It is customary at this time of the year to review the past year and wonder what is going to happen in the New Year. Icelandic volcanic dust storms, floods in Pakistan and tsunamis in Indonesia and earthquake in Haiti caused so much human misery. Man-made conflicts, wars, terrorism, economic recession and growing unemployment were another aspect of human misery too. Therefore, our hope for the future is to do everything possible to avoid our worst nightmares coming true. But how we do this?

My mind was almost blank and wondering what I should write for the New Year issue of Light of life. Then the unexpected snow storms and a blistery winter scene hit London Streets. We were totally unprepared for this aberration of weather because in England we instinctively look for order and discipline, everything used to have its allotted slots; even seasons are expected to follow its natural rhythm at set time points. Carbon footprints, global warming, floods, typhoons, and tsunamis and snow drifts are no more speculations, they are becoming reality in one way or other to people everywhere as indicated in the beginning. Some of these natural disasters do not follow a pattern, which would allow accurate modelling of weather patterns to set up early warning systems. When one is caught out in the middle of one of these events one begins to realise that human needs are beyond human help. It is in this helplessness we get a little opportunity to think about our own contributions to these ecological imbalances. In the face of all these we see a promise in Psalm 91: “If you make the most high your dwelling then no harm will befall on you.” This seems like an amazing insurance policy against all our worries. The question then is how to make ‘the most high our dwellings.’ We also have the well known Psalm (23:4), “Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” This prophetic promise of God’s presence with us is fulfilled in the Christmas event; it is indeed the story of eternal rescue of God and we are invited to ‘rest in the shadow of the Almighty.’ This brings me to a story about the geese and the snow storm.

There was once a farmer who did not believe in either the virgin birth of Christ or the spiritual meaning behind it, and was sceptical even about God. He and his family lived in a farming community in Canada. His wife was a devout believer and diligently raised her children in the faith. He sometimes gave her a hard time about her belief and mocked her religious observances. He was living according to the norms of postmodernity. "It's all nonsense -- why would God lower himself and become a human like us? It's such a ridiculous story," he said.

One snowy day, she and the children left for church while he stayed home. After they had departed, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening with a glass of wine and a cigar. Then he heard a loud thump, something hitting against the window panes; and, still another and another thump. He looked outside but could not see anything. So he ventured outside for a better view. In the field near his house he saw, of all the strangest things, a flock of geese. They were apparently flying to look for a warmer area down south, but they had been caught in the snowstorm. The storm had become too blinding and violent for the geese to fly or see their way. They were stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter, unable to do more than flutter their wings and fly in aimless circles and bump into others.

This man had compassion for these geese and wanted to help them. He opened the barn doors them. He thought to himself, the barn would be a great place for them to stay. It is warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storms. He waited, watching them, hoping they would notice the open barn doors and go inside. Nevertheless, they did not notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them. He moved closer toward them to get their attention, but they just moved away from him out of fear. He went into the house and came back with some bread, broke it up, and made a bread trail to the barn. They still did not catch on. Starting to get frustrated, he went over and tried to shoo them toward the barn. They panicked and scattered into every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where there was warmth, safety, and shelter. Feeling totally frustrated, he exclaimed, "Why don't they follow me? Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm? How can I possibly get them into the one place to save them?”

The farmer thought for a moment and realized that they just would not follow a human. He said to him, "How can I possibly save them? The only way would be for me to become like those geese. If only I could become like one of them. Then I could save them. They would follow me and I would lead them to safety." At that moment, he stopped and considered what he had said. The words reverberated in his mind: If only I could become like one of them, then I could save them. Then, at last, he understood God's heart towards mankind and he fell on his knees in the snow and prayed. He understood the Christmas story and Christ events.

This is indeed the question facing the missionary activities of the Church; the Church is involved saving the world, but the world is not getting the message. As members of the Church we need to learn to imitate Jesus to bring the saving grace of God to mankind. This story gives us a very good meaning of what St. Paul was saying to Philippians (2: 6-8) about imitating Christ’s humility. “Who, being is very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in the appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!” May the New Year provide us opportunities to listen to the invitation ‘to rest in the shadow of the Almighty.’

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