We look askance at our modern, enlightened school system that has clinically and cynically removed carols, creches and the wonderful narrative of Jesus from its classrooms. It is almost as if it was Santa Claus who arrived by the virgin birth!
Back in my war-time school days it was not so. Could it be that the ever present threat of annihilation by bombs and V2 rockets brought the need of God's care and protection into daily focus in our lives? I think so.
There was never any problem with celebrating Christmas in my Junior school of Poppleton Road in York.
We were thankful that the vast hole that had been blown in our school's middle structure was repaired and now, one year later, in 1944 we sang carols lustily to the excellent conducting of Miss Christine Wisley. Furthermore, that year I was given a stuffed lamb to hold in our school nativity play. Christmas decorations were everywhere, bunting, tinsel and tiny painted bells. Their bright lights defiantly shone into the darkness of the gloomy years of war.
And lo, wise men came bearing gifts from the nearby American Air base. A small bag of sugar and cocoa, a shiny red apple and, best of all, a packet of chewing gum. We were warned by our teacher not to chew that gum before we left her classroom. Our school photo had been taken the previous week and I was given mine to take home to my proud parents. While looking at the handsome young man in his grey shirt and sweater I absently mindedly stretched out my american chewing gum from my lips which promptly stuck over the nose and left eye of my portrait. I never forgot that Christmas. I had a black and white photo with a smear across the face and memories of a stinging cane across my fingers with Merry Christmas from Miss Gibson.