Scripture: Philippians 4:4-7 (NRSV)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry 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.
I will admit that two of the most annoying phrases in the English language can be "don't feel that way" and "don't worry". First of all how do you stop a feeling and secondly I have made worrying an art form, so please don't take away one of my main self imposed responsibilities in life!
As you read this the world has already been screaming the number of shopping days until Christmas for close to two months. The anxiety about the holidays is rising and the expectations, especially for church professionals, are at a fever pitch. And into the midst of all of this angst comes Paul's exhortation: "don't worry… be happy!" Seem pretty Pollyanna-ish? And since the words are so familiar are we tempted to not let them seep into our souls?
By digging deeper I have come to believe that this passage speaks to all of us with a God complex… the belief that we can and that we need to do it all, be all to all people and solve every crisis that comes our way… on our own because we can do it best! I love Eugene Peterson's translation about worry in Matthew 6:27 (The Message) "Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch?" With all the fussing and worrying that I have been prone to doing over the years, I should be well over my 5'2"!
Advent is a time of waiting expectantly and yes patiently for that peace which "surpasses all understanding" to fill our lives, to guard our hearts and minds against the assumption that we are in this alone. God knows our angst and assures us don't worry, I am with you. Feel all you need to feel and then give it up to me in prayer. It is only in those moments of letting go that we will rejoice and be able to let our gentleness be known to one another… and most especially to ourselves!
God is near… deep within us always! Open your hearts and minds to the reassurance of that truth and don't worry!
God grant us the courage to believe that you are with us in all things and that we can dare to rejoice, be gentle with others and ourselves and most especially leave the worrying to you! Amen