The magic of quiet snow falling on Christmas morning – oh, just the thought of it takes me back to my snow-covered hill-top home – the wonder, the beauty, the silence. It can happen anywhere that the heart makes room.
In January of 2008 Atlanta was covered in a beautiful blanket of snow. I couldn’t resist but to take a few pictures in the garden that now looked so fresh and new even in the bleak of our winter of great sadness. St. Francis looked especially peaceful and content with a white cap warming his head. His presence standing strong there in the garden offered me a new appreciation for the man who gave up all of his worldly goods to be an instrument of peace during his life.
A few years later we visited his birthplace and the city for which he is named. I came home and disciplined myself to memorize one of his prayers – maybe the one for which he is most remembered. Let’s see if I can say it for you:
Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
(You can listen to Sarah Mclachlan sing it here.)
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
What strikes me today is that in the first line, the prayer asks the Lord to make me an instrument of HIS peace. I may not ever find my own peace and that is what we ponder so much, trying to make sense of life and its ups and downs. But I can, in the midst of pondering offer to be used – to be an instrument of God’s peace – the peace that we seldom understand, but that we have been freely given through the one who comes again this Christmas.
I confess I am not always a peacemaker. I do not always sow love, pardon, faith, or hope. Sometimes I am dark and sometimes I am sad and lonely even though my home is filled with abundance. That’s why I have memorized the prayer and it is amazing the times during the day when the words come to remind me “sow hope, sow love, understand, pardon.” And then the peace comes.
Jesus said in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you: my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
I know that Christ wants to infuse peace into all of us. He said so. His peace. Not the peace of a quiet snowfall. Not the peace of singing Silent Night holding a candle. But the opening of our souls to receive Him in our hearts – to take on his characteristics of love and forgiveness, of gentleness and hope and of purpose. But in this age of “it’s all about me” we find it hard to acknowledge our utter neediness and we simply just don’t need Jesus – or very much of him.
This Christmas, open yourself to receive the peace that Jesus brings –now, from eternity past, and forevermore. And in return, offer yourself as an instrument of that kind of peace. Knowing peace is the gift above all gifts. Go ahead and open it.