I tend to become quite nostalgic during this time of year. This morning, as I came to work and saw a gaggle of geese huddled together on the icy Des Plaines River, I was reminded of something that happened about fifteen years ago on the grounds of Saint Marcelline Parish in Schaumburg, Illinois. Here a few photos, interior and exterior:
I served as director of liturgy and music there from 1992 to 1999. A few days before Christmas, as I was walking to my car from the church, I heard a strange noise. It sounded like someone was coughing. I looked around and saw nothing but a group of pesky geese on the church grounds. A few hours later, walking back to the church, I heard the sound again. This time there was only one goose and as I drew closer, I could tell that the sound was coming from this goose. The goose was obviously in some kind of struggle. It was trying to flap its wings and it was emitting this kind of coughing sound. I found the maintenance man, Gil, and asked him to come with me to take a look. As we cautiously approached the struggling goose, we looked more carefully and saw that the poor creature had become entangled in fishing line. The line was wrapped around its wings, preventing it from flying. The line was also wrapped tightly around the bird's neck, which was probably the reason why it was emitting this coughing sound. Gil and I decided that we needed to do something for the poor goose. He phoned his daughter-in-law, a veterinarian, who gave us instructions on what we could do to save the poor bird.
We went into the maintenance room and found some wire clippers and a towel. Gil and I very quietly and slowly approached the goose—they are very large that close up!—and we placed the towel over the bird's head and then we began our work. Wearing gloves, we both began to examine the areas where the fishing line was wrapped around the goose's body. We carefully began to snip the line, pulling pieces of the line away from the bird, who remained quite docile the entire time. To be honest, my heart was racing at this point. When we finally clipped the line around the bird's neck, we knew we had removed all of the fishing line. We then removed the towel and walked very quickly away from the bird.
The goose just sat there looking at us. It began to cough again and after a few strange noises, it rediscovered its own honk. It just honked and honked away.
Then it began to test its wings, flapping around a bit on the ground. We stood there transfixed by all of this. Then, without a moment's hesitation, the bird began to flap its large wings and lifted itself in the air. Gil and I watched as the bird soared higher and higher and farther and farther away.
Once the goose was out of sight, Gil and I just looked at each other and I noticed a tear in his eye, blurred by the tears in my own eyes.
Those of you who regularly read this blog know that very few things in my life remain unexamined. I am always looking for some deeper meaning in events that occur. When I thought about this encounter with the goose, a comparison came to me instantly. What Gil and I managed to do with that coughing goose was akin to what God has done for us through the incarnation of Jesus, our Messiah. Caught up in sin, we are freed by the mercy of God, who loves us so much that he sent his only Son to be our redeemer. And what does this freedom from sin offer us? The potential to fly free, to soar as God's redeemed people, to be lifted up for a life of service to God's people.
This "Christmas Goose" story serves as a yearly Advent and Christmas reminder to me; a reminder to be grateful for the greatest gift I have ever received, the gift of God incarnate.
I hope this Advent sees you soaring to new heights as a beloved child of God.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.