by Fr. Tommy Lane
“Once upon a time there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn’t a Scrooge. He was a kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men. But he didn’t believe all that stuff about Incarnation which churches proclaim at Christmas. And he was too honest to pretend that he did. “I am truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer. “But I simply cannot understand this claim that God becomes man. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
On Christmas Eve his wife and children went to church for the midnight service. He declined to accompany them. “I’d feel like a hypocrite,” he explained. “I’d rather stay at home. But I’ll wait up for you.”
Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. “If we must have Christmas,” he thought, “it’s nice to have a white one.” He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper. A few minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another.
He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his livingroom window. When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the storm. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his window. “I can’t let these poor creatures lie there and freeze,” he thought. “But how can I help them?” Then he remembered the barn where the children’s pony was stabled. It would provide a warm shelter.
He put on his coat and galoshes and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the door wide and turned on a light. But the birds didn’t come in. “Food will lure them in,” he thought. So he hurried back to the house for bread crumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn. To his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction – except into the warm lighted barn.
“They find me a strange and terrifying creature,” he said to himself, “and I can’t seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety. . . .”
Just at that moment the church bells began to ring. He stood silent for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow. “Now I do understand,” he whispered. “Now I see why You had to do it.” ”
That was A Christmas Parable written by Louis Cassels many years ago, one of the religion editors of United Press International and is a simple but beautiful way to explain the mystery of Christmas.
Think of the many ways God has reached out to us to communicate with us since the beginning. The climax of God communicating with us in the Old Testament was when God formed the covenant with Moses on Mt. Sinai. God joined himself to us in a covenant and we were joined to God in a covenant. But we still sinned so God raised up prophets to call us back but only a small number of people paid heed to the prophets. Through one of the prophets, Hosea, God said that Israel has been like an unfaithful wife committing adultery by going after false gods. All through the centuries of the Old Testament God pursued us like a lover but we had broken the covenant and God had to make a new unbreakable covenant with us. For this new covenant, God would become flesh and bones like us, and shed his blood in the person of Jesus to convince us once and for all to accept his invitation to be his people. Jesus was the climax of God reaching out to us. As we heard in our Gospel today,
The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory…
“Now I see why You had to do it” wrote Louis Cassels in A Christmas Parable. And indeed God had to do it, had to become one of us to make us understand because despite God’s best efforts throughout all the Old Testament we still didn’t get the message. Sometimes you have to, as we say, rub their noses in it to make them understand. Christmas is, in a sense, God rubbing our noses in it to make us understand. Christmas is God saying, “Maybe this will grab your attention.” The Letter to the Hebrews expresses it beautifully,
“At various moments in the past and by many means, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our time, the final days, he has spoken to us in the person of his Son.” (Heb 1:1-2)
God has spoken to us, the Word has become flesh. Let us allow God’s word to sink into our hearts. I will conclude with the prayer at the end of our second reading today:
“May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit.”