Paul Harvey

The Parable of the Birds


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

The Christmas Story, the way it's usually told -- God, born a man in a manger, and all of that -- escapes some moderns; mostly, I think, because they seek complex answers to their questions, and this one is so utterly simple. So, for the cynics and the skeptics and the unconvinced, I'd like to submit this modern parable.

The 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 not 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.

He told his wife, "Im truly sorry to distress you, but Im just not going with you to church this Christmas Eve." He said hed feel like a hypocrite, that hed much rather just stay home, but that he would wait up for them. So he stayed, and they went to the midnight service.

Now, 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 newspaper.

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 the sound.

Well, he couldnt 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.

But the birds did not come in.

So, 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 him.

They 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.

And 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.

Paul Harvey -- I hope for you and those you love, this will be a wonderfully Merry Christmas.

1 Works on a denotative level with scrooge meaning "cheap" or "miserly," and on a figurative level as an allusion to the protagonist in Dickens's novella A Christmas Carol

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