The Parable of the Birds
I first heard this story told by Rev Ken Newman forty years ago on Christmas Eve at First Presbyterian Church of Richmond, Virginia. Copyright information is at the end of this column.
There was once a man who lived in the country with his family. He was regarded by them as a good husband and father. But he was not sure he believed in God, and at Christmas time he was particularly aware that he did not—and could not—believe that God had come as a baby born in Bethlehem so many years ago. “Even if there was a God,” he thought, “why would God need or want to become a human being?” It seemed a silly idea to him.
He believed that it would not please God—if he even existed—to celebrate Christmas when he did not believe in its message. So on Christmas Eve when his family invited him to go with them to the village to their small church which had a Christmas Eve service, he declined. He preferred to stay at home by the fire, look outside through the big picture glass window, and see the snow falling on their small farm.
After his family left, the snow really began to fall. But soon something happened for which he was not prepared. He heard a thud against the window and then another. He turned on the lights outside and saw a whole flock of birds flopping around in the snow. They seemed to be able to fly only a few feet at a time, and he concluded that their wings had iced up flying high in the storm. He realized that the birds would probably die in the cold snowy weather, and he tried to figure out a way to save them.
He realized they could find warmth and shelter in his barn so he walked across the snow, flung open the barn doors, and turned on the light. But they did not go in. So, then he got a loaf of bread and dropped a trail of pieces beginning where the birds were and over to the barn. He hoped the birds would follow the food but they continued to just flop around. He thought maybe he could shoo them into the barn but as he approached the birds and waived his arms, they would flop all around and scatter in fear. “They find me a giant and fearsome creature,” he thought. “I cannot communicate with them, and they are terrified of me.” After a while the thought came to him, “if only I could become a bird and communicate with them and show them the way. If only I could become a bird.”
Just then the bells in the village church where his family were celebrating the birth of Jesus began to ring. It happened just when he was wishing he could become a bird to help save the birds.
And for the first time ever that Christmas Eve he understood why God had become human —to save us.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
(Louis Cassels, the creator of this story, was the religion editor for United Press International which copyrighted the original version in 1959. Angie Mosteller copyrighted it in 2008. You can find it here:
Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column first appeared in the Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News.