Thursday, December 10
The world into which Jesus was born—and the world in which the apostle Paul wrote—was not a peaceful world. Those days, like ours, held wars and rumors of wars. They held persecution and political maneuvering. It would’ve been tempting to wonder what God was doing, or if he was even paying attention to the plight of his people.
And yet Paul says that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. Will it really? How can our hearts possibly be guarded against the onslaught of violence, enmity, strife, disease, and loneliness? How can he instruct us to rejoice?
Because, like the poet Wendell Berry, he’s convinced that the facts of the world don’t have the final say. He’d find a kindred in spirit in Berry, who writes this in his poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”:
“…Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts…”
Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.
It’s true. The facts of the world frequently do not bring joy. But the facts of the gospel give us reason to laugh and to rejoice.
The fact of the gospel is that the Lord is near. The Lord, the sovereign one, is close by. Just when we thought all was lost, God came to make his dwelling with us. And we must expect the end of the world, when the Lord will come near once again—when he will once and for all dwell with us.
That’s why Paul can tell the Philippians to rejoice. That’s why he can reassure them of the bone-deep peace that’s possible. Paul has considered all the facts. And the most prominent of them all is that the Lord is near.
Prayer: Lord who comes near, I will laugh today. I will rejoice because, as I have considered all the facts—the facts of my life, the facts of the world, the facts of your kingdom—the one fact that speaks most loudly is that you are here. Guard my heart against despair and let me feel joy.