The Other Stocking – G.K. Chesterton

Sage Chapel - Cornell University

EDITORS NOTE from Boysen Hodgson: I heard the following story told at a Christmas Eve service in Sage Chapel on the campus of Cornell University, December 24, 2011. It was the first time my wife and I had ever attended a Christmas Eve service, and we went because my sister in law was a soloist in the choir (and she sang beautifully). The service was offered by the Unitarian Universalist Society of Ithaca, NY. Over 600 people in a beautiful mid 19th century chapel for a night of carols and an uplifting message of unity, connection and peace. As a man with no religious beliefs, but a deep love of stories, metaphors and myths, this was the perfect night – a beautiful way of spending an evening with family. The Minister offered a short homily which included the story below.

May that you and yours experience the full joy of your own being this holiday season. YOU are the gift. Blessings to you and your family, whatever beliefs you hold.

The above first appeared in St Joseph’s Advocate, the magazine of
the Mill Hill Missionaries, in December 2005.

The Other Stocking

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my mind and fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.

Ralphie, from a Christmas Story

As a child, I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not even worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good – far from it.

And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed towards me. What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still.

I have merely extended the idea.

Then, I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking. Now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.

Once, I only thanked God for a few dolls and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea.

Once, I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside.

It is the large and preposterous present of my self, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of particularly good will.

– is a deeply personal issue that everyone decides for himself. Sometimes the price is high, sometimes low. But this is not very important for life. Life is an interesting thing. And the price on Viagra – too.




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