St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Advent IV : Fr Tony Hogg

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 Philippians 4. 4. ‘Rejoice in the Lord alway.’
Those of us who were at the Sung Mass Sunday last were very moved by Purcell’s setting of 
the words of today’s epistle sung so movingly by choir and soloists. You may have noticed 
that I had difficulty in pronouncing the blessing, so moved had I been.
So today we can look more carefully at the words of this final, and short, Advent Epistle.
Perhaps it is the word ‘alway’ which may stick in the gullet. How does a person rejoice 
alway? Here is a person facing the prospect of a serious operation. How does he rejoice 
alway? Less dramatic, here we are, nearly arrived at Christmas. Has all the shopping been 
dealt with? Are there any Brussels Sprouts left for Fr. Tony in Checkers? Has the present 
for visiting Great Aunt Maude finally been solved? And can we really battle with jammed-
up roads anymore?
But still we are faced with the text, ‘Rejoice in the Lord alway!’ What can it mean?
Firstly it impels us to unceasing joy in the Lord. Because we know Christ as the Lord who 
reigns, because we are aware of his abiding presence or continual nearness, we can always 
rejoice in him. No matter what our circumstances we can be content with such things as we 
have; for we always have him. See also Hebrews 13:5.6 “For himself hath said, I will never 
leave thee, nor forsake thee.” So we have overwhelming and unchanging cause to rejoice.
Secondly we must have unfailing gentleness towards others. When we remember Our
 Lord’s forgiving mercy, and his long suffering towards us; when we remember, as I hinted 
at last Sunday, that he knows the worst things about us; when we recognize that he is 
watching, and be displeased if we, who enjoyed such mercy, treat others with heartless 
severity or harsh criticism, or underlying unfriendliness, how can we be other than gentle 
and forbearing towards all, no matter how they treat us?
Thirdly, ‘In nothing be anxious.’ May be for many a difficult command to bear with, but 
we must remember that since Our Lord himself is always nearby us as our guard and 
guide, to protect and to provide, why should we entertain cares or worries as though the 
whole burden of life rested upon us ? Rather we can cast all our care upon him, knowing 
that he cares for each and every one of us.
Next ’but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving,’ From these words 
we know that Christ’s presence assures us of access to God. With him to support us, to 
intercede for us, we can come boldly to the throne of grace. And aware how much we owe 
to God’s goodness to us, we must begin with an open heart of thanksgiving. We can be 
confident that he will not fail to answer, and to work for our good. There is nothing in life 
that can come outside the scope of such thanksgiving and supplication.
Finally, ‘And the peace of God…’ So having moved Godward in all our prayer, gratitude, 
we can be fully confident that he will move towards us, to make ours a peace which is all 
embracing. Such peace is beyond our understanding; it is unfathomable. What is more, 
because it is bigger than our thoughts, it can, like a garrison, encircle and defend against 
the disturbing invader. St Paul is reminding his readers of the sentry outside the gates of 
the Roman city of Philippi to keep the people safe. The sentry is called the peace of 
God. Once we possess such peace “through Jesus Christ” we can remain 
undisturbed. But note that it is not for us to be occupied with preserving our own peace of 
mind. No, this the Lord himself undertakes to do. Remember the blessing is promised 
“through Jesus Christ.” It guards the inner sources of our emotions and our thinking from 
which our actions derive. As we have seen we obtain it by trust, trust in God, known in 
Christ Jesus.
So it these last two days before the birth of our Blessed Saviour, we can cast all our 
burdens upon God, as good people, all the preparations fall into place, both here at St 
Michael’s and in our homes. It is for us all not only to recognize the nearness of his coming, 
but also to respond to it, by resting our concern upon him. So when we will soon gaze 
upon our infant Saviour, we will know that finally we will be able to share the words of 
Isaiah; “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he 
trusteth in thee.” Amen to that.


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