In The Bishop’s Wife, a 1947 film starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven, young Niven plays the role of Bishop Henry Brougham, a clergyman with the vision to build a new cathedral, but who is so distracted by his mission that he neglects his wife and family. After recognizing his folly with the help an angel (Grant), the reformed bishop delivers this sermon on Christmas Eve:
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, 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 could do with a new pipe.
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 are celebrating. Don’t ever let us 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 the stretched out hand of tolerance—all the shining gifts that make peace on earth.
I encourage each one of you (and I am including myself) to think of an intangible gift that you can give our Savior in the weeks leading up to Christmas, some private act or series of acts that will bless the life of another and bless your own while you are at it.
Let’s not leave His stocking empty this year. I promise that as you do so, you will draw closer to the Lord, which to be sure is the real hope and purpose of Christmas.
Thanks to Chris C. for sharing this sermon with me. It has enriched my week.