Several years ago, I wrote a column that tried to put the true meaning of Christmas into perspective. I thought I would reprint this article, in the hope that its message is still as strong as ever today.
Most of us are very familiar with the 1960’s cartoon, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which continues to delight people of all ages to this day.
The story revolves around Charlie Brown’s search for the true meaning of Christmas in a world that has commercialized the holiday almost beyond recognition. Charlie is depressed because he feels he is missing something. It all comes into focus when Linus quotes the nativity passage from the Bible dealing with the birth of Jesus. A light goes off in Charlie Brown’s head, and he finally comprehends what the true meaning of the Christmas holiday is all about.
I thought it would be a good time to share another of my favorite Christmas stories with you. I hope you find it as pertinent and meaningful as I have.
It was Christmas Eve in New Hampshire many years ago, and the weather had been bitterly cold and snowy. Tonight was no different.
Nevertheless, a family prepared to head out for Christmas Eve church services. That is, all but the father, who once again declined to join his wife and children at Church. He had never been a religious man, and felt he would be a hypocrite to attend Church, even on Christmas Eve, if it held no meaning to him. He helped his family hitch up the horse and sleigh, and sent them off into the evening, leaving him alone at the farm to await their return.
The weather soon turned even nastier, with a bitterly cold wind and driving snow making it an utterly miserable night. The man went out to the porch to make sure the barn was battened down, and it was then that he noticed a flock of blue birds floundering in the snow near the barn area, looking completely disoriented and lost. It was clear that they were in big trouble, and that they had to get shelter immediately if they were to have any hope of survival. These birds were a particular favorite of the man, and he decided that he had to help them.
The man determined that the best answer was to open one of the barn doors. Surely, the birds would then seek shelter within, and thus survive the storm. Yet despite this new opportunity, the birds did nothing, and instead continued to flounder about in the snow.
Next, the man turned on the lights inside the barn, and opened the other door. Perhaps, he thought, the birds had simply been too disoriented, and hadn’t seen the open barn door. Still, nothing.
Next, the man tried to flush the birds from behind, in an attempt to scare them into the safety of the building. But the birds were too far gone, and this tactic failed as well.
Desperate, the man tried to lead the birds into the barn by walking back and forth between them and the barn doors. Again, the outcome was the same.
The man was at his wits end. Despite everything he had tried to do to save the birds, the result had been the same: utter failure.
“If only I could become a bird, I know I could help them. If I could just be a bird for a short while, I could show them how to save themselves. If I could just become a bird!”
At that moment, the wind died down, and the man heard the sound of church bells ringing in the distance. And he was suddenly so thunderstruck by a thought that it brought him to his knees in wonderment. For the first time in his life, he understood what God was trying to do through the life of Jesus. It was the exact same thing the man had been trying to accomplish with the birds. Despite his many efforts, God had been unable to get mankind to listen to his message. By becoming a man, God was finally able to show the human race how to save itself.
Stunned, the man looked heavenward, and cried in amazement at this sudden revelation. And as he knelt there, the snow stopped, and the birds, one by one, shook themselves off, and flew into the barn.
Whether it was the direct intervention of God, or pure dumb luck that had guided the birds into the barn, the man was never sure. And yet it never troubled him for a moment, because the man knew that it wasn’t just a flock of birds that had been saved that night.
Merry Christmas to you, to your families, to all the people of our great nation, and especially to our men and women in the armed services fighting for our freedom. May 2004 be a better year for our country, and for the world.
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