It was during the era of the Great Depression. Our family knew well what it meant to make do and survive on little. Our home had burned to the ground. As a little child of about three, I had sat in a high chair well away from the blaze as farm animals ran wildly about and roaring flames reduced our home and most of our possessions to ashes. For a time, our family was scattered. It took some weeks before we were all together again following the disaster.
Now, we were renting a farm home and the excitement of Christmas was in the air! Mother had prepared for our Christmas dinner and filled stockings for each child. Although in those days candy was a rare treat, as were oranges and nuts, mother had managed to get candy canes for hanging on the fragrant Christmas tree, fresh from the woods. When we children were in bed, she went to work, carefully decorating the tree for the next day. All the festive candy canes were hung on the pine tree branches ready to surprise her family on Christmas Day. Mother's long day of preparation was at last complete.
The next morning, we gathered about the Christmas tree in anticipation! But it was Mother who was surprised! There were no candy canes at all — every last one of them was gone!
This is the story that Mother told throughout the years, and the story still brings me a chuckle every time I think of it. You see, the thief in this instance was an enterprising brother who took advantage of the chimney hole just above the tree. Through that hole, he contrived to send down a wire with a hook fashioned to capture and lift the candy canes up into his bedroom! (Perhaps this was a sign of his later skill in mechanics).
I cannot recall the event myself, but this Christmas story adds much pleasure to my Christmas memories.
But there's another story that gives me the greatest joy of all. The memory of this story centres not only the Christmas season for me, but it centres the whole of my life and the lives of many others. It's the story of the birth of Christ our Saviour. Luke's telling of this story is so beautiful, especially in the King James Version. So many times through the years, I have read or heard read Chapter 2 as it begins: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed." It's the beginning of a story that many people have heard countless times throughout the years. We've heard it at Christmas concerts, church pulpits, and in our homes. It's the start of the wonderful story of how Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem to be taxed, and how the Baby Jesus was born there and was laid in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Then further on in the story, we read about the angel appearing to the shepherds in the fields with the message, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10b-11 KJV)
What a glorious message for every one in this whole wide world! We celebrate the birth of One who was born as an infant, just as we are born as infants. But this was a very special infant, who was sent by God to live among us, and bring us God's message of love and salvation. He was sent to live, and die for our sins, and rise again! In this fair and certain knowledge, we can rejoice! "Joy to the world, the Lord is come"!
Prayer: Giver of good gifts, we are so grateful for all the great Christmas memories. Some of those memories are tinged with sadness, and many are remembrances of happy times with loved ones. But casting a bright light around and over all of time is the story of the birth of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord, in whose name we pray with grateful thanks! Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "Away In A Manger" (Lyrics)