The Lord is near…

Third Sunday of Advent

Readings: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I 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 heart and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7 NRSV

Jesus is coming: Look busy!

It was on a button a pastor I knew used to wear on the inside of his suit jacket, hidden to all but a few. He suspected that some people would take it as a serious commandment when worn by a priest – as if God were a taskmaster just hoping to catch us falling down on the job.

Paul’s approach is different: the Lord is near, so let your gentleness be known to everyone. The response to God drawing near is to be gentle with others and gentle with one’s own soul. Don’t worry about what’s been done or left undone (worry doesn’t change it, and it stops us from being happy in God’s presence). Don’t put on a brave face or false air of self-sufficiency; ask God for what you need, and ask it thankfully.

If you aren’t ashamed of your own gentleness, if you admit you aren’t self-sufficient, you are braver than most because you are leaving behind the facade of perfection (impossible to attain, anyway); if you lose the facade, you are wiser than most because you live in the world with honesty and acceptance. This world isn’t without its difficulties and you won’t be without challenges, but they lose the power to trouble your mind and harden your heart.

But you can’t be brave and wise on your own, and neither can I. For that reason, God guards our hearts and minds, keeping them open to love and grateful for whatever life brings. For reasons beyond our understanding, we can live in God’s peace. After all, God-With-Us did…

Dona Nobis Pacem. Grant Us Peace.

Richard Stoltzman, Dona Nobis Pacem; The Carols of Christmas: A Windham Hill Collection [recorded at Little Big Feat, Monroe, CT, 1996]

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