Philippians 4:4-7 —

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.

 

from William Flewelling, Proctor, WV

Within the throes of advent, honing the soul on anticipation – the anticipation of the coming of Christ and the fulfillment of the kingdom of God – we find ourselves met with texts of tribulation and affliction, of the devastation of the familiar at the dawning of the age to come.  This has nothing to do with Christmas, less to do with the commercial Christmas that is our major cultural excess in a consumer society/economy.  It has, rather, to do with the spiritual integrity of the anticipation of the full measure of Christ, beyond our expectations and imaginings.  In this uncertain hour, we are bid to rejoice.  Further, we are told: “have no anxiety about anything.”

I realize the indication that we are to ask whatever our requests may be of God “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” gives the result that the center of our attention tends to the making of such requests: the mind is quickly full of them!  The response of God is peace passing understanding, a peace that keeps hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  I take that “in” literally, as a preposition denoting location.  Hearts and minds are in Christ Jesus by means of the incomprehensible peace of God.

While our playing field faces fundamental change – from where we are to what God will provide in the coming of Christ at the dawn of the kingdom of God – we are told to put away anxiety.  Paul has repeatedly claimed that he would have us be not-anxious.  So it is once again here.  Anxiety – that tightening of the soul and the grip on the body that makes us breathe quickly while a certain writhing wrests our bellies from any pretense of contentment – is irrelevant.  We are engaging the change of the age in the coming of Christ by anticipation: be not anxious about anything. For in the severity of the crisis we are brought to God’s peace.  Giving thanks, we rejoice – always.  Abandoning anxiety, we anticipate the full openness of fruition in the presence of Christ – such that we delight to live thus blissfully in anticipation of all we cannot imagine but which is breathtakingly sublime.

In our rejoicing, O God – even rejoicing unawares – we come to you.  Lift from us the entangling anxiety we are helpless to divest from our souls and sate us on your peace that, heart and mind in the coming Lord Jesus, we might live in unbounded joy.

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