“I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12
To follow Jesus is to be content.
I think that many of us feel that Christmas has become a season of economic gluttony and indulgence.
During the political campaigns of October and November we were receiving up to 8 mailings a day from candidates. I was so glad to be done with that…but now those have been replaced by daily special ads in the newspaper and more than weekly catalogs wanting me to participate in the latest, greatest pre-Christmas sale at post-Christmas prices.
A new “trick” of the advertisers on television this year seems to be using hallowed Christmas carols and sacred songs to sell their stores and products. The biggest abuser so far of this clash of values is Target Corporation putting their own words to Handel’s great “Hallelujah Chorus” from The Messiah.
This is a clear example of the state of our spiritual lives. Worship and adoration and the mystery of the Living God has been replaced by the empty idols of accumulation and consumption. Advent and Christmas are a time to sacrifice our wealth on the altar of consumerism. We are never to be content with what we have and the life we live.
The Apostle Paul endured many hardships during his lifetime. He had been imprisoned, shipwrecked, and beaten. He was misunderstood, lied about, and plotted against. A close reading of his letters recognizes that he did indeed understand contentment. He knew the secret of that contentment was in receiving strength and grace from the one he followed, Jesus.
When Jesus sent his disciples out on a mission, he told them “Take nothing with you but a staff…no bread, no bag, no money. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt.” Maybe he wanted to teach them contentment? Maybe he wanted to teach them to rely on God and one another and “persons of peace” that they would meet because that is what the Church will need to do.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.”
It is this peace and contentment rooted in following Jesus that I think we should be seeking this Advent. It is never on sale but always available. It can never be purchased but it can be possessed.
Contentment is counter-cultural. It is the way of Jesus.
God of abundance, you have provided me with all I need and more. Let me find my fulfillment, satisfaction and contentment in You. Amen.