The Box of Delights


One of my pleasures in anticipation of Christmas is to dip into the children’s story The Box of Delights by John Masefield.  I also like to watch the very fine BBC adaptation from the 1980s.  I just adored that series, as a school boy, and lived for each episode.  It tells the story of the young Kay Harker, home for the Christmas holidays, which turn out to be anything but dull.  He befriends an old Punch and Judy man called Cole Hawlings, who entrusts the magical box of delights to him.  When pressed to the left it can make you go swift, when pressed to the right can make you go small and within it are multiple wonders.


Not surprisingly some villains are after Cole Hawlings, because they want the box. This is why he entrusts it to Kay to make sure they don’t abuse its powers.  The master crook’s real name is Abner Brown, but he has a false persona as the Rev’d Dr Boddledale, principal of a theological college.


There are plenty of good and genuine clergy in the book (the possible start of a clerical vocation for me!) including the saintly bishop of Tatchester, who is so looking forward to the thousandth Christmas service to be held in Tachester cathedral. Out of sheer spite the wicked Abner Brown ‘scrobbles’ the bishop, the other  clergy and choir boys to stop the Christmas service.


To cut a very long story short Kay, with the aid of the box, ensures that good wins through and evil is routed. The book closes with the Christmas service being able to take place. On the very stroke of midnight the organ and a brass band struck up, ‘the Vestry door curtains fell back to each side and out came the great Cathedral crosses and blessed banners with all the Cathedral choir and clergy, voices lifted aloft in ‘O Come, all ye Faithful.’ Every space was packed ‘with faces: all there sang as they had never sung, the singing shook the whole building.’


Masefield by ending his book at the Christmas service clearly recognized that Christ should be joyously at the centre of our festivities. I also think that by filling so much wonder into that innocuous, but amazing box, he gave us a way of explaining why the birth of Jesus matters.


At Christmas we celebrate that the great God, creator and sustainer of all, steps down from his throne of glory and became a little child. He fitted himself into the box of the manger, as he became a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.  At the first Christmas the shepherds were lucky enough to grasp something of the glory of God among them, resting in the feeding box for the animals.


For those willing to look and listen today we may also ‘Come and adore Him’ too.



Posted By: valerie

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