Third Sunday of Advent (December 16, 2018)
Are you ready for Christmas? It’s only a week away! Yes…. I saw your eyes roll and the look of stress on your faces! It’s seems like that is the response I get from many adults. Christmas seems to be a time that brings us more stress and anxiety rather than joy. I know I can personally relate to that statement. And I think that is sad. If you are a Christian, Christmas should be one of the most joyful times of the year along with Easter. You see…. We’re not celebrating the upcoming birth of our Savior… we’re celebrating that our Savior has ALREADY been born. Then on Good Friday and Easter Sunday… we’re not celebrating that Jesus is going to die for our sins and rise from the dead…. We’re celebrating that Jesus has ALREADY died for our sins and has ALREADY conquered death. So looking at Christmas and Easter together should be one of the core beliefs of our Christian lives that give us peace and hope.
But too often, it doesn’t. Instead, it brings us stress. Why? Because we allow the worldly influences to take over these celebrations. Now, I’m not going to tell you that we need to boycott Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. But I do think it’s time to put things in perspective. So I’m going to attempt that using the stars. Here goes…
It is estimated that our Milky Way galaxy has 100 billion stars. There are 10 billion galaxies like the Milky Way in the observable universe. Therefore, there are 1 billion trillion stars in the observable universe. I don’t even know how many zeros that is!
It is also estimated that our Milky Way galaxy has between 100 and 200 billion planets. If the other 10 billion galaxies have the same amount of planets, then we’re looking at over 1 trillion planets in the observable universe.
I keep using the term “observable universe” because scientists have NO IDEA what extends beyond what they can’t see. We have no idea if there is some boundary out there where creation “stops” or if it just keeps on going.
So we live on a tiny blue spec among 1 trillion planets and 1 billion trillion stars in a universe that could very well be limitless. Do you feel tiny and insignificant yet? Well that is not my goal. My purpose in this is for you to understand that God created everything and creation itself is much larger than you may think. And on this tiny spec we call Earth… God specifically created YOU for a purpose. Furthermore, He is calling you out from the infinite universe back to Him. He planted you here… and now it’s your turn to trust His plan for you.
So how exactly do we trust in His plan in the face of our daily stresses? Through Luke’s Gospel today, John the Baptist gives us some practical advice. John tells people to share their excess cloaks, stop collecting more taxes than is necessary, do not accuse others falsely and to be satisfied with your wages. In modern terms, this could be translated to mean: share your excess goods with those in need, stop cheating and stealing from others, do not lie or gossip and do not constantly strive for more money if you have enough. But you want to know what John the Baptist is REALLY saying here??? Just be a good and kind person the way Jesus taught us. It’s really that simple.
Now I’ll fully admit that just being a good and kind person will not take away all of your stresses, but it will help. It’ll also help you to realize that this life and all of the worldly stresses are just temporary when you focus on God and share His love with others. But if you focus on stress and anxiety, you will end up distancing yourself from God… and your level of joy will be minimal… what fun it that??
St. Paul actually says in his letter to the Philippians that we read today to “Have NO anxiety at all.” None. Zero. Nada. He tells us to praise God, tell Him your worries and ask for His help. This type of trust in God will lead to peace. Worry and anxiety leads us away from peace.
So if you want to reduce anxiety and stress this Holiday season (and throughout your year) take a deep breath… focus on God… talk to Him daily in prayer… be a good person… and trust in His plan for you.
After all, if you can understand that God created an infinite universe with over 1 trillion planets and 1 billion trillion stars, then hopefully you can begin to grasp that His love for you is also infinite. You just have to trust Him.