When I was growing up, every Holiday Season, my dad would tell us a story about how love manifests through human beings.
The telling of this story has become a holiday tradition in my family. My sons now tell this story to their children at Christmas, and one day, my grandchildren will pass it on to their children, too.
The holiday story goes like this...
There once was a kind and decent man. He was generous to his family. He was upright in his dealings with others, but he just didn't believe all that incarnation stuff which churches proclaim at Christmastime. It just didn't make sense to him, and he was too honest to pretend otherwise.
He just couldn't believe the Jesus story, about God coming to earth as a man.
One year, he said to his wife, "I'm sorry if this distresses you, but I'm not going to go to church with you and the children this Christmas eve."
He said, "I just feel like a hypocrite. I'd much rather just stay at home, but I'll wait up for you to get home from church."
Then he stood at the door and watched as his wife and his children drove off to the midnight service.
Shortly afterward, snow began to fall.
He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier, and then went back to the fireside chair and began to read his newspaper.
Minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound, and then another, and then another.
At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window!
When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock a birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm, and in a desperate search for shelter, they had tried to fly through his large landscape window.
The man knew he couldn't let these poor creatures lie there and freeze.
He decided he would try to usher them into a nearby barn, where his children stabled their pony. He knew that the barn would provide a warm shelter for the birds, if only he could figure out a way to get them to go in there.
So, he put on his warm winter coat and his galoshes, and he trampled through the deepening snow to the barn.
He opened the doors to the barn wide, and turned on the light inside, but the birds did not come in.
They flew in every direction, but they did not go into the barn.
He figured food might entice them in, so he hurried back to the house.
He fetched breadcrumbs and he sprinkled them in the snow, making a trail to the wide, open doorway to the stable.
But to his dismay, the birds ignored the breadcrumbs and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them, he tried shooing them into the barn, waving his arms wildly...
But, instead of going to the warm, lighted barn, they scattered in every other direction.
Then he realized:
"These birds must be afraid of me! To them, I must be a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me, that I'm not trying to hurt them, but I'm here to help them..."
"But how? If only, for just a moment, I could become a bird. I could go with them, I could speak their language, I could show them not to be afraid, and I could lead them to the warm, safe barn. I would have to become one of them, so that they could see me, hear me and understand."
At that exact moment, as he was thinking these thoughts, the church bells began to ring above the sounds of the wind.
As the sound reached his ears, he stood there listening to the bells pealing out the glad tidings of the Holidays.
"Oh, now I see," he spoke out loud. "Now I see why you had to do it."
He sank to his knees in the snow.
In my home, we have a Christmas tree, we have menorahs, we have Buddhas...
We have things that represent all the many different pathways to finding that inner light that, when we connect to it, actually helps us to be a conveyor of that kind of love that we celebrate at the Winter Holidays.
And so, on this season, in however you choose to celebrate, know this:
Not one of us breathes life into ourselves.
There is a power who said, "Let me become human. Let me help others learn to express the love, the power, the amazing presence that is the great 'I Am' expressing through all the many traditions that we celebrate as the Light during this holiday season."
With this, I wish you very, very happy holidays!