The Man and the Birds | A Story of Christmas

The Man and the Birds | A Story of Christmas

Hey everyone! It’s me, Ben. I wanted to share with you a Christmas story that was given to me by a role model of mine this past summer. I don’t know the author–though it was popularized by radio host Paul Harvey–and I want to let it stand alone, without any commentary, that you may take from it what you wish.

As always, feel free to comment away with how you experience it, and share it with others, that they can remember the true significance of Christmas this year.

That’s all for me.

-B

The Man and the Birds

The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And 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 and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in.

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Photo via flickr by Mark Westby

So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

“If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could 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 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 listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

Dark Chocolate and Candy Canes

Dark Chocolate and Candy Canes

Image courtesy of DUCKMARX on Flickr

Image courtesy of DUCKMARX on Flickr

“What is your favorite holiday tradition?”

Whenever I am asked that common question of the season, I think of plenty of family traditions and it is difficult to pick a favorite. Every year, on the weekend after Thanksgiving, my family and I go to pick out our Christmas tree. My sister and I decorate the tree with ornaments from as far back as our mom’s first grade art project. On Christmas Eve, my dad’s side of the family goes to my grandmother’s house to exchange presents before we all head over to Vesperal Liturgy together. On Christmas Day, both my mom and dad’s sides of the family come over to our house for dinner and a gift exchange. There are a lot of traditions to choose from.

As I analyze the question, “What is your favorite holiday tradition?” I feel quite foolish for coming up with a list of traditions that have very little to do with what Christmas is all about. There is no doubt that the American society has built Christmas on consumerism and ‘the season of giving.’ The American lifestyle has funneled our mentality to focus on shopping, Christmas music, and snow. But as an Orthodox Christian I ask myself,

What if the malls were closed before Christmas? What if the Christmas radio station decided to not play Christmas music this year? What if we didn’t have a white Christmas? Isn’t there something more?

Indeed there is. Recently, I learned about the ultimate Christmas Tradition, which is the genealogy of Christ from Matthew 1:1-17. What does that have to do with anything? Glad you asked. Christmas, despite what our society believes, is solely based on one thing: God became man. Jesus Christ was born into forty-two generations of sin. He bridged together the Old and New Testaments and invited both Jews and Gentiles to partake in His Father’s Kingdom. He was given life so that He could give us life.

For the average American college student like myself, that is a lot to try to understand. So I broke it down like this:

In regards to Christmas, there is “tradition” and there is “Tradition.” I have been so used to practicing all the “traditions” like decorating the tree or hanging up stockings that I have almost completely neglected the true “Tradition.” The way that I see things, there are two ways to approach the Christmas season. I can treat it like a piece of dark chocolate, or I can treat it like a candy cane.

Image courtesy of 1Sock on Flickr

Image courtesy of 1Sock on Flickr

Almost everybody likes Hershey’s dark chocolate Kisses simply because they taste really good. The bad thing about Hersey’s, though, is that it does not last long. Similarly, the “traditions” are fun and make you feel good, but there is not much depth or longevity to them. On the other hand, candy canes have a stronger taste to them and it takes a while to eat them. You can take your time to eat a candy cane, or you can chew through it quickly without taking time to fully enjoy it. Like candy canes, the “Tradition” has a strong initial impression that takes more time to understand and get used to.

Dark chocolate and candy canes both taste good and there is nothing wrong with them. At least for 20-year-old college student me, I can get caught up in the dark chocolate traditions of shopping, decorating, and eating, and forget about the true meaning of Christmas. I need to look beyond the “traditions” and find the “Tradition.”

Image courtesy of Stephen Nakatani on Flickr

Image courtesy of Stephen Nakatani on Flickr

Like eating a candy cane, which is decorated with the white of purity indicating the Virgin birth, the red of Christ’s passion and Blood, and shaped in the form of the Good Shepherd’s staff, I need to be willing to take my time and observe the true Tradition, my favorite Tradition, which is the celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord.

About the Author


This is a guest post from Anthony Jonas. Anthony is a junior in the Human Development program at Hellenic College, and a former member of the Student Advisory Board. Over the past year, he has served as the Student Administrative Intern for OCF.