By Rev. Jeanne Randall-Bodman
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
--Philippians 4: 5-7--
I’ve always bridled at Paul’s instruction “do not be anxious,” -- as if it might be possible to simply will oneself not to have a particular feeling. Or laudable to label certain feelings as forbidden and deny to yourself that you are having them.
Given all that is uncertain in the world, all that is heartbreaking and frightening in the news, being admonished not to be anxious sounds laughable, maybe even a little cruel. Being anxious seems kind of sensible to me right about now…
But I was reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians again last week and I suddenly wondered if I might have been missing the entire point all this time. Perhaps Paul meant – don’t STAY anxious. God is near, so speak the truth of your life, all your longing, confusion, gratitude, joy, anger, fear, love, all of it, to God. Speak and then pause in the stillness. And there you will find deep peace, the kind of peace that leads to hope and makes room for joy.
As the world rushes straight to Christmas, lights and music blazing, ads filling all our news feeds with promises of happiness at a price, the church reminds us to pause and be rooted in God so that below our cheer is deep peace and lasting joy.
Wishing you a blessed advent, a joyful Christmas, and a hope-filled New Year!