It happened so fast that no one really noticed until it had already taken place.
Some years ago, I was sitting in a local coffee shop eating a bite of breakfast with a friend, when a prospective customer walked through the door, and it followed him inside.
“It” was a common ordinary sparrow, flying around looking for a “bite” to eat, I guess! (Came to the right place, huh?)
But even more interesting than the bird’s coming into the restaurant was the reactions of the people inside the establishment at its entrance. Some treated the bird’s flight around the room with curiosity. Others (like me) noticed the bird, then treated it with indifference.
Some of the patrons there screeched with excitement every time the bird moved. Some bolted into action, trying their best to catch the bird or at least to shoo it out the door.
It was a bit humorous just watching the bird flit about the room — from the floor to the window sill to the top of one of the coolers behind the cash register to the floor to the extension cord providing power to the lights in the windows to the coffee machine behind the counter.
And any time anyone came close to it, the bird would jump to the next place. Until it landed on the counter behind the cash register where one of the employees was able to grab the bird like she would grab her own parakeet and take it outside where she released it to fly free into the wind.
You know, that bird in that coffee shop reminds me a lot of the true story about Christmas and the message it should bring to each one of us.
It is easy to understand why the message of Christmas is so confusing to so many. One of the main thrusts of this season is the commercial bonanza it brings for so many retail establishments.
The weeks between Black Friday and New Year’s Day often provide enough income to keep businesses going the other 10 months of the year. The boon of profits this time of the year makes it all too often very easy to “buy into” this commercial approach as the main and even the only reason for the season.
Or there is the “Hallmark” approach to Christmas that in essence communicates that this is the “feel-good” time of the year. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the songs – all work together to help us get “in the mood” to celebrate the season, no matter what troubles our lives may be experiencing.
This mystical approach says that this time of the year will somehow overcome even the greatest of troubles in our lives, if we will only let it!
There is not anything wrong with either of those approaches, so long as we do not let the commercial noise of the cash registers or the mystical smells of “roasting chestnuts” drown out the true message of the biblical approach.
In a sense, the birth of the baby Jesus in Bethlehem, where he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, is similar to the flight of the bird in that coffee shop so long ago.
Belonging free and wanting to be out in the blue (well, OK – gray!) skies over town, he flew instead into the confined realm of an enclosed dining room inside a restaurant.
Belonging in heaven, Jesus came to earth.
Interestingly enough, we look at his coming with many of the same reactions as those patrons in that restaurant – some with curiosity, some with enthusiasm. Some screech with excitement over the birth of the Savior. Some yawn with indifference. Some receive Him with open arms of trust and acceptance. And there are some who, if they will admit it, respond to his birth in fear.
The Scriptures tell us that “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5).
The true message of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of the only One who is able to bring us into the complete and right and total relationship with God. That Son is Jesus Christ.
Sparrows fly into restaurants by accident. But unlike that confused bird in that restaurant on that day, Jesus didn’t come to earth by accident. Jesus’ birth was for a purpose.
That purpose was to demonstrate to you and me that God loves us. The birth of the Savior shows us that God cares enough for us to send “the very best”.
And that He came into our world not to flit about trying to escape it, as the bird did that day, but to redeem us and to bring us into a full relationship with God.
The question for this season then is this: How will you respond to this one called Jesus?
Will you laugh it off? Will you ignore Him?
Will you cower in fear over what he will do?
Or will you respond with open arms trusting in Him fully and rejoicing in Him?
Enjoy the season for all it’s worth!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.