Dec. 10: The Lord is near
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What does “The Lord is near” mean in verse 5 of today’s Scripture?
This phrase first stuck in my memory when I encountered it in a James Herriot book about his country veterinarian practice in England. The owner of one of Herriot’s clients was confined to bed with a painful, long-term illness, but she was one of the cheeriest persons he knew. A motto hanging above her bed said simply “The Lord is near.”
Some scholars think this phrase is about timing and is connected to the previous two sentences in today’s Scripture passage. They say that “The Lord is near” means “Jesus is coming again very soon,” so rejoice always and treat others gently in preparation for his coming.
Some scholars think that “The Lord is near” is about proximity and is connected to the following verses. It means “God is present and attentive to us” so don’t worry about anything. Take your needs and your gratefulness to God in prayer. The Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson expresses this thought memorably in his poem “The Higher Pantheism:”
Speak to Him for He hears, and Spirit with Spirit can meet.
Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.
Jesus is coming soon. God is present here and now. These are both beautiful truths to ponder and proclaim during Advent.
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 4:4-7 (NRSV)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.