calendar December 8, 2015 in Bishop, Bishop messages

Rejoice in the Lord. Always.

Advent/Christmas 2015 Message from Bishop Burkat

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 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.

– Phil. 4:4-7



I imagine some of you are having the same problem as I am rejoicing in this season of terroristic threats, gun violence, racial unrest, refugee despair, immigration anguish, economic and educational disparity, environmental battles, and political posturing. I am sure I am not the only one whose mind, heart and spirit has been especially restless and anxious recently.


Whoa! Did you notice St Paul says this twice to the Philippian church?

Could it be that he needed to reinforce his message of hope and peace and joy for those whose spirits (like ours) were diminished by circumstances and forces beyond their control?

He knew that evil and sin easily invades our hearts and minds and undermines genuine joy and trust in God. He wanted to build up our confidence and courage to imitate Christ (2:5-11) and share in the power of His suffering and resurrection (3:10).

The words “joy” and “rejoice” are used 15 times by St Paul in this one letter, which is remarkable because Paul was in prison at the time. He tells the people, whom he clearly loves, that his joy is not dependent on his circumstances (1:18). Even if he should be sentenced to death for his ministry, he would still rejoice (2:17,18). He wants the Philippians to learn his secret of contentment (4:11-12). “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (13)

This letter from the apostle Paul is an Advent gift for us this year. It is a love letter to faithful Christians who were losing heart and needed to be reminded again of the power of God in Christ to guard our hearts and minds and, in spite of what the world throws at us, to bless us with peace in all circumstances.

Paul encourages us to wrap ourselves in whatever is honorable, just, pure, pleasing, excellent, and worthy of praise (4:8), because these are the antidotes to worry, anxiety, fear, and despair. Keep on doing the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, he says, and the God of Peace will be with you. (4:9)

My Christmas prayer for the people of the
Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod:

Most Holy and all powerful God,
guard our hearts and minds with your peace,
that in so doing we gain renewed confidence to put our worries in your care,
and entrust the forces of this world to your reign.

Holy Jesus, Prince of Peace,
help us embrace and proclaim your incarnated promise of peace
and presence uninterrupted and unbroken for all time,
all seasons, and all people.

Holy Spirit, comforter and guide,
drench our spirits with deep joy and love that will strengthen us
to seek mercy, fight injustice, and lead with courage,
overflowing with gratitude and blessing the world in your name.

In Christ,

Claire S. Burkat,