We all probably know the fairy story by Hans Christian Anderson, that wonderful poet and author. Some of you may know the story of the ugly duckling best from the musical in which Danny Kaye, playing Hans Christian Anderson, sings the song composed by Frank Loesser.
The story, unlike many fairy tales, is not about a hero winning a fair maiden, completing a difficult task or challenge. The story is about identity, about becoming who we really are. The ugly duckling does not fit in. Shunned by the animals in the farmyard where he is born for being different and ugly, mocked by the cat and hen of the old woman who offers him shelter, the duckling retreats to a cave. When he finally emerges, he is seen by a flock of beautiful swans whose welcome leads to him seeing his reflection in the lake and recognising that he is in fact, a most beautiful swan.
During this winter I have been watching a group of swans on the nearby river. Elegant, effortless, beautiful and white, they have enlivened many a walk. Then their offspring appeared-brown and dirty looking! As I watched them slowly losing their ugly brown feathers it stuck me that they are a living parable of what it means to be made new in Christ.
When Jesus looks at us it is with a loving gaze and an open heart and arms that welcome us in. No matter how ugly we may feel, how marred by failure and dirty with the worlds smudge upon us, Jesus sees who we were created to be, he knows who we truly are and gazes on us with love. He invites us to look in his mirror and see all that we can be-transformed by the renewing of our heart and mind, into beauty that mirrors his face.
We may feel like ugly ducklings, but in truth we are the most beautiful, beloved children of God, whose Spirit will change us and give flight to our wings so that we may become all that God created us to be.