There once lived a farmer who became jaded about Christmas and all things “Christian.”
Late one raw winter night, he sat alone in the house, reading. In the quiet he heard an irregular thumping against the back porch door. He flipped on the light. To his surprise, the birds that had made their nests in a nearby tree were flying against the glass, almost as if knocking to come inside. The limb on which they had built their nest had fallen under the weight of the ice. His heart went out to them.
He pulled on his snow boots and overcoat and pushed open the storm door. Immediately the birds fluttered away. Against knee-deep snow, he made his way out to the barn. He slid open the barn door and wondered how he could get the frightened birds into its warmth and safety.
He built a massive nest out of hay, but they wouldn’t come near. He sprinkled some crackers in a path from their tree toward the barn. But they didn’t follow. He tried to shoo them in, but they only scattered. He even lit a couple of candles inside the barn, hoping the added warmth would draw them. But to the birds, he was only something to be afraid of. He knew nothing of their language and nothing of their world.
He thought, If there were just some way that I could become a bird. If only for a few moments I could communicate to them how much I care, I could get them into the barn and they would be safe and warm.
At that moment, as only God would plan it, church bells began to ring in the distance. The farmer suddenly remembered, as he looked at his watch and checked the date, that it was Christmas morning.
At that moment, he grasped the true meaning of Christmas. A man becoming a bird is nothing to be compared to God’s becoming a man. This was what the Savior did—He came to rescue the farmer himself and all humanity from the cold of sin. There in the deep snow on the back porch he fell to his knees, softened his heart, and returned to the Lord his God.
Adapted from a story by Philip Yancey and Paul Harvey, as retold by Charles R. Swindoll, in Come Before Winter and Share My Hope (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 351–52. Copyright © 2010 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.