Wednesday, December 19

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Experiencing God as Joy: Consumerism
Scripture: Philippians 4:6-7

“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.”

In November 2014, The Huffington Post published an article entitled “What Philippians 4:6-7 Bible Passage Can Teach Us About Managing Anxiety Today.” It reported that “[a]ccording to data released by Amazon on the most highlighted passage[s] in Kindle ebooks, the most popular passage from the Bible is one on reducing anxiety and finding trust in God.” (The Huffington Post, 11/17/14, Religion Section.) That passage is Philippians 4:6-7 upon which today’s reflection is based.

Each day, most of us experience anxiety or worry revolving around events and circumstances over which we have little control. Take, for example, the anxiety I experience as I prepare for the “material Christmas”—so many ads, so many flashing holiday lights, so many gifts to buy. I can’t do much about the consumerism that has overtaken the weeks (or months) leading up to Christmas itself. Nevertheless, I seem to remain anxious. Of course, the daily bombardment of non-stop emails, constant social media, and access to everything 24/7 isn’t limited to the time between October 1 and December 25, but it is in a heightened state, and provides a backdrop for what this passage from Philippians has to say to us.

Paul most likely wrote his letter to the church in Philippi while he was a prisoner in Rome. If anyone had reason to be anxious, it should have been him! But as verses 6 and 7 attest, Paul advised the Philippians to not be anxious or worried about anything – anything! Instead, he urged them in any situation to pray to God, asking humbly and earnestly to give them that peace that passes our own understanding. This doesn’t mean one would necessarily get what was wanted simply through prayer and supplication. What it does mean is that, while the circumstances may not change, one’s disposition toward the circumstance will undoubtedly change.

But there is more! Paul encouraged the Philippians to pray and make petition to God with thanksgiving. This message rings evermore true in our lives today. We have so many things for which we are (or should be) thankful. When we chalk up all the reasons we have to be thankful, and when we have joy in our hearts as a result, we can get past the anxiety of the “material Christmas,” just as we can get past other worries and concerns throughout the year. We can displace worry and anxiety in our lives with the inner peace God sends us.

The “material Christmas” won’t go away. It’s unreasonable for us to think otherwise. But by laying our worries before God, by praising Him, and by giving thanks to Him for all we have and all we are, we can feel the peace He sends us. We can feel God’s everlasting love and pass it on to others. We can concentrate on His gift of His only Son who we can seek to follow in word and deed with joy and thanksgiving.

God of Joy – we praise you with thanksgiving for all we have and all we are. We lay our worries and anxieties before you. May your peace be with us, may it guide us, may it fill our hearts with joy as we anticipate the celebration of Jesus’s birth. May your peace remain with us every day and always. Amen.

~Ruth Irvin