Read Philippians 1:12-18a.
I haven’t lived very long, but I am sure of something: no one seems to get through unscathed. As each of us goes on living and loving and bumping right up against each other, we tend to get a little weathered and worn. Rough around the edges. The world around us is a little harsher than we thought it would be.
“Beloved, what has happened to me has actually spread the gospel,” Paul writes from a prison cell. This man knows wilderness: wandering, stoning, persecution. The “what” that has happened to him is no small feat.
I don’t know anything about you except that you are a fellow human being, and by extension, you carry what has happened to you — that we meet in our own particular wildernesses. And I am also sure of this: there is a God in the grief, the fear, the hopelessness. The three-in-the-morning stare at the wall in the dark. When we circle the drain and fall off the wagon. There is a God in the prison cell and the city streets. A God for whom the “what” is never too much.
For that we will rejoice, not despite what has happened to us, but because of it. For the God-with-us, the God-revealed-in-us. Then we’ll go on lighting the candles around the wreath because somehow, we will keep on rejoicing. Because we are still here and because we will go on.
It is a blessing to go on indeed.
“I can’t prove a thing, but there’s something about his eyes and his voice…the way he carries his head, his hands, the way he carries his cross – the way he carries me.”* Amen.
* Buechner, Frederick. Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC. (London: Collins, 1973).