The author of this story is unknown and the tale has been told by many people throughout the years. [Editor’s Note: Perhaps Paul Harvey’s retelling of this tale, titled, "The Man and the Birds," is among the most well known.]
The gentleman to whom I’m going to introduce was not a Scrooge, but a kind, decent man and generous to his family and upright in his dealings with other people.
He just could not understand how or why Jesus came to earth to save us from our sin. It just did not make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise.
"I’m truly sorry to distress you," he told his wife, "but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve."
He went on to say, he would feel like a hypocrite and this year he would much rather stay home. He would just read and wait up for them until they returned.
And so, he stayed as the rest of his family went to the midnight service.
Shortly after the family drove away, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched as the flurries were becoming heavier and then went back to his chair in front of the fire to finish reading his newspaper.
A short while later he was startled by a thudding sound ... then another, and then another. His first thought was that it sounded like someone throwing snowballs against his living-room picture window.
As he opened the front door to investigate, he found several birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, did not realize the glass barrier keeping them from entering the safety of his home.
Well, he could not just let the poor creatures freeze, so he had an idea that the barn, which housed his children's pony, would provide a perfect place from the storm.
If he could only figure out how to direct them into it.
Throwing on his coat and rubber boots, he headed out into the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on the light, but the birds did not move.
Figuring that food would entice them to come in, he hurried back to the house, grabbed some bread, and started making a trail of crumbs to the lighted stable.
But to his dismay, the birds paid no attention and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow.
Trying to catch them became comical as they were too fast, and then his attempt to herd them by waving his arms only made things worse as they scattered in every direction except where he wanted them to go.
Suddenly, he realized they were simply overwhelmed with fear.
"I’m sure I seem like a dangerous and terrifying giant," he thought. "If only I could think of a way to let them know they can trust me. If I could just convince them that I’m not going to hurt them and sincerely want to help them.
"But how? Whenever I move, they go into a panic and seem to be confused and suspiciously determined to not let their guard down."
Then it dawned on him: If only he could become a bird, he could mingle with them and speak their language. Then hopefully they could come to know him and learn there is no need to fear.
"I could show them the way to a safe and warm barn," he thought. "But I would have to be one of them so they could see, hear and understand."
At that moment, the church bells began to ring through the crisp stillness and, as he stood there, listening to the melody of "O Come All Ye Faithful," he thought about how most people, (including himself) are generally afraid of God and have a difficult time with faith.
Hmm. So this is why Christ came to earth — to become like us. The man realized the only way Jesus could ever save anyone is when they completely trust Him. Christ had to somehow prove His love and the cross became that way.
At that moment, the man humbly sank to his knees in the snow.
This year, even in the hustle and bustle of shopping and parties, let us rejoice in the real reason for the season.
From my family to yours, may Christ be the center of your holiday and have a very Merry Christmas!
Dr. William F. Holland Jr. is a Christian author, outreach minister and community chaplain. Learn more at billyhollandministries.com.