The story recounted below was first told by the late, great conservative broadcaster, Paul Harvey, in the early 1980s. It has been retold by countless others, many referring to it as ‘The Parable of the Birds.’
But it has been years since I have heard or seen it. So maybe it’s time that it be retold yet again to a new generation that may not have heard it. I simply call it ‘A Modern Christmas Tale.’
One Christmas Eve in rural Minnesota a family was getting ready to attend the special holiday service at the church nearby. The man of the house, a farmer and businessman, poured himself a drink and relaxed by the fire, bidding his family farewell as they left for church.
You see, this man was like so many in the modern world. He wondered about spiritual matters, but he simply could not grasp this Christmas stuff…the ‘God became a man’ message and all that goes with it. It wasn’t that he was anti-Christian or that he begrudged his family going to church for Christmas. If others could buy into the ancient story, then well and good. But it wasn’t for him.
As the darkness fell he noticed the weather growing much colder, as was usual for Minnesota in winter. He put more logs on the fire and warmed himself. When he turned around he noticed, through the large sliding glass doors, that it had begun to snow. He said to himself, “Ah, this is Christmas to me. A good drink. A warm fire. And beautiful snow.”
Suddenly he noticed that a flock of birds flew overhead and settled in the yard between the house and the barn. It was clear they were seeking shelter from the cold and the snow. One by one, the birds began to fly into the glass windows of the sliding doors, attempting to get into the house. But to no avail.
Feeling sympathetic toward the plight of the birds, he put on his hat and coat, and went outside to the barn. He turned on all of the lights so it would be warmer and opened up the doors to the barn so that the birds could come in and find shelter.
But the birds were clearly afraid of the man, and they would not come near him. He tried to woo them in. No luck. He tried scaring them inside. Still, no success. They simply did not trust the man enough to take advantage of the shelter he had provided.
He began to think. “How could I possibly get these birds inside that barn? How could I make them trust me? Mmmm. Maybe if could only become a bird, be like them, be one of them, I could show them the way inside the warmth of the barn, and they would not be afraid. If only I could become a bird….”
Just then the church bells in a distance began to play, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful.’
And then, suddenly, as if his eyes were opened from a long, deep sleep, he understood. God became a man so that we would not be afraid, so that we could trust, so that we would accept the comfort and warmth God had provided.
And he fell to his knees in the snow.
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