I was not going to send “Leading from the Heart” today. However, a Christmas letter crossed my desk which I feel compelled to share with you. No, it’s not like the newsy holiday letters we send to family and friends, recounting the events of the previous year.
This letter was written on Christmas Eve, 1513, by Italian clergyman Fra Giovanni to the “Most Illustrious” Contessina Allafia degl’ Aldobrandeschi of Florence. As you prepare for Christ’s birth, my hope is that this almost 500 year old letter will speak to your heart as deeply as it has spoken to mine.
On Christmas Eve people are more open to hearing the good news of the gospel than at any other time of the year. Please know that I will be holding you and your congregations in prayer tonight as you open the doors of Christ’s love.
There is nothing I can give you, which you have not got;
But there is much, very much that, while I cannot give it, you can take.
No Heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
No Peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.
The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy …
Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their coverings,
cast them away as ugly, or heavy or hard.
Remove the covering, and you find beneath it a living splendor,
woven of love, by wisdom, with power.
Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the Angel’s hand that brings it to you.
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty;
believe me that the Angel’s hand is there;
the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence.
Our joys, too; be not content with them as joys; they, too, conceal divine gifts.
Life is so full of meaning and of purpose,
so full of beauty beneath its covering,
that you will find that earth but cloaks your heaven,
Courage then, to claim it, that is all!
The courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together,
wending through unknown countries, home.
As so, at this Christmas time, I greet you.