Scripture Text: Philippians 4:4-9 (Advent 3C)
4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
We’re used to language like this during Advent, wishes for joy and peace. But sometimes they seem to be a little elusive. I mean, how in the world do you rejoice always? Sometimes things are just not worthy of rejoicing, right? Our problem is that we often confuse happiness with joy. Happiness is fleeting. But joy is deep and abiding. Joy is different. Joy is what is in the Light. Peace is what is in the Light. They are part of that different Way.
The Philippians are dear to Paul. They have been generous in supporting his ministry. But there are numerous challenges to their faith. Paul is concerned that the church might divide in the face of these conflicts. There is also concern that the people are being subjected to alternative teachings that might pull them away from the teachings of Jesus. So, Paul reminds them of the presence of Christ, reminds them of what they are a part. It’s not a sappy, utopian call to be happy regardless of bad things are going for you. Bad things happen. It’s ok to be sad, melancholy, even angry. Go ahead, throw a fit! This is not a call to be happy; it is a call to rejoice. Joy is what comes from knowing that indeed God is here with you, guiding you toward the Light. It is a peace that surpasses any understanding that the world may have of what fills one’s life and makes it whole.
As we talked about before, God, the Light, is not “out there”. It is here. And this eternal peace and this peace that goes beyond all worldly understanding is IN that Light. Could it be that when we actually embrace joy, actually live in peace, actually act in pure love, it is one of those flashes of Light we talked about before, bringing us closer to seeing the way we are called to see? The Light is here. Embracing joy, living in peace, acting in love is the way we know that. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Faith transforms the earth into a paradise. By it our hearts are raised with the joy of our nearness to heaven. Every moment reveals God to us. Faith is our light in this life. (Jean Pierre de Caussade)
Grace and Peace,