Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Why Christmas? The Parable of the Birds

This is a story, author unknown, that Paul Harvey tells every year. Our rector, Martyn Minns, retells it in the current TFN:

He was a kind man; he was not a Scrooge. He was a decent and mostly good man. He was loving to his family and upright in his dealings with other people. The problem was that he simply did not believe the nonsense that people talked at Christmas time—all this business about God becoming a baby, born in a manger, he was too honest to pretend otherwise.

He just could not swallow the Christmas Story. Why would God ever want to become a human being?

“I really am sorry to disappoint you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going to church with you and the children on Christmas Eve. I would feel like a hypocrite.” But he told his family that he was happy for them to go if they liked, and he would wait up for them. And so he stayed home that Christmas Eve while his family went to the midnight service without him.

Snow had been falling all evening. shortly after the family drove off, the man went to the window. The flurries were becoming heavier, and it looked as if the temperature were dropping, he noted to himself. Then he went to his fireside chair and settled in to read the newspaper.

Minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound, and then another, and then another. At first he thought that someone was throwing something against the window, but when he went to the door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the snowstorm, and in the desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his large picture window.

“I can’t let the poor creatures just lie there and freeze,” he thought. Pausing for a moment, he considered what to do. He remembered the barn where his children kept their pony. That would provide a warm shelter if he could manage to direct the birds into it. Quickly he put on his coat and boots and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. There he opened the doors wide and turned on the light.

But the birds did not move. They would not come into the barn. Another man at this stage might have left the birds
to their plight, figuring he had done what he could. He had made the shelter available; if the birds did not want it, that was not his concern. But this was a man of genuine compassion, and so he paused again to consider the problem.

“Perhaps food would entice them to come in,” he thought. Hurrying back to the house, he gathered up some scraps.

Outdoors again, he sprinkled the crumbs in the snow, making a trail to the open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds in their distress ignored the scraps and continued to flutter around helplessly.

Frustrated, the man tried catching them, but that didn’t work either. He tried to shoo them into the barn by dancing around them and waving his arms. But instead, the birds just scattered in every direction, except into the warm stable.

Suddenly the essence of his dilemma grasped him: he wanted to help them, but the birds were too senseless to understand.

They did not even know what they needed, much less that he was there to help them. “To them,” he thought, “I am just a strange, terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me; that I only want to help them.”

But how? Any move he made only frightened and confused them more. They were dying, but still they would not follow and take his direction. With no awareness of what was coming, he said to himself, “If only I could become a bird, I could join them there in the snow and speak their language and tell them not to be afraid and show them the way.”

He paused, with the darkness and the falling snow hiding the uncertain look that crept across his face. Then he continued, more slowly, “But that would mean I would have to become one of them, so that they could see and understand...”

At that moment, the church bells began to ring. The music of Christmas reached the man’s ears above the sound of the wind, and he stood, motionless, straining to hear, frozen, not by the cold, but by something else. As the bells pealed the Good News of Christ’s birth, the man sank to his knees in the snow.

No comments:

Post a Comment