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.
A Word of Hope
The joy of the holidays begins tomorrow, or does it? As we begin pondering all for which we are thankful and we contemplate the coming of Peace on Earth during the following weeks of Advent, many of us also experience more anxiety than we feel any other month of the year. Pressures of planning family gatherings, shopping, and meeting countless deadlines often make us want to groan with dread rather than shout for joy. This particular holiday season also comes with the seemingly insurmountable challenges of making all of this happen during a pandemic.
We might look at the passage above and wonder if Paul’s encouragement to the church at Philippi is a message we can relate to at all these days. How could those people ever understand the challenges we are facing? Certainly, that would be true in part. The traditions of Christmas celebrations and gift-giving were centuries away and Thanksgiving wouldn’t happen for thousands of years. They were not strangers to anxiety and hardships, however. Plagues were common occurrences in ancient civilizations. True, they probably didn’t worry as much about getting into a heated political discussion with a relative at a church service or family meal. Yet, they did face the possibility of being arrested, imprisoned, and possibly executed by the Empire for meeting to glorify anything but Caesar.
Certainly, the original readers of Paul’s motivating words faced problems that we can’t begin to imagine, but does that fact lessen the severity of what we face today? The uplifting part of the story is that following those wise admonitions did, in fact, pull them through. They learned to be grateful for what they had rather than worrying about the possibility of what may never happen. They also learned to anticipate and accept the peace that passes all understanding.
I believe that if we follow their lead, we can know that peace, too. I love the fact that, in the US, all of the holiday chaos is ushered in by a day that centers on gratitude. Thanksgiving can be a day that sets the mood to be thankful for everything we are given, even for lessons learned during a pandemic. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
God of Grace, may the words of Thessalonians 5. 16-18 be our prayer: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare