man I'm talking about was not a scrooge,1
now. He was a kind, a decent, a mostly good man; generous to his family and
upright in his dealings with other men. But he just did not believe in all of that
Incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas time. It just did
make sense, and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He could not swallow
the Jesus story about God coming to Earth as a man.
told his wife, "I’m truly sorry to distress you, but I’m just not going with you to church this Christmas Eve." He said he’d
feel like a hypocrite, that he’d much rather just stay home, but that he
would wait up for them. So he stayed, and they went to the midnight service.
shortly after the family drove away in the car,
snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier
and heavier. Then he went back to his fireside chair and began to read his
Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound;
and then another; then, yet another. At first he thought somebody must be
throwing snowballs against the living room window. But when he went to the front
door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled out there, miserably, in the snow.
They had been caught in the storm. In a desperate search for shelter, they had
tried to fly through his large landscape window. That was what had been making
Well, he couldn’t let those poor creatures
just lie there and freeze. So, he remembered
the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm
shelter. All he would have to do is direct the birds into that shelter. Quickly, he put on a coat
and galoshes, and he tramped
through the deepening snow to the barn. And he opened the doors wide. And inside
the barn, he turned on a
light so the birds would know the way in.
the birds did not come in.
he figured that food would entice them. He went back into the house and
fetched bread crumbs and sprinkled those on the snow,
making a trail of bread crumbs to the yellow-lighted, wide open doorway of the stable. But to his
dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs. The birds just continued to flop around
helplessly in the snow.
He tried catching them -- he could not. He tried shooing
them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms, but instead they scattered in every
direction -- every direction except into the warm, lighted barn. And that's when he realized that they were afraid of
were afraid of him.
To [them], he reasoned, I'm a strange, terrifying creature. If only I
could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me, that I'm not
trying to hurt them but to help them. But how? Any move he made tended
to frighten them and confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be
led or shooed because they feared him.
he thought to himself,
"If only I could be a bird
now," -- "I could be a bird and mingle with them and speak their language and
tell them not to be afraid, then I could show them the way to the safe, warm barn. But I
would have to be one of them, wouldn't I? So they could see, and hear, and understand."
At that moment the church bells began to ring. The
sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there
listening to the bells,
Adeste Fidelis, listening to the bells pealing the
glad tidings of Christmas.
And he sank to his knees in the snow.