Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Robin who Fanned the Flames


There is also another tradition of the Robin and how he gained his red breast. This one is more to do with Christmas.

It starts as before, with God creating the robin grey and brown, lacking colour, but this time it was not courage he lacked, but just something which made him different, something which defined him against the other birds.

It happened that on the eve of Christmas, the poor family of Mary and Joseph arrived at Bethlehem. Indeed the town was crowded, and no matter who you are or what your state, there was not room, no decent place to stay. Eventually, they were given permission to spend the night in a stable.


They arrived during the night. A cold night. The Virgin had been sitting all day, stiff and cold, heavily pregnant, knowing that the time was near, but (miraculously) without the pain that that should bring.

Joseph, honourable and devoted to his wife, gently helped her off the donkey and bade her rest herself next to the stable wall. It was not a good place. It was somewhere, but it was no where near perfect. There was dirt, and animals, mangy animals, but now the problem was the cold. It was so cold. There was no door, and the walls were broken planks of wood. The wood lay all around them, where the animals had charged into it and broken it. And poor Mary's frame shook as the bitterness of the night bit into her flesh. They had had little space to bring clothing, and had not thought that shelter would have been such a problem.

Joseph shooed the animals away and set about blocking up the worst of the gaps. And the rest of the wood he gathered into a small mound. He knew that setting a fire in a stable was not really a good idea, but if it was that or the life of his beautiful wife and the child she carried, then he would do it.

The wood was gathered, and a little dry straw, and he struck the flint. It caught, and a little flame, with light and warmth, entered the world. But the wood was damp and the flame kept dimming. Joseph brought Mary closer to the little fire and gently blew on the damp wood to keep the flame alive.


The animals stopped their noise and their movement. The very air itself stilled and silence hung in the air. Joseph turned to his wife and saw that the moment was come. But the light and the warmth and the comfort of the fire was failing. He moved to Mary's side - she was more important than the fire.

To have a child born in the darkness and cold!

At this moment a little brown and grey bird flew into the stable. It knew, as all the animals knew, that this was the moment to stand still to cease their activity and to feel the change in the world, because of the birth of this boy. But the bird knew that it, of all the creatures, had to pull against its nature, its innate command to cease and to adore. It flew down to the fire and gently beat its wings. The swirls of air it created fanned the charred wood and a flame flickered into light. It would make sure that this child was born in the light and warmth.

As the birth took place, and silence reigned on the earth, everything in all creation stood still. All beasts fell silent and knelt in adoration. The stars and planets in their course hung in space. No sound, no movement throughout the whole of creation when God became man.

Except for the beating of a tiny wing, the gentle crackle of the fire. In that moment of birth, which lasted for all eternity, the bird never ceased in its task. The flame rose and filled the stable. The place was warmed by the wondrous blaze and the darkness was illuminated by the light that the fire brought.

Christ was born surrounded by His family, and by His creation and bathed in light and warmth.


And then the Angels sang! And how they sang. The Holy Mother's eyes were filled with tears of joy that something so beautiful could come into the world, and Joseph was humbled with honour. The beast fell to their knees. They knew that their God had come. And a little frail body lay next to a roaring fire. The flames had burnt the birds chest and singed away its feathers. But it had never allowed the fire to die. It had worshipped its creator and given Him heat and light.

The baby tore His eyes from His Holy Mother and glanced at the poor bird. The angels came at His silent command and carried away the near dead body. St Joseph in his heart said thank you to the little bird.

But even as the whole of creation worshipped God, the sound was not full, the scene not complete.

At that moment the same little grey brown bird flew through the opening of the stable and perched on the side of the manger. And as it too raised its voice and completed the song of the universe in praise of this child, the bird's chest glowed with the flame of kindness, compassion and love. A red glow - amid the dark feathers.

It flew off knowing that it's brother birds would meet this man again, and the glow of red would be fixed forever by the blood of God.
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