As we gather with family and friends today to celebrate all the things for which we are grateful, let’s take a moment to lament with those who have lost loved ones this year in mass shootings and other acts of violence, or in hurricanes, fires and floods, or in the wanton violence of political regimes that do not value human life and dignity. Let’s grieve with those whose homes have been destroyed, who are injured and struggling to recover, or who have lost jobs, financial security, or a place in a community they held dear. Let’s grieve the animal and plant species that have become extinct this year. Let’s groan in empathy with all those who are reporting sexual harassment and abuse. Let’s stand in solidarity with and pray for all these people and creatures.
And after we have done that, let’s give thanks, wholeheartedly. For this is our Way, to rise up out of fear, pain and even death, rejoicing. For the Lord is near. Christ is with us always. Nothing can take that away from us, and there is no greater gift.
As Paul invites us in his letter to the Philippians, in the face of violence, let us be gentle. And in the face of hardship and loss, let us refuse to worry. Let us continue to be open and loving folk, trusting in God. For if we shut down, if we close our hearts, gather weapons and build walls, we will become somebody else. And that is too costly a price to pay for security.
We belong to Christ, and though the world is violent and dark, Christ has conquered the world. What, then, do we have to fear? What greater joy is there than this? We belong, and no one can take that from us. The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Be grateful, then. Abundance surrounds us. This is true no matter what, no matter where we find ourselves, even in death.