Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Once upon a time, long ago and far away there was a little snowflake. She was one of many waiting her turn to announce the coming of yet another winter season. The delicate embroidery of each flake had been lovingly crafted by the Master Snow Maker. Still, the little snowflake felt lost and forgotten in the presence of the bigger and more complex designs.
As her time approached, the little snowflake grew more and more worried. “I can’t do this,” she whispered, for she was afraid of what might await her out in the outer limits of the heavens.
The little snowflake made one last appeal to the Master Snow Maker. Perhaps he would have compassion on her and let her wait until she too, was bigger and better.
However, he shook his head, and with a wise smile, eased her out the celestial windows along with a multitude of others whose time has also come.
“You may not become the cusp of the biggest snowball, or the cornerstone of the strongest snow fort. You might not be the first to signal the coming of winter, or freeze into perpetuity in the still waters of a waiting stream. But, you’ll be exactly what you were meant to be just as you are. You will do what you were designed to do-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o …” and his voice drifted away as she fell further and further into the dark night.
For a time she lost sight of the rest of her companions as she drifted down through puffy clouds. She was teased by gentle breezes and tossed by some that were not so gentle. Now, more than ever, the little snowflake felt small and oh so alone.
As she drifted through the blackness, she tried to remember all that the Master Snow Maker had said. “You are unique. You know that I never make even one snowflake like any other. Only you can be you.”
“But I am only one among so many,” she argued.
“You are still the only one that is YOU,” he patiently insisted.
The little snowflake felt her progress slow. The breezes had faded. The night was still and silent. The air was cold. She could see more clearly now. The clouds had drifted away leaving the skies intense with glittering stars. One in particular drew her attention. It shone more brightly than the rest, bathing the landscape in a warm glow that penetrated the cold and dark.
“I’ll head for that star,” she said to no one in particular. She picked her currents of air carefully and soon found herself under the pale light of the bright star. Below her, the little snowflake could see the outline of hills against the dark sky. Nestled among them was a village. Pale lights flickered from the rough dwellings, occasionally disappearing as their inhabitants went off to bed. Against one hill, on the edge of town, a shed rested, its tired beams sheltering the entrance to a hollow carved out of the hillside. The star on whose mantle she rode seemed to point the way to that unlikely spot.
Closer and closer the little snowflake came. In the light of the star, she saw that there were four-footed beasts huddled beside the humble shelter below her. Some of her quicker companions melted themselves into curly wool and rough hide. Others slipped through the gaps in the roughly hewn slats in the roof and came to rest on the woolen cloaks, weathered cheeks, and calloused hands of the sheep keepers seeking shelter inside the shed.
The little snowflake braced herself. Her end was coming. She wondered how it could possibly fulfill all that the Master Snow Maker had promised. She landed gently on soft and pure flesh; the tip of the tiny nose of a Child nestled deep in the straw of the feed box. He made no sound, no move to brush her away. She, so small and insignificant, would go unnoticed right to the end. Or, would she?
As the little snowflake melted into Him, she felt the warmth of His smile and sensed that, somehow, He had been waiting for her arrival. In a flash as bright as that of the star she had followed, the little snowflake knew in her deepest being that in finding Him, she had found everything and had discovered not her end, but her beginning.
Monday, December 21, 2015
“Move it, you three. You’re late and we haven’t got much time,” chimed the Bell Master from his place on the bottom rung of the carillon.
“Nag, nag, nag,” whispered the D flat to his buddy, C, as they climbed into their places on the top level. “What’s the hurry, anyway? Clang’s got his clapper in a knot for sure this morning.”
“Morning? It’s still dark outside,” protested the F major, breathlessly hauling himself up behind the others.
The smaller bells finally got themselves into place, just as Clang struck the note that indicated readiness and silence in the ranks. He looked around, carefully checking to make sure no one was missing. Worse than a faulty note was no note at all.
“Where’s Tinkle?” he boomed from his assigned spot.
Tinkle was the littlest bell of all. Her spot was high up at the top of the carillon.
Like an evil wind brushing through the tower, the rustle of the bells created dissonance as everyone looked around, hunting for Tinkle.
“I’m here sir. Just polishing, Bell Master.” Her clear, high sound rang out as Tinkle took her place at the apex of the musical arrangement.
“That girl takes herself too seriously. ‘Just polishing, Bell Master.’ As if fingerprints made any difference to anyone,” mimicked the D flat.
“You have something to share with us?” came Clang’s voice from down below.
Everyone froze. More than once Clang had said out loud that he wished they never had to have contact with their human counterparts—the evil always rubbed off a bit, like fingerprints on the burnished surface of a bell.
“Uhmmmmm, no sir. I was just, well, wondering what all the rush was about,” stuttered the offender. “It’s not even daylight yet.”
“Well, if—and I know keeping time for you doesn’t usually include knowing what day it is—you had been paying attention during rehearsals, you would have remembered that dawn today is the biggest moment of our year. Today we bring hope to the world.”
From somewhere in the middle of the bevy of bells came the dulcet tones of one of the G’s. “But, boss, do you really think anyone listens to us? It’s nasty out there. Everyone knows what happened to poor Liberty. Those humans are a mean lot and we don’t seem to be making much of an impact.”
There were a couple of chuckles from the group at G’s unintentional play on notes. The subdued merriment stopped as Clang’s clapper sounded for silence.
“I’ll admit that I sometimes have my doubts as to whether anyone gets our message, but that’s not the point. The point is that we have a message that we have been assigned to deliver, we’ve been practicing faithfully for this last year, and we are going to chime out that message no matter what. It’s up to the Master Musician to do the rest. So, are we ready? It’s almost time.”
The bell choir stirred, positioning themselves, clappers at the ready, all eyes on Clang.
“Don’t forget, your part is critical. Sometimes people don’t hear the high notes, so you can’t hesitate or show weakness.”
“I won’t let you down, sir.”
Slowly the blackness outside the tower retreated before the insistence of the watery light of a winter sun. As it peeked above the horizon, Clang readied himself, gave the choir one last check, and nodded to Tinkle.
The high, light sound rang out loud and clear, followed by a rolling scale of melodious notes that reverberated across the awakening town.
Far below the tower, in the manse beside the church, a pastor looked up from his prayers. He had wrestled all night with his Christmas morning message. What could he say that would bring hope to a world where evil ruled men’s hearts, where even Christmas was banned with an “X”? How could he make sense of a world where, in the name of preserving peace, war was wrought?
He listened, remembered, and smiled. Hope was in God’s final note—which had yet to be played.
And in despair I bowed my head/There is no peace on earth I said/For hate is strong and mocks the song/Of peace on earth, good will toward men/
Then peeled the bells more loud and sweet/God is not dead nor doth he sleep/ The wrong shall fail, the right prevail/Of peace on earth, good will toward men./ (from: I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day)