The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. (Phil. 4.5-6)
For me Christmas has always coincided with celebrating. It makes me think of eating lots of good food, drinking good wine, and enjoying the company of family and friends. But it’s not always easy to celebrate at this time of year. For whatever reason our anxieties often squash our celebratory spirit. This is why Paul tells us to have no anxiety about anything so we can be free of anxiety and celebrate the gift of Jesus in our lives. But how can we? There is so much to be anxious about.
Indeed, we are anxious about many things. We are anxious about our health, children, paying the bills, what presents to buy, and whether we can pay the Visa bill in January. These are what I’d call ‘superficial’ worries. Deep down we worry about what’s the purpose of life, how do I rate with people around me, do I get my due, am I a good enough person and the list of existential questions go on and on.
Now when Paul says, have no anxiety in anything he in no way wants to deny the seriousness and genuineness of our questions. But what he wants us to know is that we don’t have to tackle and solve these problems all by ourselves. It is not simply up to you or me to solve these problems. But how can that be? If I don’t who will?
The answer is Christmas. In the birth of Jesus God has already answered all our questions. In the person of Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem, the City of David at a particular time by a poor Jewish woman, God Himself came into you life and mine. That’s what Paul means when he say, the Lord is at hand.
As the Lord who is at hand, Jesus tells us that no matter how hard we try we cannot comfort ourselves. We, nor anybody else, can comfort and relieve the anxiety we experience when we face cancer, deal with a marital breakup, don’t know what to do with a wayward child or feel unworthy. Our culture tells us we can. But deep down we all know it doesn’t work. Jesus came to be at hand because only He can deliver us from our anxiety. Only the Son of God could come as a man and experience every possible anxiety everyone has experienced and defeat it in his death and resurrection so your anxieties need not defeat you. And that’s what He’s done.
But what remains to be done by us, you ask? We are odd creatures when you think about it. We talk about how our anxieties make us so miserable, yet when the one person who can take away our anxieties is announced where do we turn? We turn to ourselves because deep down we treasure and nurture our worries. We do this because we can’t imagine a life without anxieties. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t know! We can’t believe the very God who created me is at hand. Deep down we don’t believe Jesus can deliver us.
But remember, the Lord shuts the door to our anxiety by opening another door for us to enter. Paul tells us in everything … let your requests be known to God. You do have a part in helping yourself be delivered from your anxieties – Prayer! This is what you are invited to do as someone whom our Savior saved, freed and delivered from the prison of anxiety. God doesn’t need to be told all our troubles, but as our Father, He patiently welcomes and listens to any concerns, great or small, important or not important, intelligent or not intelligent you bring to Him. And if we talk to our Father in genuine humility with a childlike insistence, trust and thanksgiving for His grace the fog of our anxieties will begin to lift.
Have you ever really cast all your cares before the Lord in fervent and insistent prayer, not as a routine matter, but trusting the Lord is really at hand? Have you ever dared letting all your requests be known before God, no matter what they are, praying as a brother and sister of Christ and our Father’s child? Whoever who has tried and done this knows that nothing but prayer brings relief to your anxiety.
Do you want to truly celebrate this Christmas? Take your anxieties to your heavenly Father remembering that He is at hand ready and willing to listen and relieve you of your anxieties.