We are continuing our journey through the fourth chapter of Philippians and have reached Verse 7, which says: “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
That is one of the most important verses in the entire Bible – and most appropriate as we enter into the Christmas season.
For at least part of the message of Advent/Christmas is about peace. Of course, most of the central characters of the Christmas story had moments in which peace was lacking.
Zechariah, the aged priest whose turn it was to burn incense before the Lord in the temple, had his share of spiritual conflict. His wife, Elizabeth, was barren. And they were both too old to expect any conception. And when the angel appeared to him in the temple, he was greatly troubled.
Mary, the young girl from Nazareth, was greatly troubled as well when the
same angel appeared to her and informed her that she
would bear God’s son, exceeding all expectations she
had for her life.
Her betrothed, the carpenter Joseph, was deeply
troubled by the unbelievable story Mary told him about
her conception, and he spent a long, partially sleepless
night trying to understand what was happening.
And the shepherds on the hillside, as Luke puts it,
were “sore afraid,’ when the angel appeared before
And yet, all of these people found peace. Not the
kind that comes from treaties or cease-fires, and not what the world might hand us. They found the peace that only God can provide.
For there are two words that stand out in this verse: transcends and guard.
Transcends: When Paul says that God’s peace transcends all human understanding, he doesn’t mean that we can’t fathom it. He means that we can’t create it ourselves. We can’t build peace, delineate peace, construct it, or produce it, try as we might. It is simply God’s gift to us, and all we need to do is embrace it.
Guard: The Greek word Paul uses is a military term. It actually means to stand guard as a sentinel – to keep the enemy out. And there are a lot of enemies to our peace out there: illness, financial issues, broken relationships -- you name it, it’s out there knocking on the door of our souls, seeking a way in to disrupt our lives.
But the peace of God stands by the door of our souls, keeping out what should never come in.
That’s the peace God offers us in Jesus Christ. The kind that triumphs over the questions that trouble us. The peace that leaves us as victors, not victims, when the doubts and uncertainties enter our lives. The sense of calm that fills our souls when life threatens to undo us.
But if you go back to Verse 6, there is a condition to this incredible peace – the condition of prayer. In everything, by prayer and supplication, Paul says, let your requests be made known unto God.
Prayer is the key, the password, the door that opens up this incredible peace for us. For when we pray for the love of God, the wisdom of God and the power of God to take root in our lives, then what could possibly keep peace away?
Too often, we run ourselves ragged during the Christmas season, trying to get EVERYTHING done, whatever EVERYTHING actually is.
Let’s take a breather, spend time in prayer, and open ourselves us to the peace, not just on Earth, as promised to the shepherds, but in our souls.
And THAT’S how to have a really Merry Christmas.
In Christ, John
News and notes from our pastor
Our sympathy is extended to Shirley and Jim Golding and their family in the recent death of Shirley’s father, Herbert Miller.
We welcome our newest member, Elaine Miller.
Healing prayers are offered to Bonnie Dawson, who had knee replacement surgery; Dick Daugherty, who was hospitalized recently; Kim Sharp’s husband, Doug, who was hospitalized with circulatory issues; and to Kayleigh Reim’s mother, Holly Williams, fighting cancer.
A personal note from Rev. Shedwick, who is leaving us
It has been a great joy for me to have been your pastor for these three-plus decades. You have included Dottie and me, and in many cases our family, in your lives. There will always be a special place in our hearts for all of you and the moments we have spent serving the Lord together.
I think it is important to share with you a few guidelines adopted by the Presbytery of West Jersey that detail what happens after a pastor departs and/or retires.
In the next six months, I will work with our officers to prepare for an orderly pastoral transition. I will do so under the guidance and direction of the Committee on Ministry of the presbytery because they are the ones responsible for overseeing all pastoral calls.
I will be supportive of all efforts to secure pulpit supplies, an interim pastor and a new pastor, but I will not be involved in any decisions regarding these individuals.
Once I retire, I can no longer perform any pastoral functions, including baptisms, weddings and funerals, as well as hospital visits or counseling. Whatever contact I have with members of the congregation after I retire must be of the informal kind.
As the presbytery guidelines state: “Members should not discuss, nor should the former pastor encourage discussion about, church business, issues, personalities or events.”
It will be my goal after I retire not to interfere with any decisions, plans or priorities of the church. Nor will I interfere in any way with those who will fill the pulpit after me. I trust that the support you have given me will be shifted to those who follow me.
My prayers will be for the love of God, the grace of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit to be upon all of you and the church we all love.
I look forward to the journey we will take together in the next six months, and the journeys we will all take as God leads us in His way.