About the time Jesus was born, just one little baby in a manger in a remote village in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles away a snowflake fell. It fell in a place so remote that no human has ever set foot there. It was just one snowflake, but, it was one of billions falling that night, in a place so far north it never gets warm enough for snow to melt, only to freeze even harder as it becomes part of a magnificent ice field, dozens of miles wide, even many miles longer.
As the snowflake fell, unnoticed by anyone but God, it floated gently into a place where other snowflakes had been falling for many thousands of years. All together, the frozen snowflakes became a river of ice, a glacier so deep and so wide and so cold that, even over hundreds of years, it had moved only a few miles. As it coursed its way downhill toward the sea, the river’s sheer weight carved out microscopic pieces of dirt and boulders the size of multi-story office buildings, slowing shaping out valleys where there had once been great mountains. It was just one snowflake. But, frozen together with all of the other snowflakes, it became part of something incredible, the very hand of God carving out God’s never-ending creation.
In 2004, twenty centuries later, Nancy and I stood with some friends in the place where that one snowflake now rests, atop Mendenhall Glacier, just outside of Juneau, Alaska. Our guide told us that the ice on which we were standing had fallen as snow about the time of Christ. Looking back up the valley it had taken that snowflake 2,000 years to travel, I stood in sacred awe of the patient hand of God and of the value of just one.
History is not so much the story of the great brushstrokes of powerful, brilliant or lucky people as much as it is the combined stories of the power of billions who make their contribution, unique from all others, one small stroke at a time on the canvass of God’s never-ending creation. One smile. One kiss. One word of encouragement. One prayer. One vote. One simple word of witness. One dollar for one hungry child. One line in one letter. One teacher’s influence in one classroom. One song. One life connecting with one other life, one at a time.
It was just one snowflake. But, it helped reshape the surface of the earth forever. Ours may be just one life. Only God knows, and God does know, the uniqueness of our lives and the power they are having, one simple act of love and mercy at a time, to reshape the course of the world we were given the privilege of touching, for this one brief moment in time.