped up their game this year!)

I love to participate in giving gifts of presents and presence. I love hosting parties, welcoming travelers, and entertaining family and friends. By the looks of things, one might think I’m 100 percent Cindy-Lou-Who and zero percent Grinch. But here’s the reality: while I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m “grinchy,” Christmas can bring with it a Santa-sized bag of mixed emotions for me.

Can you relate?

Amidst the celebrating and gathering, the glitter and the glow, there is much that lays heavy on my heart. Loved ones struggling with addiction, illness, relational strife, the plight of those in need here and around the world. This time of year, I mourn the absence of those we’ve lost, and the sting of those who chose to walk away from relationship, wishing things could be different.

Of course, this isn’t something new this Christmas. For a long time now, along with all the joy that Christmas brings, I’ve wrestled with the sorrow it brings, as well. The absence of loved ones, the struggles of others, the goings on in our world that break my heart.

As a believer in the “Reason for Season,” reflecting on Jesus’ arrival on the scene and all his presence ushered in, helps me hold in tension the light and joy of Christmas with all the other emotions it brings. Especially in the years when the season finds me in the kind of grief that is so heavy, it threatens to pull me under.

I think that Christmas sometimes acts like a magnifying glass, along with amplifying hope and joy, comfort and peace, it amplifies all that we wish we could control but can’t. Expanding the reality of everything we wish was different. That’s why, several years ago, we started a tradition in our family- a means of tangibly doing something with whatever might be weighing us down this time of year.

Enter the Jesus Stocking.

An Unconventional Tradition

You see, for the past several years, the last ornament we place atop the tree, just under the Christmas star, is a small stocking with the Name above all names embellished in gold upon its cuff. Throughout the days leading up to Christmas, the stocking rests just below the glow of our star, reminding us that Hope has come. The stocking serves as an invitation to reflect on the joy of the season, and to remind us there is Someone invested in helping us through the hard things of life- the things that burden us. Maybe it’s a loss, or a relationship that’s on the wrong path, and we don’t know how to fix it. Perhaps it’s a place we feel stuck and see no way of getting ourselves out of the stuckness. Maybe it’s a behavior or belief we’re wrestling with and are worn out from the fight.

Whatever it is, on Christmas Eve, we write on a piece of paper the wrestlings, losses, and stuckness that we’re ready to lay down and offer them up to God by placing them in the Jesus stocking. This can be as private as we need it to be, or we can share it with the rest of the family.

Then, next year at Christmas, we dump out the stocking and each person finds their folded up, initialed piece of paper and looks back on the thing they offered to Jesus, reflecting on what’s happened over the past year. We open the floor anyone to share or not share- or to even place it back into the stocking if need be.

I realize these seem like odd “gifts” to offer up to God. Sort of feels like He’s getting the short end of the stick, right? I mean, I certainly felt that way at first. But here’s the thing: In God’s economy, everything is upside down. What feels lost is found, what feels unredeemable is redeemed. And the pieces we call broken and unwanted are precisely what He wants. Why? Because when we are willing to give these “gifts” to Him, what we’re really giving Him is our trust. Our belief that He is for us. That we matter to Him. And when He says He wants us to give Him what weighs us down, He means it.

What the Research Says

Moreover, there is research that points to the power of spiritual practices like the one my family and I engage in each Christmas. Dr. Marilyn Schlitz of Harvard University states, “It's clear from the correlational studies within the epidemiology data that positive relationships exist between religious and spiritual practice and health outcomes on a variety of different conditions.” These conditions include (but are not limited to), depression, anxiety, immune function, recovery times, and more.

But the benefits go beyond our spiritual wellbeing. From a therapeutic perspective, the idea of writing things down to release them has solid research to back it up. According to the work and research of Dr. James Pennebaker, expelling what we’re struggling with onto paper has a myriad of benefits such as suppressing negative, trauma-related thoughts that can compromise immune functioning, better sleep, a greater capacity for positive experience and expression of emotions, as well as research that found those who write down what’s bothering them tend to visit the doctor less often.

Writing, combined with the spiritual act of offering these “gifts” to Jesus, works so well because it is in line with how we’re created for healing, growth, and change. Not to mention the inspiration this practice gives us to offer up other gifts too.

Making the Tradition Your Own

Over the years, the tradition has morphed into an opportunity to not only set down the weight of hard things we’re carrying, but also as a means of offering up anything else we want to give to God. A commitment to be kinder to others and ourselves. A promise to be more generous, to end a destructive habit, begin a devotional practice- whatever you want to place into the stocking. The sky is the limit!

I realize it can feel risky to dive deeper into trusting God, especially when there are those who’ve perhaps given the impression that trusting in Him means everything will go right all the time. The reality is that sometimes, trusting in God might not mean that our situation changes. But it does mean that we will be changed, by His perfect love for us- despite how imperfect our circumstances may be.

While we may all be in a different place on our journey of faith, I can think of no better time than Christmas to take a step closer to Him, to explore the truth of His love and compassion for you. Christmas is a time to remember that Love came down to rescue you and me. He can be trusted. Let Him carry the weight. And let Him carry you, too.

Merry Christmas, my friend. I pray blessings of light and love in your life this Christmas Season and beyond.

We're excited to connect with you in the coming year! There are some great things coming in 2023 and I look forward to you all being a part of it. As always, if there's a topic you want to see covered or a resource need, please reach out to

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