“Do not be afraid.” The most oft-repeated words in holy writ came, in turn, to Mary from the Angel Gabriel. They ring down to us today.
The fear-mongering and xenophobia that fill the airwaves right now is far out of proportion to the threats around us. In each and every moment we can choose how we react to the news–particularly about events far beyond our ken and control. Our scriptures inspire us and guide us in those choices. And our life together strengthens us.
“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 hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
In her excellent sermon on December 13, Heidi Joos reminded us that Paul sent those words from prison in Rome when he was facing death. Heidi wrote:
“He does not say that if we pray hard enough and live well enough we will get what we want, will be saved from suffering and mortality. Rather, the point is that prayer keeps us connected to the Lord who is near. In a time when anxiety often causes us to feel alone and cut off, it is the saving connection of love that holds things together, keeps things from spinning into violent chaos….When we are here together in prayer and thanksgiving, we also are a part of the sane response to cultural insanity. For Christians living in these times, as for those living in the first century AD, this is about staying in relationship with each other and God. We are not left alone in this mess.”
Finally, as we contemplate the plight of all people displaced by political turmoil, particularly Syrian refugees now, let us recall that Joseph and Mary were displaced themselves by the political decree of the Emperor Augustus.
Let the story of the Holy Family’s quest for shelter open our hearts and our doors to the compassion–the love of neighbor–that is the bedrock of our faith.
And may the peace of God guard your minds and hearts in Christ Jesus in this Christmas season and throughout the coming year.
In Christ’s love,