BCP Advent 4 Philippians 4:4-7
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
At Christmas we celebrate God uniting himself with the human race by becoming a baby. The theme of today's epistle is our unity with God, a unity which will rise above any difficulties we may have.
We are to 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
The joy we are to have is not to be rooted in our circumstances. It is much deeper than that. Paul had experienced shipwreck, beatings, and imprisonment. The joy is an inward disposition that is "in the Lord". Our circumstances may change but God will not. He is a God of revelation, love, power, righteousness and provision for His children. We can rely upon our relationship with Him through Jesus. When we are united with Him we can have an inward joy that defies circumstance.
This joy and confidence in God should mean that we do not need to aggressively contend for things like the world does. This is the "gentleness" NIV or "moderation" KJV that is to be evident to people.
We can have the confidence to act in this way because "the Lord is near". The Lord is near in the person and teaching of Jesus. We celebrate this at Christmas. The Lord is near because our sins have been erased through Jesus' death and resurrection. We celebrate this at Easter and as we gather around the communion table today. The Lord is near because he has given believers His Spirit to live within them. We celebrate this at Pentecost and as we rejoice in Him. The Lord is near because He will return to take those who love and serve him to be with God forever.
Can you remember what you were worrying about a year ago? How do you feel about those worries now? Jesus said we are not to worry but rely upon God ( Matthew 6:25 ). The way to do this is by prayer. To put the things that could cause us to be anxious into the hands of God. Our worry cannot change things. God can. We are to transfer "everything" verse 6 to God.
This was illustrated recently when Chloe, our five year old daughter had a conversation with one of her classmates. He told her his DVD player at home wasn't working. Chloe told him to pray about it. "You must pray about everything", she said. His mother heard him saying something in their lounge and asked him what he was doing. He said he was praying for their DVD player to work. This wasn't the end of the story, because his prayer was answered and the DVD player worked!
We are called to have a child-like trust in God through prayer. This is shown by thanksgiving, verse 6. We have so much to be thankful for, materially and spiritually. We have food, drink, homes, health, families, friends, stability, freedom to live and worship. We have access to God through Jesus. Forgiveness of sins! The ability to communicate with God through prayer. A purpose in life. The security and peace that knowing God is in control brings. The confident hope of being with God forever in paradise with perfect resurrection bodies..
For many, Christmas will not be a peaceful time. There is war and violence throughout the world. According to a recent survey there will be arguments in 60% of households on Christmas day.
God offers peace. Not just an absence of hostilities but a security that comes from knowing God through Jesus. That peace is mind blowing! It transcends all understanding. You cannot really understand it until you have experienced it.
The result of prayer is that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Paul would have been familiar with a Romans sentry guarding somewhere. Keeping some people out and others in.
Believers have the fruit of the Spirit within them. This includes: joy, verse 4; love evidenced by "gentleness" verse 5: hope, of the Lord's return, verse 5; and peace, verse 7.
God's peace, which we cannot fully explain or understand, will guard our hearts and minds from spiritual attack. It will keep out evil forces.
So, this Christmas and into 2006, when things appear difficult unite yourself with God. Rejoice and give thanks. Trust in God, not your circumstances.
Pray about everything. Talk to God during the day about everything and anything. Then He will guard you and you can know his love, joy, peace, gentleness and hope in your heart.