I find it nearly unfathomable that Christmas stories as beautiful as these could be posted online for going on three years without any reader comments. And here it is almost 10 p.m. on a rainy night in April when I am blessed to finally unearth them … and to leave the first remark. I only recently discovered Dr. Peale’s work (as recently as this afternoon, in fact) and I already purchased a few of his books from an online seller. Realizing I would have to wait several days for them to show up in my mailbox, I sought out some of his writings available to me tonight. I am stunned by how genuine and gorgeous his words are … and I can only imagine how they would make one feel in the holiday season. I can feel his tender heart in these Christmas tales, and it makes me want to humble myself further … allow my heart to closer match the heart of our Lord and Savior. Isn’t it interesting how sometimes the greatest writings that end up changing our hearts have been on the bookshelves in libraries or random bookstores for most of our lives? May God bless you in Heaven, tonight, Dr. Peale. He certainly did so on Earth.
From the middle of the night came his anxious prayer.
In the dead silence, long before dawn,
the Savior sent up his voice on a clear line to his father.
His words were the direst ever to reach God’s ears
– a plead for the cup of his crucifixion to pass him by
– and for his father’s will to be done, not his own.
And it was the second part of this appeal that was obliged.
On his knees in the moonlit garden,
surrounded by his followers who’s long since fallen asleep,
the Savior’s fate was fully revealed to him:
hate and pain.
As the torchlight of his accusers came over the hill,
he arose, awakened from his fear.
The cup of pain and bitter sorrow were his to carry
to the cross, where the contents
— like water to wine —
would be changed to love and forgiveness.
On the path this morning, I saw a silver bird no bigger than my fist, too weak to fly. He ran along ahead of me in bursts. As I came closer, his legs moved in a flurry making up the distance between us. But still, he couldn’t lift his wings. I followed behind for 100 steps or so as he kept looking back, wondering what creature I might be and what I might do to him if I caught up. The winds blew the brush on the edges of the trail as he struggled to leap over the uneven grass greening with the spring. Just days before Easter, I could feel a Spirit of change in the air, and the world renewing itself. Finally, when I was almost on top of him, there was another flurry of energy — this time in his wings — and somehow up he went into the air about 20 feet and off the path into the tall weeds with tops like wheat stalks. I’m certain he thought himself safe — delivered from danger — though I planned to do him no harm. I imagined as I walked past that he would calm himself and rest there until he was able to take flight. Then off he would glide into April. Reborn like these fields. Full of new life. A bird of the air, cared for forever by the mysterious provisions of our Lord.
No sooner than I say amen, the shadows are upon me and I slip back into flesh.
The immediacy magnifies my failure and I feel even more distant from you though just a few hours before, kneeling at your feet.
I put my head down at night praying that the next day will bring a lasting change of heart — that a shot of Spirit will rush through me and I’ll finally have a light-filled revelation, becoming a completely new being.
The sun rises and I wake, beginning my day with earnest prayer and reading of scripture.
Then my enemy sets up the hurdles before me and I stumble over them, forgetting not to rely on my own strength.
On my face again — and sorrowful — I send up my prayers for forgiveness.
“Alight my heart with your Spirit, Lord. Pull me up from the sinful ground where I am rooted and plant me close to you. Near the water. By your eternal stream of love and forgiveness.”