Lectionary reading for 12/5/2021: Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 1:68-79; Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6 Selected passage for reflection: Philippians 1:3-11
Philippians 1:3-11 NLT
Paul’s Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
7 So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. 8 God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ[a]—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
As we near the end of 2021, fatigue is real. Fatigue is different from being tired. Fatigue points to a weariness that hits deep down in one's bones. Fatigue makes hope a little hard to find. We've been waiting for a long time for this pandemic to be behind us, desperately wanting the future to be more secure than it actually is. And so here we are in the season of advent, a season marked by waiting, but maybe this year leaving a few of us wanting. We are tired of waiting. And yet we are being asked once again to wait with anticipation for the coming Christ child. Maybe the words from a familiar Christmas carol ring especially true right now: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. Hopes and fears seem unlikely companions and yet, they are likely the two things that many of us have been carefully holding for the past 22 months. Hope for the sadness and stress of the pandemic to abate. Fears that it actually never will.
I believe a word of hope comes to us through Paul's letter to the Philippians. These words in verse 6: I am certain. What have we been certain about over the past two years? Almost nothing. And yet here, Paul is proclaiming something with certainty. And he is certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Advent hope emerges in the midst of our fatigue, for we not only wait to celebrate Christ's birth, we wait for his second coming as well. The hope in Christ's return is that on that day all will be right in our world. The challenge for us is to stay the course, to trust in the goodness of God, and to have faith that God really is at work even in a world that feels utterly upside down at times.
Paul reminds us that in Christ there is good news. Paul reminds us that we are loved. Paul reminds us that even in the midst of a bone weary fatigue we can still deepen our understanding and knowledge of all that Christ's coming means to us. Maybe it is even our fatigue that allows us to yield the power of Christ in our midst since our own strength is so depleted.
The advent of Christ is good news, both his first coming and his second. Waiting is a way of life and yet we must have faith that the wait is worth it. Christ's love will come to us and sustain us and bring us hope in the midst of all of our fears. May you find rest for your weary soul in the knowledge that you are loved by God and that God is indeed still at work in you, and in our world, to bring about the good work that God has begun.
Go back to the passage and read it aloud, stating your name where you or your appears. In this way, Paul's prayer will be given with you in mind. May you find encouragement in knowing that someone thanks God for you and that God is at work in you.
Loving and gracious God, thank you for your love that sees us through every hardship. Thank you for your spirit that fills us with hope. As we journey through advent, tired of waiting, perhaps dubious about what to hope for, may we realize afresh that you are at work, Christ's coming into the world does matter, that your love will indeed conquer all. Until the day it is all realized, be our strength and give us courage to continue loving you and growing in our knowledge and understanding of who Christ is in our midst.
About the Author
Jodi Mullen Fondell has been an ordained Covenant pastor since 1995. She has served International churches in Stockholm, Sweden; London, England; Luxembourg, Luxembourg; and Paris, France. She is currently the co-associate pastor at The American Church in Paris. She is married to Doug, her co-worker and life partner, loves spending time with her dog Maddie, and is the author of I Was A Stranger: Encouraging the Church to Welcome and Embrace the Foreigner. It is available from wipfandstock.com and amazon.com.