Satan turned his smoke-wreathed face toward his underling and sighed. “Christmas again!”

“People are rushing around like mad,” said Fireball. “Crushing each other in the stores. Kris Kringle is back in the windows. The trees are lighted. They’re singing carols, with now and again that song about a red-nosed reindeer. Kids are talking about toys. Business is booming. Any number of people are getting drunk.”

Satan shrugged. “The usual thing. Man has no imagination. His capability for duplication astounds me.”

“Millions are celebrating, Majesty. But most of them don’t know why, I’m happy to say.”

Satan nodded. “Things look well for us, I trust.”

“Rather, sir. I feel nothing is happening that threatens our cause.”

“Look. Ignore the gift-giving, the cork-popping, even the stable scenes in the yards, the lighted churches, and all that. Just make sure you keep them away from the real reason for celebration.”

“You mean,” said Spitfire, “don’t let them think about its being the Enemy’s birthday?”

The devil frowned. “Let them think about that, if they wish. Let them read Scripture and sing hymns. Even let them wax sentimental over the Lord’s visit to the earth. Just don’t let them dwell on why he did it!”

“You mean …”

“Allow them to talk about peace and joy and all that. Just get them away from that word ‘sin.’ They must feel that somehow there’s an incongruity between that word and the happy holidays. This shouldn’t be too hard. Men don’t like to think much about sin at any time, particularly not at Christmas.”

“Sin—that is why he came, isn’t it?” mused Fireball.

Satan nodded. “That’s why we’ve got to keep them away from that theme. Keep them singing, trimming trees, shopping, throwing parties, even having church services—but shoo them away ...

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