It was Christmas Eve. The whole day a cold wind had been blowing and now it had started to snow. Thousands – millions – of snowflakes came out of the sky and slowly covered the little village where Farmer Dyhema lived. They covered his fields, already plowed up for the next sowing; they covered his huge barns, full of hay or corn; they covered the yard, the big stable, and the house.
Old Farmer Dyhema had seen the snow coming down. He was sitting near the open fire in his easy chair. He liked the snow on his fields. It will make a better harvest next year, he thought. It was nice and warm in his room. On the table stood a chessboard. All the chessmen stood in their right places, four rows on the white and black squares of the board. Dyhema liked playing chess. He was waiting for the minister. Every Sunday evening the minister came to play chess with the old farmer, and also at Christmastime. He would come tonight. Oh, yes, Dyhema liked the game. He always won. There was nobody in the village who could play as well as he could. There was nobody in the village who was as rich as he was. He was the best farmer, the richest farmer, the best chess player; and he was honest and righteous, too. He lived alone with his servants. His wife had died years ago. But this Christmas he was not thinking of his wife. He was always alone, thinking about himself. How good the harvest had been this year! What an important man he was in the village! When he walked through the streets they took their hats off as he passed. When somebody needed help – he gave it. When somebody needed work – he gave it. If anybody needed money – he lent it.
Suddenly the door opened. A servant came in. “It is rather late, Dyhema. Shall I keep the Christmas tart hot in the oven?”
Dyhema looked at the clock. “The minister is late,” he said. “Yes, keep the tart hot.”
The servant, moving toward the doorway, said, “I am afraid the minister will not come. The snow is very deep.”
Dyhema looked cross, but he only said, “I can wait.”
When the servant had gone, Dyhema stood up and looked out of the window. “Dear me, what a lot of snow,” he said. “I am sure the minister will not come. The snow is very deep.” Dyhema looked at the chessboard with longing eyes.
But somebody was coming! The Christ Child!
The whole day the Christ Child had been very busy. Christmas is his time, for then the hearts of people open, and that is what the Christ Child needs: open hearts. People think of their youth, how nice Christmas was at home. They think about their lives, and how things have turned out wrong. They long to change, to start anew. Then the Christ Child comes.
The whole day the Christ Child had been very busy. One thing had still to be done: to go to the old farmer, Dyhema. When God had told him that, he had said, “But his heart is not at all open.” But God had only said, “Go. It has been closed and hard for too long. It is time now.”
As the Christ Child was walking through the snow, he thought this over. What could he do? But when God says, “It is time,” then it is time. And so at once the Christ Child was in the room of the old farmer. Nobody had heard him coming; nobody had seen him, but suddenly he was there. “Good evening, Dyhema,” he said, in his beautiful voice.
Dyhema looked, and looked again. “Who are you, little boy, and how did you come in?”
The Christ Child sat down on a chair, opposite Dyhema, near the fire.
“I am the Christ Child.”
“The Christ Child? So. What do you need?”
“I only want to talk to you.”
“There is nothing to talk about. I did everything a man can do. I gave five hundred guilders for the Christmas celebration in the church.”
“I know,” said the Christ Child, “and two hundred and fifty guilders for the Sunday School celebration.”
“Yes,” said the farmer again, “and five hundred guilders for the poor people in the village; and wherever there are sick people, I send my servants to bring them a parcel.”