Christmas peace: In a season of joy, prayer can lift the sadness

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Today Christians mark the birth of Jesus and all that it means for hope, rebirth and redemption. But this year it seems that celebration has been tempered by more than the usual cares and concerns.

Across the Pittsburgh region many families will watch children open their presents, spend time in church and host loved ones at bountiful dinners. It is a time to share, to remember and to show love.

As the joy of another Christmas dawns, though, some Americans are wracked by sorrow. As the spirit of good will pervades, too many feel only distress or conflict.

We try to delight in giving. We try to see the holiday through the eyes of a child.

Yet we live in a troubled time. A time when children can perish in their own classrooms. When those we elect to govern cannot compromise for the public good. When the haves and the have-nots seem to cleave further and further apart.

At moments like these, it is worth reflecting on what each of us might do to capture the meaning of Christmas, of Jesus' sacrifice for mankind -- and try to live it for longer than the Christmas tree is up.

We can draw guidance from "The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis," which actually was not written by the saint but anonymously by a French writer at the time of World War I. It was found on the back of a holy card bearing the image of St. Francis, cementing the association.

Regardless of its authorship, the words might as well have been divinely inspired, for they are meaningful for this Christmas or any other day.

O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is discord, harmony.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sorrow, joy.

Oh 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.

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