The Christmas Stockings
It Is Well to Remember the Poor at Christmas, but it is Infinitely Better to Be a True Friend Every Day.
THE LESSON—That the true Christmas spirit is that which causes us to remember the needy always, whether their need be for the necessities of life or for the love of a real friend.
Too many of us are inclined to shower our gifts and our good wishes upon the needy at the glad Christmas season, and then neglect this great field of service throughout another twelve-month period.
"As we go out upon the street today everybody seems to be happy and full of laughter and good cheer. People who usually pass us by without speaking at all or who merely nod without as much as a smile, act today as if they knew us very well; they smile real widely and say 'Merry Christmas!' just as heartily as they know how, and we respond to the greeting with a 'Same to you!' with an inner feeling of friendliness that somehow surprises us. It is a time when nearly every heart is warmed, and we find our greatest joy in seeing how happy we can make other folks. In every home where children are to be found—and there the Christmas spirit is the merriest—we see the stocking all hung in a row, and we are just as anxious to fill them as the owners are to have them filled. [Draw the three stockings, completing Fig. 9.]
"Here they are. And when Susie and Johnnie and little Bob come scrambling downstairs on Christmas morning their eyes sparkle with delight and our hearts warm with Christmas gladness as we join in their merriment.
"But there are other homes. And other stockings—stockings not so warm, not so good—stockings that are darned and patched and worn like this. [With broad side of black crayon change the stockings of Fig. 9 to resemble those of Fig. 10.] In the atmosphere of Christmas joy in our own comfortable homes, do we sometimes over-look the boys and girls in the poorer homes who won't have much of a Christmas unless we fill these poor, patched little stockings with gifts to show that someone cares? I don't believe there is a boy or a girl here who is selfish enough to refuse to do such a little thing to bring a glad Christmas into a poor home. All we need is to be told where to go and what to do. [Doubtless you will have planned a way for the children to give remembrances to the poor; this may be presented in a word at this time, reserving the details for the close.]
"'At Christmastide the open hand
Scatters its bounties o'er sea and land;
And none are left to grieve alone,
For Love is Heaven and claims its own.'
"Truly, the Christmas spirit is upon us today. But stop—! Will it vanish tomorrow? Will we forget to be kind to those about us next week, next month, next summer? Will we forget that these same little worn, patched stockings are there in the same needy homes, and that the boys and girls may need our friendship and help more when it is summer than they do now when so many willing hands are extended to help them?
"I hope we shall not forget. Let us remember that the best gifts, ofttimes, are not those which we can see and touch. The truest gifts are those of love and companionship and service—the same fellowship which Jesus gave to the poor when he was among men. It seems as if His heart always went out to those in need, and He helped them, not with gifts which fade and wear out and are soon cast aside, but with words and deeds which told them that He would be a true friend even to the end of the world. 'Christianity,' says Henry Drummond, 'wants nothing so much as sunny people, and the old are hungering more for love than for bread. The Oil of Joy is very cheap, and if you can help the poor with the Garment of Praise, it will be better than blankets." Dr. Henry D. Chapin expresses the same thought when he says, 'The cry of the ages is more for fraternity than for charity. If one exists, the other will follow, or, better still, will not be needed.'
"Says J. R. Miller, 'Wanting to have a friend is altogether different from wanting to be a friend. The former is mere natural human craving. The latter is the life of Christ in the soul.'
"At no better time than today can we choose to plant again the seed of true friendship in our hearts. Let us cultivate it and nurture it until it blooms forth into friendship for everyone who may be helped by the love of Christ through us."
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