Paul exhorts the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord always and reiterates again - Rejoice! The Philippian letter is known as a prison epistle, because the apostle is in prison awaiting his day before Caesar. The fact that he is able to exhort and encourage others to rejoice, while he is currently incarcerated, is pretty remarkable or delusional. Remarkable to those who believe, and delusional to those who do not know God as Paul has come to know Him. Therefore, it depends on who you would have talked to. Some may have thought appealing to Caesar was a crazy idea, and others may have believed that it was a stroke of genius. Paul, in exercising or leveraging his privileged Roman citizenship, went on a journey through a medium he did not plan to take, but which would ultimately get him to Rome.
While in transit to see Caesar, Paul penned several letters: Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon. Consequently, all of these were written while he was incarcerated. Some might believe that incarcerated people tend to have selfish intent when writing to friends and family. Some may ask for money on their books or for a favor of some sort. For Paul, the mental discipline and spiritual fortitude it must have taken for him to tell the Philippians to rejoice, while he was physically locked up. In modern times, when most people are incarcerated, they are more concerned about proving their innocence. Now, do not get me wrong; Paul had a defense to present in this situation. Paul was not asking the Philippians to come to his defense, because his focus was not on himself but on their wellbeing. So, one could ask: how was he able to do this? What in the world could empower him to be able to be this hopeful in his situation? Where does such hope, that bears this strength, come from?
The answer is propinquity, proximity, closeness, or nearness. Most will usually skim over this part of the text where Paul explains simply that “the Lord is near.” This proximity to the Lord is what enabled Paul to immediately say in the next breath “Do not worry about anything….” This powerful statement to the Philippians echoes to millions of believers today. Our propinquity to Christ imbues us with supernatural confidence and hope. Even in the most constrained situations, knowing that we are close to God has a way to settle the unsettled and quiet the chaotic surroundings. This is not to say that we will not or are not experiencing pressures of our current situation. Nor does this make us immune to our current situation. It does provide us the immunity of not allowing the current situations to dominate us and take away our joy or supplant it with discouragement.
Early Christians were under pressure of persecution and very intense situations several times. The object of commonality that brought them comfort and helped them to make it through adverse times, was their knowledge that “the Lord is Near!” Therefore, going into this 2020 Holiday season we have made, and are making it, through contentious, traumatic, grief-stricken, and inexorable times. We will continue to navigate these turbulent waters knowing that the LORD is near. With this knowledge, we can welcome 2021 and whatever may come with it. Grace and Peace to you always.