Merry Christmas! Are you guys ready for tomorrow? Who comes tomorrow? Santa Claus – that’s right, but who is born tomorrow, whose birth do we celebrate – Jesus’ birth. That’s right – that is what Christmas is all about – the birth of Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem. The greatest gift that God ever gave us – the gift of himself in the person of Jesus
How many of the boys and girls here tonight have pets? Raise your hands. Wow, look at all of those hands. A lot of you have pets. What do you have? . . .
Have you ever tried to train your dog or your cat? Have you ever tried to teach them something? It is hard isn’t it? It takes a lot of work and a lot of patience. You have to try and talk to your pet don’t you. You have to try and communicate with them so that they will understand you, don’t you? I have black lab that I trained and it took me a long time.
I want to tell you a story tonight about a man who wanted very much to communicate with some geese. This is not a new story but it is a wonderful story for Christmas.
There was once a man who could not bring himself to believe in the idea of God being born as a person and so he gave little spiritual meaning to Christmas. He was a good man, but he was skeptical. He lived with is family in a rural farming community and his wife was a devout Christian who raised their two children in the faith. Every Sunday she set out for church with the kids and he stayed at home to work on the farm.
One snowy Christmas Eve as she was taking the children to services, she once again asked her husband to join them, but he refused, he didn’t believe in Christmas. “Why would God become a human in Jesus,” he said, “that is such a ridiculous story.” Without responding, she took the children and headed out for the church.
Sometime after they had gone, the winds began to build and the farmer realized that a powerful snowstorm was beginning to set in. For long minutes he sat by the fire listening to the wind blowing through the buildings and watching the snow swirl its way to the ground.
After a while, he heard a loud thump of something striking the side of his house. Then he heard another thump and another. He looked out his window, but he could not see the cause of the snow. Putting on his coat he walked outside to investigate. In the field nearest his home he saw a flock of geese huddled together. They had apparently been caught in the snowstorm as they were flying south and had essentially crash-landed in the farmer’s field trying to escape the storm. The noise had been a few of them banging into the side of the house as they attempted to land.
The farmer wanted to help these geese. He thought to himself that the barn would be a safe place for them to take shelter until the storm passed, so he walked over and opened the barn doors wide. Going back inside, he returned with several large pieces of bread that he broke apart and dropped in a path leading to the barn doors. But the geese were far too disoriented and frightened to catch on and they stayed in the middle of the field.
Frustrated, he circled around behind them and tried to shoo them into the barn, but they only became more frightened and scattered in every direction.
Feeling totally frustrated he yelled out, “Why don’t they follow me! Can’t they see that this is a place where they can be safe from the storm? How can I help them if they are so afraid of me?”
He thought for a moment of those PBS specials about baby geese imprinting on an ultra light airplane, thinking the plane was their mother and following the it everywhere.
He realized they would not follow him as a human; he needed somehow to become more like a goose. He thought to himself – “How can I possibly save them? If I could only become like one of them then I could save them, then they would follow me.” He stood still for a moment these thoughts began to sink in. He repeated them back to himself – “If only I could become like one of them – then I could save them.”
He thought about these words and then he remembered what he had said to his wife – “Why would God become a human? It is such a ridiculous story.” Something clicked in his mind as he put these two together. It was like a little revelation and he began to understand the truth about Christmas. “Just like I am trying to help the geese,” he thought, “And wish I was more like a goose so they could trust me – so God wants to help us and he sent us his Son Jesus as one of us so we would listen to him.” We are like the geese – lost, blind, spiritually freezing. God became like us, Jesus was born, so that he could save us – so that he could show us the way to shelter, to safety, – to himself. Soon thereafter, the wind and the snow began to let up and the geese flew off on their yearly journey South. But these geese had given the farmer a great gift; he now understood what Christmas was all about. He knew why Jesus had come.
Tonight, as a people of faith, we proclaim the mystery that God has indeed come among us, as one of us, to save us. We proclaim that God has become one of us so that we might trust him and follow him. As Isaiah proclaimed – “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in darkness – on them light has shined.” Like the stranded and frightened geese we are in need of a guide who can show us the way to life. On this night, God has been born as the baby Jesus in Bethlehem in order to show us the way home. Merry Christmas. Amen.