Year B – Christmas Day

The Parable of the Birds

(Isa.62:1-5; Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Mt.1:18-25)

Merry Christmas! With joyful hearts, today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem – a remarkable event that changed the history of the world.

But why did the Son of God choose to live as one of us? Why did he do it?

Let me answer that question through a story – The Parable of the Birds, by the American writer, Louis Cassels (1922-74).

‘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 and honest in his dealings with others.

But he did not believe all that stuff about God becoming a man, which the churches proclaim at Christmas. It just didn’t make sense to him, and he was too honest to pretend otherwise.


‘I’m truly sorry to distress you,’ he said to his wife, ‘but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas.’ He said he would feel like a hypocrite and he’d much rather stay at home. So, he stayed and his family went to the midnight service.

Shortly after they drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to have a look and saw it was getting heavy. Then he went back to his fireside chair to read his newspaper. Minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound. Then he heard another thump and thud. He thought someone must have been throwing snowballs against his window.

But when he opened his front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddling miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and had tried to seek shelter by flying through his lounge-room 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.

He quickly put on a coat and boots and then 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 thought that food would entice them. So, he hurried back to the house, fetched breadcrumbs and sprinkled them on the snow. He made a trail to the brightly lit, wide-open doorway of the stable. But the birds ignored the breadcrumbs and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow.

He tried catching them. And he tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them and waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.


Then he realized they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of a way to get them to trust me — that I am not trying to hurt them but to help them. But how?

Any move he made just frightened and confused them. They just wouldn’t 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.’

Just then, 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 pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And then he sank to his knees in the snow.

‘Now I understand,’ he whispered. ‘Now I see why you had to do it.’ [i]

[i] Louis Cassels,  The Parable of the Birds as told in Greg Johnson, The 25 Days of Christmas,  pp.30-31. (Abridged).