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The Man and the Birds
This story, first broadcast by Paul Harvey in 1964, helps us reflect on the real meaning of Christmas. I hope you enjoy reading it here, or better yet, go online and listen to Paul Harvey read it like no other can. Here it is: The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind, decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus story, about God coming to Earth as a man. “I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud…At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window. He couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, 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 figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn. And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not 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 safe, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.” At that moment 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 – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow. The man in the story cares about the birds. God cares about us much more. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God a prize to be grasped, but humbled Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”(Phil.2:6,7) “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”(John 1:1,14; 3:16,17) Let’s not forget this Christmas the greatest gift that was ever given: God gave us His Son to be born into this world, to live a sinless life, to be sacrificed for our sins, to rise from the dead, to defeat death forever, and to give us hope.
Ed Hill – Franklin, N.C.
A health crisis we can all do something about
Bob Wilson (MCN Dec. 6), alluding to the U.S. medical system, used 533 words to express nine words accurately, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” I’ve known Bernie Sanders for almost 30 years and I assure you, Mr. Wilson, Bernie’s not going to sacrifice any life for any reason and certainly has no ill-intent to do so for power. Conversely, Columnist George Hasara’s well-informed and timely feature on the same page (“Obesity second only to tobacco,” as the leading cause of death) should be outlined in red and printed weekly and otherwise shouted from the rooftops for all to hear. Obesity is one national health crisis we can all (and most certainly all should) do something about. As anyone who knows me will attest, I am not the eternal optimist to be sure, but I am cautiously hopeful that with the advent of Democrats taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January, the 116th Congress will submit (and pass) a bill known as the BMI (Body Mass Index) bill, a.k.a. Be More Intelligent or Behave More Intelligently (whichever you prefer). I encourage the reader to research the Body Mass Index and discuss it with your doctor on your very next visit. Generally speaking, BMI references your overall health as relating to your height and weight. The formula for determining your BMI (do you have a pencil?) is your weight divided by your height (in inches – squared) multiplied by 703. Your doctor no doubt has charts you’ll find helpful. However, for example, if you are a 160-pound male, 5 feet 10 inches (70 inches) tall, you divide 160 by 4900 (or 70 squared) and multiply by 703. Hurray! Your BMI is 22.96, you’re in the “healthy” zone (18.5-24.9). If you weigh 200 your BMI is 28.69 (overweight). If you’re 260, it’s 37.30 (obese) and if you’re 300 (oh my goodness), 43.04 (morbidly obese) and definitely not good, long past time to change your lifestyle. Because we are a nation which believes in freedom to choose, eating healthfully cannot be legalized, restaurants cannot be forced to serve only healthy foods, things that are good for you or won’t (over time) significantly shorten your life. Perhaps, in years to come, and in a generation yet to be born, the health of our citizens will reach a critical stage and restaurants (assuming they still exist) will be required to have a scale at the entrance and what you order will be determined by your BMI. For now I will be ecstatic just to see Congress having the courage to pass a BMI bill providing clear and precise recommendations addressing this most grave subject of obesity, weight loss and weight maintenance, which George Hasara accurately defined as “a life skill of the highest order.” Thank You, George.
David L. Snell – Franklin, N.C.
A love to be found
Our modern world asks and begs for complete “freedom” without any form of restraints of any kind. This type of freedom cannot be found. If it could, anarchy would rule and everyone would be most miserable. Freedom is only realized if there is some restraints or boundaries set within itself. Love is the most sought after freedom and most desired throughout humanity. Love is that internal desire and seeking out the most human need, both in knowing and to know more deeply, ourselves. This internal desire, as in no other, is man’s deepest need. It seems strange that we ourselves should really know, but don’t know, who we are internally. But man’s quest has always been to know the unknown that lies within each of us, the unending questions we ask of ourselves in search of meaning. Love captures this as no other, but it is not free for either the receiver nor the giver. Each must be willing and have the unselfish desire to give of themselves to the other. The constraining of yourself in meeting the needs of the other is the unity of two opposites working to draw from each other the best of who they are, or strive to be, in making a unit or a team of one. This cannot be done by one that gives while the other takes, otherwise it’s no longer a team, but a division in need of repair. But the sacrifice of unselfishness is not only realized in friendships and relationships but goes much broader than this. It is to be realized in the give and take within fellowship of family, community, society and nation. The giving of oneself is the most unselfish act any human being can do for others, whether in war for country, a friend, or for family. This is a freedom and love that cannot be explained. It’s an unselfish courage that comes from within. Courage is that something that has a desire to live, but a willingness to die, and you haven’t any notice when it calls you. Love is most deeply desired when it is lost. But love is most honored when it has given its all, and this is truly knowing yourself and finding meaning within unselfish love. Oxford philosopher C.S. Lewis stated, “Love anything, and your heart will certainly be … broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one… Wrap it carefully around… little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket… of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change… it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable…” There are two holidays all the world celebrates together, Christmas and Easter. One is to bring us joy, hope, and peace in the birth of Christ. The other is for our behalf in sharing pain, suffering and humiliation in the death of Christ. Both are in a love the world has never seen in any other. Just as in our seeking love, His love cannot be one sided, it takes two to bring a fullness in life of who we are. We are more complete in relationships with each other, but even more so when there’s a relationship with the One who showed courage in the ultimate giving. He asks of you nothing except believe in Him. I have found nothing which brings life more fuller than this; it is not the do’s and don’ts. It’s a unselfish love given to you and me, to be given back to Him and the community around us. This is a love to be found, “Merry Christmas.”
Deni Shepard – firstname.lastname@example.org