If Only I Could Be A Bird is a Christmas parable by Louis Cassels who was for many years the religion editor of United Press International. His column “Religion in America” appeared in over four hundred newspapers during the mid-nineteenth century
Once upon a time, there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn’t a Scrooge. He was a very kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men. But he didn’t believe in all that stuff about an incarnation which churches proclaim at Christmas.
“I am truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer, “but I simply cannot understand this claim that God became a man. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
On Christmas eve, his wife and children went to church for the midnight service. He declined to accompany them. “I’d feel like a hypocrite,” he explained. “I’d much rather stay at home. But I’ll wait up for you.”
Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries get heavier and heavier. “If we must have Christmas,” he reflected, “it’s nice to have a white one.”
He went back to his chair beside the fireside and began to read a newspaper. A few minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, and another. He thought someone must be throwing snowballs at his living-room window. 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 window.
“I can’t let these poor creatures lie there and freeze,” he thought. “But how can I help them?” Then he remembered the barn where the children’s pony was stabled. It would provide a warm shelter. He quickly put on his coat and galoshes and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on the light. But the birds didn’t come in.
“Food will bring them in,” he thought. So he hurried back to the house for bread crumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail to the barn. To his dismay, the birds ignored the breadcrumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction – except into the warm, lighted barn.
“They find me a strange and terrifying creature,” he said to himself, “and I can’t seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety.”
Just at that moment, the church bells began to ring. He stood silently for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow. “Now I understand,” he whispered. “Now I see why You had to do it.”