I hope that you are all ready for Christmas!
Some of you will be thinking when I say that: ‘Doesn’t he understand my situation?’, I probably won’t see my family over Christmas’, or ‘Christmas always reminds me of the person that I have lost…’.or ‘Doesn’t he know about my diagnosis?’ or ‘Doesn’t he understand how difficult it is to pay our monthly bills?’ ‘All the tinsel in the world won’t take away my worries!’ ‘Don’t you understand that Alex…?’
It is so easy to be unintentionally flippant with the sort of greeting that so many of us make at this time of year but the real Christmas is not the thing the shops have made it. The real Christmas is really good news for all of us, because it reminds us that the person who created us, who has known us from the moment we were conceived in our mother’s womb, who has seen us through every up and down of our lives, who has been thrilled by our triumphs and wept with us in our disasters, because that creator came to earth as one of us, lived amongst us, experienced all our human emotions, experienced joy, experienced heart break, experienced everything that we experience and is now resurrected from the dead and is living in that other dimension, heaven, which we cannot see, but is close by…..
As St Paul says, in the letter that I have just read ‘rejoice…the Lord is near’.
Just imagine….if you had lived in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, you could have touched the creator of the universe; a baby, as he lay in the manger. How incredible is that!
But Paul is saying, the Lord is still near and we can speak to him in prayer today now. We can tell him about our loneliness, we can tell him about our loss, we can tell him how much we miss him or her, we can tell him about our worries, we can tell him about our feelings of failure and pointlessness, about our jealousy of others who seem to have life all sewn up….And as we do so, by prayer and supplication, we can let our requests be known to God….and then he says these incredible words (verse 7) ‘and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’
Our hearts and our minds. Both our emotions and our intellect. Guarded, in peace…..
When life is tough, when we are suffering, when we are in pain, when we are lonely, its difficult to have peace by our own strength particularly if we are meeting that suffering alone.
There is an expression in the hospice movement which I think is helpful:
‘Suffering is not a question which demands an answer; its not a problem that demands a solution; its a mystery that demands a presence’
That presence is Jesus Christ, born on Christmas Day.
Lets just ask him into our lives and his peace, which is beyond understanding, and regardless of our circumstances will fill you, will fill me, this Christmas
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.