In John, Chapter 3, verse 16, we hear, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
Like John the Baptist growing inside of Elizabeth, we, too, should leap for joy upon hearing this message. God loved us so much that he gave us His only Son, so that we could have eternal life. Just the fact that eternal life in Heaven is possible to us should set our hearts on fire for God.
The mystery of the Incarnation changed the world. If Jesus doesn’t come, we don’t have Christmas, we don’t have the New Testament, we don’t have the death or (more importantly) the Resurrection. We don’t have a Catholic Schools. We don’t celebrate the Eucharist. We don’t have salvation.
And even though we understand the Incarnation to have this kind of impact, we don’t always appreciate it. Our wonder and awe of how Mary gave birth to the Son of God gets overshadowed by candy canes and gingerbread.
So, in the spirit of Jesus’ parables, let us consider the Incarnation from another perspective:
For God so loved the world…
Max had always loved ducks. For years he had enjoyed them returning in the warm summer months to the lake outside of his cottage. He would spend his days watching them, at night he would lay out more seed for them to eat. The ducks became the subject of his paintings, a recent hobby he had acquired. Max even went so far as to name two of his favorites: Herb and Norma. He would pray for their young offspring. He would delight in their swimming and flying, playing and quacking. It was joyous for Max to have these ducks visit his pond year after year. In fact, it was the best part of his life.
…that He gave His only Son…
Max had lived in the cottage for his entire life. As it sat on a coastal town, Hurricanes had become second nature for Max. Too old to evacuate, and really nowhere else to go, he would hunker down, boarding up his windows, stockpiling water, batteries, candles, and other necessities, but would otherwise be unfazed by the powerful storms. Miraculously, he and his cottage had survived every Hurricane that had crossed his path. 37 to be exact.
So, when 38 arrived, Max had no idea that it would be the one to take his life.
…so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.
It was late in the day and the clouds had been rolling in since mid-afternoon. Feeling the coming tropical storm in his bones, Max began the process of nailing two-by-fours across his windows. “If I start now,” he thought, “I can be done and enjoying supper by 6:00.” Hammering the last nail into his wooden home at about 5:30, he chuckled to himself as he loved to be early. What else did he have to do?
Preparing his meal took no time at all: opening the can of soup, putting it on the stove and cutting and buttering his bread took less time combined than waiting for the soup to boil. As he waited for the steam and bubbles, he located his water supply, gathered up his flashlights, candles and matches, took mental stock of his Hurricane prep-list, and set his table.
Max sat for dinner precisely at 6:00 and as he bowed his head in prayer, he caught a glimpse of the time, smiled once more, and took his first bite.
It was at this time that he heard the first clap of thunder. The pitter-patter of rain on his roof soon followed. Paying it little attention, Max dunked his bread in his soup, softening and flavoring it, before bringing it to his mouth. The broth tasted salty, which was a nice complement to the tartness of the sourdough-rye he was using tonight. Max was so entranced in his meal that he didn’t even flinch as the powerful winds pelted the cottage with rain.
Finishing his meal, Max got up to peak outside at the storm’s wrath. As he squinted through a small slit in the wooden coverings, he saw the tall palm trees bending to the left. Rain fell sideways in sheets. The wind howled. His tiny cottage trembled with each thunder strike. Taking this as commonplace he was about to go and clean his dishes from dinner when he noticed Herb and Norma. Cowering behind a tree, Herb tried his best to shield Norma from the storm, spreading his wings and hugging her, exposing his back to water, twigs and other flying debris.
Max’s eyes immediately fixated on the ducks. From inside of his cottage he began yelling and screaming at them, “Herb! Norma! Go to the shed! Get out of the storm!” As he shouted he pointed at the shed to which he was referring. Located just a stone’s throw from his front steps it was only a few feet from the Herb and Norma’s sheltering tree. The place where he kept his gardening tools and other odds and ends, it was built of concrete, a remnant of the army barracks that at one point was housed on this very plot of land. It was sturdier than his cottage.
Max went on encouraging his duckling friends for a few minutes, experimenting with different tones, volume levels and even words. Realizing his attempts to communicate were in vain, Max brainstormed some other possibilities.
He ran and retrieved a flashlight. As he had many from which to choose, Max selected the most powerful beam in his reserve. Given to him by Sheriff Briggs, Max new it was strong enough to cut through the rain and reach his web-footed friends. Opening a window, Max hammered out one of the wooden planks. “It will weaken my defenses a bit,” Max considered, “but it’s the only way I can get this light to them.”
Turning on the flashlight, Max shot its beams onto Herb. Jiggling it a bit, he then traced the path from the ducks into the shed. Herb must have thought ill of this light as instead of it leading he and his bride to safety, it caused him to leap into the air, only to get thrown back to the earth by the fierce winds. Herb lay motionless to the right of Norma, who began to burrow deeper into the ground.
Max’s heart dropped into his stomach. It was a pain that he had not felt in quite some time. Thinking out loud, he sighed, “I have to save them. I have to save them, but I will have to get closer to do so.”
Max stood in front of his front door long enough to check his body for the necessary rain gear. Boots, pants, coat, hood, glasses. “Well, I can’t cover myself in any more plastic and rubber,” he judged. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, reached for the doorknob and opened the door.
He was immediately struck by wind and rain. Stumbling back a bit, he leaned forward, stepped out onto his porch and closed the door behind him. Moving as quickly as his old body would allow, he darted in the direction of Herb and Norma. As he got closer, he called their names, “Herb! Norma! It’s Max! I’m hear to save you!” The roar of the rain bouncing off of his waterproof hat and hood muffled the sound of his own voice. He scrambled through the mud and water, inching closer to his friends. Drawing closer he bent down to scoop up Herb. “Norma is at least behind the tree,” Max’s mind raced. “I need to get Herb out of this rain.”
As he stooped down, Max slipped on an exposed tree root. He tumbled to the ground, the left side of his body taking most of the impact. Water seeped under his rain gear. He felt his clothes underneath begin to dampen. He rolled over and reached for Herb. His hand brushed Herb’s wing, causing Herb to once again spring to life, furiously flapping his wings and honking. Max tried to chase after Herb. “Herb, I’m trying to save you!” Max yelled. “Please, go into the shed!”
Bringing himself up onto his knees, Max tried every conceivable hand motion and gesture. He tried calling out like a duck, cupping his cold and wet hands over his mouth and buzzing into his balled up fists. This only caused Herb to stir even more, squawking and getting tossed around by the winds.
Max got up and moved toward Norma, bracing himself on the trunk of the tree to steady his attempt at retrieving her. She flew out of his grasp, staying close to the ground as she fled. Max ran after her. He was growing tired. His heart was beating rapidly and it felt like it was about to erupt. He staggered. He gripped his chest.
A moment before Max’s heart gave out, he thought to himself, “If only I could become a duck, I could communicate to them and lead them to safety. If only I could become one of them…”