Rev. Katherine Bell, Ph.D., D.D.
How many times did you hear, “Be good or Santa Claus will put coal in your stocking?” It was a threat and a foretelling of what could happen on Christmas day–the grief of no presents while everyone else laughed and embellished in their toys. Being a good little girl or boy, then, became the unsurmountable chore.
I would look for Santa, hoping he would peer into the window and see I was being good. I swept the kitchen or tried to bring coffee to my mom while she was in bed. I said “please” and “thank you.” Then suddenly, my younger sister or brother brought me to the brat stage and I argued, punched or prodded them into doing something bad.
Trying to be good, just for Santa, just for presents, just for a day of joy, was the hardest reality I faced. Being good was not happening. Oh, truly, I was the “Kathy, goody-two-shoes,” to most of my family and friends. But really, I never thought I could be as good as the angels, as good as the Priest, as good as the nuns, as good as Jesus, as good as the Holy Mother…….as good as God.
The dreaded coal was what I waited for, expected to get and went to bed on Christmas eve with tears of anticipation of what my stocking would hold. I hadn’t been good enough. I hadn’t been sacred enough. But what, what was I to expect?
Okay, Christmas day came and went and I never got the coal in my stockings. Year after year the stockings were filled with candy and tiny gifts. Under the tree were delightful presents. Christmas day was filled with family fun and laughter, a large dinner and more family. Some years were different than others. But, I never, ever, ever got coal.
Well, perhaps I did and didn’t know it. Over the years, in science classes before college, and other stories, I learned that coal, when tempered releases a diamond. Though today it is widely known by geologists, this is not true. Diamonds existed before coal and are often found after a volcanic eruption that brings the diamonds up from a very deep part of Earth. Diamond mines exist and minors must go deep into a dark mine to retrieve them, but not out of coal. However, based on the first teaching that diamonds come from coal, I realized a greater gift in having coal left in my stocking or in my imagination.
Coal is used to create heat, electricity and more. Heat is the essence that gives rise in our ability to feel the inner self move us along in our life journey. Electricity gives us the jolt of light to take action and with the Leap of Faith, move forward. If using the thought that coal, when transformed can bring about a diamond, then perhaps having some in my Christmas stocking was really good.
This idea of moving from the coal to a diamond, or from coal to heat and electricity has held me captive in a most positive way. For within this gesture is a true gift. The coal, black in color and not at all translucent, represents our Raw self. Uncultured, unaware, and unsure, our raw self sets out in our life to experience many adventures. Some fantastic experiences are most challenging, but always rewarding. We may fight with the struggles of being a good person and a faulty person. However, over time, and with determination to grow, we advance into the person that we are. We move beyond our limitations and our fears of unworthiness. We reveal confidence and courage. We turn to help others. We teach and reveal by our life and our actions. We are the diamond in the rough and are polished by our life. We are the coal that heats our desires and the electricity that spurs our nature to leap and experience life well beyond our fears.
This Christmas, look for that Coal in your Stocking and set it in a place of honor. You deserve it. You are the Light that Emits from it and your life-journeys prove it. Your Coal represents the Diamond you truly are.
Merry Holidays, no matter what you honor during this season. May blessings follow you all year long.