Paul Harvey may very well have been one of the twentieth century’s greatest gifts to broadcasting. His demeanor, his voice, and above all else his collected wit graced the airwaves all across America. On or near Christmas, every year, Harvey shared with his listeners an essay. The words, Harvey openly confessed, were not his own. For years he, and his family, searched for the original author… But they never were able to trace its parentage.
In his own words, Harvey once observed that “maybe, some essays are just not supposed to have an acknowledged author.” Here is the paraphrased version of the essay that so many of us remember Harvey sharing with America:
Our protagonist is not a scrooge. In fact he was a kind, and quite decent, mostly good man. Honest in his dealings and generous to his family, he was commonly received as a man of good values.
But, he could never bring himself to believe the story of Christ. The incarnation, the God born a man by virgin birth… It just didn’t make sense to him, and he was too honest a man to feign devotion to a story he could not accept. The story of Jesus, God coming to Earth as a man, simply didn’t add up in his mind.
And so one Christmas, feeling his pretense of devotion had thoroughly run its course, he told his wife he would not be going with the family to Church.
“I’m sorry to upset you,” he explained, “but I would simply feel like a hypocrite.” He told her that he would stay at home, and wait for them to return from Midnight Mass.
Shortly after the family had left a snowstorm moved into the area. Settling in his chair with a cup of coffee, the man began to relax for the evening.
Before too long, the soft white noise of the steady snow was interrupted by a loud thud. Then another, and another. At first the man concluded someone must have been throwing snowballs against his living room window, but upon peering out from behind the blinds his yard appeared quite empty.
Reluctantly venturing outside, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the falling snow, just beneath his living room window. Having been caught in the storm the desperate birds were trying in vain to fly through the large landscape window.
Being the decent man that he was, he knew he couldn’t leave the stranded birds to freeze in the night storm, and resolved to find a solution. It was just then that he thought of the barn where his children stabled their pony. It would be warm, sheltered, and safe… If he could get the birds into it.
Quickly he put on a jacket and galoshes, and began trekking through the snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on the light; but the birds did not fly in.
Thinking that food might entice them, he hurried back to the house and retrieved some bread crumbs. Sprinkling the crumbs in the snow, the man made a trail to the warmly lit doorway of the stable.
But still, the birds vainly fought the cold beneath his living room window.
He tried catching them. He tried shooing them into the barn by waving his arms and walking around them. But nothing worked. As he approached, they scattered in almost every direction, and as soon as he retreated back they resumed their hopeless attempts to fly through his living room window.
The man realized that the birds were simply too afraid of him. To them, after all, he was a giant 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 how?”
Any move he made simply confused, and frightened them.
“If only I could let them know I want them to be safe,” he said allowed. “If only I could be a bird, and mingle with them and speak their language, I could let them know that I mean them no harm. I could show them the way to the safe warm barn, but...” realization seemed to wash over him, “but I guess I would have to be one of them; so that they could see, and hear, and understand.”
At that moment the church bells began to ring through the dense cold. 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.