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Fourth Sunday of Advent Reflection
Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 22, 2019
It would have been against the Jewish culture of the time for Joseph to take the pregnant Mary into his home - so he planned to divorce her quietly. However, an angel points to the Prophet Isaiah in order to persuade the dreaming Joseph to take Mary, his wife, into his home.
Some mysteries are too wonderful, too deep, too countercultural, too beyond us to catch or to understand with our minds or our logic alone. Mysteries have to be revealed to us and still that calls for faith as it did for Joseph as well. God often uses unlikely circumstances to bring us to a moment of awareness. In Joseph’s case, while he was sleeping, God sends an angel who connects the dots with the prophet Isaiah.
I would like to introduce to you another man – not a scrooge – but a kind, decent, good man, generous to his family, upright in his dealings with others. But he just didn’t believe in the incarnation. It didn’t make sense to him and he was too honest to pretend otherwise.
“I am truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I am not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he would feel like a hypocrite – that he would much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them.
And so he stayed and the rest of the family went to the midnight service.
Shortly after the family drove away, 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 the newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by the sound of a thump or thud 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 had been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape 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.
Quickly he put on a coat and boots and 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, got some 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.
Story of the Birds adapted from Paul Harvey
Sister Nancy Gunderson