Light two candles…begin your prayer time by lighting the first purple candle, the Hope candle and the second purple candle. The “Peace” candle…or the Prophecy candle…
READ: Philippians 1: 3-11
3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7
Poor Paul. He spends a lot of time in prison thinking about the communities beginning and growing around the spreading of the news of Jesus. Despite the fact he is in prison, he still finds joy.
Is there anyone in your life who can find joy in anything? You just know that anything he or she says is going to be positive, uplifting and truly sincere…for me, Aunt Theresa always comes to mind. LOVE that woman!
Anyone in your life who is the opposite? You cringe a little to ask, “how are you?” when you see them, because you know the first words out of the mouth are going to be, “tired.” Or a complaint. Or how something is someone else’s fault.
If we force ourselves to think about which of these folks we are, it is likely that we are somewhere on the spectrum. If we force ourselves to think about when we lean more toward the later, we are likely feeling isolated or isolating ourselves because something hurt us physically or emotionally. This starts a cycle that we were not created for, because we were created for community, for love.
The word in verse 5 that is translated here as “sharing,” is often translated as “fellowship” or “partnership.” In its sincerest form it implies the gift of something being held in common. Not something held privately. Not something we keep to ourselves. Paul is full of joy for this group of Philippians because of their sharing in the gospel. They did not keep what was “theirs” to themselves, because they knew from their new faith, it was not actually “theirs.”
David Steindl-Rast is quoted as saying, “It isn’t joy that makes us grateful…it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
Paul is a very presence and witness to this quote. He is so grateful for the “sharing” from the Philippians that he exudes joy…and more importantly…he acknowledges where the true gift comes from. “I am confident of this…that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Paul’s joy is deeper than just being grateful to this new church. His joy is grounded in the truth that the work of the church started and continues AS the work of God. In the Lutheran church we often say, “God’s work, our hands.” Paul knows this truth that we await. Jesus Christ came to save the world. Jesus Christ calls us to be together, in community. Not alone. This is the gift of God…a gift we are to “share,” not hold for ourselves.
When we withhold gratitude, we lose sight of the generosity of God, and in turn, rob ourselves of joy. May this Advent be a time for us all to pause and reflect, not on the “sharing” of gifts, but the “sharing” of our lives, our hearts, our relationships, our faith.
Sharing God. We give you thanks for the gift of community. We give you thanks that you began this great work of redemption for us as you breathed life into our being. Forgive us for our lack of gratitude for this great gift. Center us during this Advent season to be ever mindful and ever grateful for your work in our lives. In the name of the one you sent to walk in community with us, Jesus Christ your Son. Amen
During this week two of Advent, where is God at work in your life? Where do you see signs of God’s grace? Share with a friend or in the comments below.
About Mitzie…Mitzie Schafer is a Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Florida Gulf Coast University and a Master of Art in Religion from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary with a concentration in Christian Education and Christian Spirituality. She has been writing curriculum and teaching faith formation for more than ten years. Mitzie’s faith is grounded in the belief that God is the initiator and we are the respondent. That God’s yes is always bigger than our no. That being created in the image of the Creator, makes us by our very nature, creative. And that God LOVES ALL people.
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