As we move into the Christmas season I am often reminded of an awesome story that I heard years ago, which has been a constant reminder to me of the original spirit of Christmas. The story goes something like this…
One Easter Sunday morning, a pastor came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage and set it by the pulpit. Several eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, the pastor began to speak.
"I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me, swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad and asked, "What you got there son?"
"Just some old birds," came the reply.
"What are you gonna do with them?" I asked.
"Take 'em home and have fun with 'em. I'm gonna tease 'em and pull out their feathers to make 'em fight. I'm gonna have a real good time."
"But you'll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?"
"Oh, I got some cats. They like birds. I'll take 'em to them."
The pastor was silent for a moment. "How much do you want for those birds, son?"
"Huh??!!! Why, you don't want them birds, mister. They're just plain old field birds. They don't sing – they ain't even pretty!"
The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, "$10?".
The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten-dollar bill. He placed it in the boy's hand. In a flash, the boy was gone.
The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.
Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, but then the pastor began to tell this story.
One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting.
"Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn't resist. Got 'em all!"
"What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked.
"Oh, I'm gonna have fun! I'm gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other. How to hate and abuse each other. How to drink and smoke and curse. How to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I'm really gonna have fun!"
"And what will you do when you get done with them?", Jesus asked.
"Oh, I'll kill 'em."
"How much do you want for them?"
"Oh, you don't want those people. They ain't no good. Why, you take them and they'll just hate you. They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you!! You don't want those people!!"
Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your tears, and all your blood." Jesus paid the price.
End of story.
With the congregation quietly and intently watching, the pastor picked up the rusty, bent, old bird cage made his way off the pulpit, walked down the center aisle to the front doors of the Church, turned around and in a hushed voice said “Merry CHRISTmas” and left the congregation sitting there pondering the story he had just told.
I have found over the years that many of the Churches we’ve attended on Christmas Eve have tried to find new and elaborate ways of portraying the Christmas story in an effort to wow the congregation. It’s as if there is a need to make a large production out of the story to capture the audience’s attention. I love the simplicity of the bird cage story. In a simple manner, it speaks to all of us as to the original meaning of Christmas. It reminds all of us of Christ’s birth and for Christians around the world it is a celebration that their savior was born which is the cornerstone of their religious beliefs.
And so friends, as you celebrate this Christmas season, whether you are of Christian faith or others, Kathy and I wish you the warmest of seasons with your family and friends and the comfort of knowing that you are cared for.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!