"Mike, what on earth inspires you to turn out to church in all weathers, especially when you could just as easy stay in bed on a Sunday morning, or at least do something exciting."

Mike looked at Pete his workmate, then at his watch. "We'll take five and I'll tell you a story," he said.

"It was Christmas eve, and this young mother, was taking her daughter to church for the evening service. It was a really cold night and she had just put a scarf round her daughters neck when she decided to have another try at persuading her husband to go with them.

"You sure you're not coming?" she asked him, "who knows, you might even enjoy it."

"No, not tonight. You know my feelings and I'm no hypocrite. Anyway, I prefer my spirit from a bottle, not that Holy stuff" Her husband answered, "but you go, enjoy yourself."

"I don't believe you, you'd do anything for anyone yet you won't come to church with your family, still if as you say you're no hypocrite.."

"Tell you what then, I'll come down later and meet you from church." He gave a slight smile.

"Mind you do!" giving him a quick kiss on the cheek she took their daughter's hand opened the front door and went out, leaving him on his own.

As she left a sharp gust of cold air blew in complete with a swirling dust of snow, it reminded him that apart from his desire for a quiet evening in front of the tele' with a glass of whisky in his hand, tonight was not the night for going anywhere, especially to that cold church even if it was Christmas eve, but he supposed that he'd be able to brave it a bit later on. It might have even left off snowing by then. 'Hm.. Pigs might fly.'

Half an hour later though, something happened that changed his life for ever, or was it that he'd never noticed before?

There was a thump at the window. Kids playing snowballs? He poured another whisky. Thump, then another thump. He tried to ignore it but how could he? if it carried on like this the little perishers would end up smashing his window. Eventually he pulled himself out of his chair and slipped back one of the curtains. It was too dark to see a thing, especially now the snow was getting even harder and he drew the curtain back again

Thump.. that was enough. He went to the door but there was nothing there just a swirling mass of snow, driven by what was now almost a gale force wind and thankfully, once again returned to his chair.

Thump, thump, thump. This was getting beyond a joke, he'd got to find out what it was. Grabbing his heavy boots from the kitchen, he pulled them on then getting his coat he quickly wrapped himself into it and finally grabbing his wife's furry hat he thrust it on his head and went outside.

Even wrapped up as he was, the cold biting wind swept right through him, he could barely see the street light over the road and already the snow came over his boots. He went round to the lounge window. No signs of any snowball hits, but a flap and a thump and a small bird fluttered past his furry covered ears smacking into the glass. He looked around, there at his feet a number of the little creatures were flapping and floundering in the snow and bent down to pick up the nearest one but it scraped its way out of his grasp.

'Poor little devils, they'll freeze to death." He thought quickly, the car was in the garage, they can't go in there. It would have to be his shed, it would at least be sheltered in there, they should be alright.' So he went down the path to his shed, grabbed a broom then leaving the door open, went back and started to swing the broom it in front of the birds to drive them down his pathway, but the more he swung it, the more they scattered. This was going to take a long time. It did take a fair while but eventually all were shepherded in out of the wind, and congratulating himself he made his way back to the front door almost tasting the whisky waiting for him inside.

Back indoors, he pulled the curtains apart. That's when he saw it, one last bird still out in the cold until he realised that he was looking at his own reflection. He was that last bird, he was still in the cold. Then another thought, if he'd been a bird for just a few moments, how much easier his task, would have been then a rush of excitement.. God sent Jesus, his son, as a man.

He heard the front door open, his wife was home.

"I thought you coming to meet us?"

"Sorry, something happened," he called back and without a glance at his glass of whisky went to his wife and daughter and wrapped his arms around them , "how about us all going to church in the morning," it was all he said.

Peter was quiet for a moment, then looking back at Mike said. "that's all very well but it is only a story isn't it."

"Well put it this way," Mike answered. "My wife had a real shock when she went out to the shed Christmas morning! and if you just think about what God did for us you'll get all the excitement you'll ever need. And I can assure you, the Holy stuff is much stronger than any spirit you find in a bottle."

Now read (John 10: 14 – 16, The good shepherd.)

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A Christmas Parable