Snakes and Families and Happy Ladders

Our White Christmas lowered the average age of the Christmas Day congregation considerably, as the snow kept many older regulars at home but not the younger and bolder ones who only visit from time to time. What was Christmas like in the days when we were young? asked Pastor Jim Beveridge, answering with Dylan Thomas’s description in “Conversation about Christmas.” *

“Snow was not only shaken in whitewash buckets down from the sky. I think it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees and settled on the postman opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunderstorm of white torn from Christmas cards.

“And the Church Bells? They rang their tidings over the bandaged village, over the frozen foam of the parks and ice-cream hills, over the crackling grass. And the Presents? There were the Useful Presents, – engulfing mufflers and mittens, made for giant sloths and balaclavas for victims of head-hunting tribes. And pictureless books and everything about the wasp – except why.

“And on Christmas Eve I hung at the foot of my bed Bessie Bunter’s black stocking, and always I would stay awake all the moonlight, snowlit night to hear the roof-alighting reindeer and see the hollied boot descend through soot. I was asleep before the chimney trembled and the room was red and white with Christmas.

“And in the stocking above, were there sweets? Of course there were sweets. There were marshmallows that squelched. Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glacies and marzipan and butterscotch. And troops of bright red soldiers, and Snakes and Families and Happy Ladders. And last of all, in the toe of the stocking, a silver sixpence.

“Why can’t our Christmas be the same for me as it was for you when you were young? , “I mustn’t tell you – I mustn’t tell you – because it is Christmas now,” he concludes.

So what MUST I tell you today, asked Pastor Jim. Hear the Word of God about the Child born on Christmas Day, and turning to another Book, he read from Isaiah chapter nine, verse two: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light ,those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” And then to verse six, “For to us a child is born, to us a child is given and the government will be upon his shoulder and his name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace”

Finally to Luke chapter one, verses 30 to 33: “And the angel said do not be afraid Mary, for God has been gracious to you. You shall conceive and bear a son and you shall give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will bear the title Son of the Most High – his reign shall never end.”

Pastor Jim closed with ‘a sort of parable,’ the story of a little girl who kept clamouring for attention when father wanted to read his paper. In the end he took a map of the world from the paper and tore it into small pieces. “Go into the other room and try to put this together.” In a very short while she was back with the map correctly in place.

“How did you manage to do that so quickly?” asked. her amazed father. She showed him that on the other side of the map had been a picture of Jesus. “When I got Jesus in His place, the world came out all right.”

Christmas is about getting Jesus in his rightful place in our lives, and keeping
Him there, so that our world and our lives come out all right.

* Appeared under the author’s name in an edition of Picture Post during 1947