Parable of the Birds

Louis Cassels was religion editor for United Press
International.His "Parable of the Birds" has been
reprinted and rebroadcast on radio many times in
the years since it first appeared in the
Christmas editions of newspapers across the
country in 1959. The first time I heard it was many
years ago on Paul Harvey. I share it with all of
you with a prayer that it might lead us all closer
to the Light, Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Parable of the Birds

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 very 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 God
becoming man, which churches proclaim at Christmas.
Why would God want to do anything like that?

So when his family left to attend midnight services
on Christmas Eve,he stayed home.

Shortly after the family drove away snow began to fall.
He went to the window and watched the flurries getting
heavier and heavier. Sometime later, as he was reading
his newspaper by the fire, he was startled by a thudding
sound that was quickly followed by another. Then another.

When he went to investigate, he found a flock of birds
huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught
in the storm, and in a desperate search
for shelter had tried to fly through the 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. It would provide
a warm shelter. He quickly put on his coat and
boots and tramped throught the deepening snow to
the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned
on the light.

But the birds didn't come in.

"Food will bring 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 silently for awhile, listening to the bells
pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.

Then he sank to his knees in the snow.
"Now I understand,
"he whispered. "Now I see why You had to do it."
Grace and Peace:

Once again, the joyful celebration of the birth of Christ our Lord is upon us. As we entered the Season of Advent, we were called to pause from the often rushed preparations for Christmas and reflect on where we were at in our Christian journey - maybe even discovering that we had temporarily slid off the path.

Yet, it seems that the Holy Spirit has a way of finding us and nudging us until we pay attention and return to the journey. But we are not alone in this and it is important for us to take a look around and seek out those who are in need of a kind word, a visit, or some other gesture of kindness at this time of year.

Remember God says: “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be afraid for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
Isa. 41:10

Our Christmas Eve service begins with Carols at 10:15 pm with the Holy Eucharist beginning at 10:30 pm. It will be our opportunity to pause in this often rushed time of the year to focus on the Reason for the Season.

The following Sunday, December 30th, worship will be at our regular time, 10:30 am. It will give us another opportunity to hear beloved Christmas Scriptures and sing favorite Carols being the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas.

May the grace and peace of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit bring us all joy as we await the coming of Christ! Merry Christmas to all.

Yours in Christ
The Rev. Donald R. Perschall
Our Standing Announcements:
1st Sunday - Potluck Lunch following Mass
2nd Tuesday - Episcopal Church Women
3rd Monday - Vestry Meeting - 5:30 pm

Next Sunday: The Third Sunday In Advent - Rose Sunday

9:30 am Older Children’s and Adult Sunday School; Choir Practice
10:30 am Holy Eucharist & Younger Children’s Sunday School - Coffee Hour

Mon. Office closed

Wed 5:30 pm Holy Eucharist and Healing Service - supper and study to follow

Sunday: The Fourth Sunday In Advent

9:30 am Older Children’s and Adult Sunday School; Choir Practice
10:30 am Holy Eucharist & Younger Children’s Sunday School - Hanging of Greens & Coffee Hour

December 24th Christmas Eve Mass 10:30 pm

From this week's Sermon:
I always enjoy the scripture readings from the Prophets during the season of Advent. Some of the best and most inspiring words of Scripture are found here. Last week, we read from Isaiah about beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. A wonderful, hopeful vision.

Today, we read from Isaiah chapter 11: The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. This is a scene that makes it into many of our Christmas cards. It is a scene of peace.

Did you see the news report this week about a a tiger is raising a group of piglets at a zoo near Bangkok. The piglets were nursing from their adopted mother who seemed perfectly content with the whole thing. The piglets actually wore little tiger-stripe costumes. It’s not something you see every day, but it’s a picture of living together in peace.

This morning we lit the second Advent candle, the candle of Joy. This is a season for thinking and reflecting on what brings Joy into our lives. And one of those things that brings Joy into my life is the message of the angels “Peace on earth, good will to all people.”

But while we may talk and sing of Joy and Peace, there is an elephant in the room. Or to be more accurate, there is a locust-eating, camel skin-wearing, fire and brimstone preaching Prophet in the room named John.

Sometimes you have to wonder about our Lectionary. We have this Old Testament reading and beside it the Gospel reading of this crazed wild-eyed prophet, calling the religious leaders a “brood of vipers.” These two scenes seem to be worlds apart. A picture of peace on the one hand and an angry guy in the wilderness pointing out sin and calling for repentance on the other. How do we reconcile these Scriptures? We are left to wonder if we wouldn’t be better off putting John somewhere else, anywhere else but on the Sunday we light the candle of Joy?

Well, there is a tension, to be sure. My first instinct was to just not deal with John today. There is plenty in Isaiah’s prophecy to occupy us fruitfully without having to wade into John’s diatribes. But after thinking about it, it struck me that such tension is where we live a lot of our lives, and perhaps considering both of these Scriptures together would be profitable.

Let’s be honest: facing tension and turmoil is as much a part of the holidays as fruitcake and the barking dog version of Jingle Bells. This is a time of Joy, a time for family and friends, a time for celebration, but it is also a difficult time and a time of competing feelings.

This is a time for joyful celebrations, but it is also a time when losses are deeply felt. For those who have lost loved ones, the Christmas Season may not be so joyful. There are those for whom this will be the first Christmas without a loved one, and it will be a very different Christmas. Joy will be rather muted. And for some, it will be all they can do just to get through Christmas.

This is a time when we send cards with sentiments like “Joy to the World,” but we make these proclamations in the midst of a very violent world. We may speak of “peace on earth” when we don’t really feel it in our hearts. We speak of Joy while we deal with anger and conflict - Peace while we live with anxiety and tension.

Some of us will join with family at Christmas. But sometimes, these family get-togethers are not exactly all Joy. Some of us will find ourselves walking on eggshells - some of us will have to bite our tongues at times - or will be left feeling a lot of stress just getting ready for such events. It seems to be part of the deal.

And of course conflict is never far away. Yesterday the Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno, California - with 173 lay and clergy convention delegates voting in favor, and 22 against - removed itself from the Episcopal Church and became a Diocese in the Province of the Southern Cone. Undoubtedly this will be followed by punitive actions ecclesiastical and civil against them.

And then there are the feelings of conflict within us too: we feel joy and sadness, excitement and loss, hope and despair, seemingly all at the same time.

So maybe it is appropriate that this morning we have John on the one hand and Isaiah on the other. Isaiah holds out the Peaceable Kingdom where Joy and Peace may be found while John reminds us that maybe the problem isn’t ‘out there’ but ‘in here’ after all. Maybe, in order to get to the peaceable kingdom, we need to repent.

John was quite a sight: he ate honey and locusts, dressed in camel hair, and called people to turn their lives around. He preached out in the wilderness and people flocked to him for baptism. But when some of the religious and political leaders came to him, he let them have it. “You brood of vipers!” he said. Not exactly joyful, peaceful words. And he told them, “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” Or in other words: “just saying the right words won’t cut it - show by your lives the change in your heart.”

Maybe this is actually what we do need to hear - because if true Joy and Peace is to be found, then other contrary things will have to be moved out of the way. We will have to prepare the way of the Lord because there is a mess to clean up. And since we are all a part of the mess, since we all have those things in our lives that need to be cleaned up - those ugly things that we all need to let go of - then John’s words are necessary for us to get to Isaiah’s vision. Maybe we need to do some repenting in order to help bring about God’s Peace that we may experience His Joy.

In closing, before we all start looking for a place of escape - let me remind us all that God’s Peace and Joy are not to be found in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. God’s Peace and Joy are to be found in the midst of all those things - but because of Jesus within us, we still have calm in our hearts. Conflict and turmoil are a part of life - they are both around us and within us. And yet – and yet even in the midst of the storm, God is still there for even in the darkest night, God’s light comes when we least expect it, a Child is born, bringing us the opportunity of Peace and Joy.