Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Advent X

Some folks have described the Apostle Paul as cantankerous, opinionated, and so single minded he was obnoxious.   Certainly, he was never once to mince words when the spiritual health of the church was threatened by heresy speakers, church politicians, or troublemakers.  But, as the letter to the church at Philippi is read, it is easy to describe Paul as an encourager, a compassionate leader, and man of prayer.  The first eleven verses of that letter comprise one of the epistle lectionary passages for this time of the Advent season and it is there that we see this portrait of the man who took the Great Commission seriously.
Paul writes this letter from prison.  He is anticipating execution or release.  At the point of the letter, he voices some uncertainty; yet, appears to expect deliverance and a continued presence among the believers of the newly established churches.  But, what is truly amazing is the attitude of joy and thanksgiving expressed by the Apostle.  Most of us would respond to his uncertain circumstances with anxiety and worry.  Instead, he writes to the church assuring the Philippians of his constant prayers for them.  His heart only desires that they will continue in the faith and allow God to complete the work He began in them at their salvation.  His prayers are focused not on himself, but upon the faithful who have shared life with him.

When squeezed between uncertainty over what might come and present circumstances, the example of Paul clearly points the way forward for us.  Worrying over any and everything only results in more and more of life being taken from us.  Paul's attitude of joy and gratitude comes not from stoic human determination, but from a life which can only be described as "in Christ."  No doubt keeping that relationship with Christ strong will result in our living in a place far different than the place worry creates.

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