christmas2023It doesn't seem possible another Christmas has come and gone. They come and go so fast that I'm not sure I can keep up with all of this. Every year, our family has more people, which is never bad.

One thing we do is gather as a family around the Christmas tree and enjoy a wonderful time of fellowship. We will open our Christmas gifts together and just laugh at all of those gifts.

After the gifts are opened, we play a game called "Jingle Bells on the Tree."

What it is, The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage will get together a bunch of Jingle Bells. They will be different colors: blue, yellow, red and green.

This game is new to me, but with The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage, nothing seems to be new. Along with the colored Jingle Bells, there is a little box filled with tickets: each ticket has one of the four colors associated with the Jingle Bells.

The idea of the game is that the box with the little tickets is passed around, and everyone would have to pick a ticket. Now, the color of that ticket matches the color of one of the Jingle Bells.

If, for example, you pick a blue ticket, you would have to get up and go to the blue Jingle Bell and jingle it for at least one minute. While that was happening, everybody was clapping and singing, "Jingle Bells."

I'm not sure where she came up with that idea, but I never know where she comes up with any of her ideas. But everybody enjoys the little game.

As I was sitting there participating in the game, the kitchen table was behind me. On the kitchen table, I had my coffee. I occasionally took a sip and then put it back on the table. But, also on that table were several plates of Christmas cookies. These were the cookies that The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage had baked in anticipation of our Christmas gathering.

I never thought too much about it, but this year, just before everybody came for the Christmas dinner and celebration, The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage told me I could only have one cookie. As she said that, she handed me one cookie and then said, "This is your one cookie. Do you understand?"

Of course, I understood. I smiled and shook my head as I munched that delicious little cookie.

A thought began dancing in my head as we played the game. I love it when I have a thought, which, by the way, is very rare.

That thought had to do with the cookies on the table behind me. All the cookie plates were within reach because God gave me long arms. Now I know why I have such long arms.

How am I going to take advantage of this family game time? Nobody was paying attention to me; everybody was watching the person going up to ring the Jingle Bell on the tree.

I casually reached back, got my coffee, took a sip and returned the cup. When I did that, my thoughts began to crystallize.

It boils down to this: whenever someone picked a ticket and went up to the tree to ring the appropriate Jingle Bell, I could reach behind me and pick a cookie. Everybody was so focused on the game that nobody realized what I was doing.

I must confess I was smiling quite a bit because I was getting away with something, and I did not believe I would get caught.

I cheered the next person going up to ring the Jingle Bell as loud as I could get away with. Everybody was focused on that. While that was happening, my right arm reached behind me to collect the next cookie. I munched on that cookie while everybody laughed, clapped and sang Jingle Bells.

I have never enjoyed a family game as much as this one. I don't remember how many cookies I ate then, but I enjoyed every one.

Of course, there was that time when I had to pull my ticket, then go up, and ring the Jingle Bell, which cost me my next cookie. But I needed to keep the ruse moving to collect some more cookies.

Nobody makes better cookies than The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage. I tell her that all the time, and once in a while, she will give me a cookie when I say it. But only one.

Finally, the family time was over, and everybody had gone home. The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage and I sat in the living room smiling about our wonderful time. I looked at her and said, "We have a wonderful family and it was a great time tonight."

Looking at me, The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage said, "You did not eat any of the Christmas cookies tonight, did you?"

I was unsure what she knew, so I said, "I don't think I did."

Still looking at me, she said, "Then why do you have cookie crumbs in your mustache?"

When you're caught, you're caught.

Later, I thought of a Bible verse in Numbers 32:23, "…be sure your sin will find you out."

You will eventually be found out, no matter how careful you think you are. God knows everything, and we will be held accountable. The best advice is to be honest.

Rev James Snyder videoDr. James L. Snyder, is pastor of the Family of God Fellowship, 1471 Pine Road, Ocala, FL 34472. He lives with his wife in Silver Springs Shores. James is an award winning author whose books are available at

Call him at 352-687-4240 or e-mail [email protected]. The church web site is

Hello everyone!