Yr C ~ Advent 2 ~ Philippians 1:3-11
My main focus today will be on the last couple of verses of this lovely passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, but to get there I’m going to go through all the verses and try to amplify it a bit as we go.
This is the second week of Advent, so our theme is peace, even though that word doesn’t appear in this reading. As you’ve hopefully realized by now the kind of peace we’re talking about isn’t just the opposite of war or conflict – it’s more about that inner peace of mind and peace of heart that comes when your spirit is in tune with God’s Presence. I’ll talk more about that concept in a few minutes.
And in case you weren’t with us last week, I’ll continue to speak a bit about what theology calls “the second coming” of the Christ. When Paul wrote this letter to the church in Philippi it was only a couple of decades after the physical life of Jesus. The narratives about Christmas were not yet known. The 4 gospels we have wouldn’t be written for another few decades so the Jesus story was likely shaped much differently than the one we know so well. In their day they had a sense that Jesus really was coming again soon in a physical form and he’d alleviate their oppression and persecution.
When that didn’t happen in an overt physical way a different kind of theological view of what a second coming of Jesus might mean emerged. Instead of a physical arrival a more spiritual revelation was embraced.
In this season we take that image and incarnate it in the story of a tiny baby being born in a stable.
But spiritually what we’re hoping for, what we’re anticipating and expecting and waiting for in this season of Advent, is a rebirth of Jesus’ spirit within us – a second coming, or third, or fourth, or fiftieth – that knows that while Jesus may not be coming in the same way Paul and the Philippians imagined he is most definitely coming, has come, and is always still coming to us, here and now, in and through our hearts.
And such a coming produces the peace that we so long for. That’s our topic for the day.
Let’s have a look at Philippians 1:3-11.
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.
Paul calls these church members his partners. But it’s actually even better than that! It’s a wonderful Greek word: koinonia! It means spiritual fellowship, communion with, sharing in, helping.
It’s more than just being partners, it’s what we have here at this church – a spiritual fellowship that works together – both staff and members – to share in the gospel.
What does that mean? Gospel literally means good news – God’s good news about God’s love and all the teachings and life of Jesus and all that great stuff. We all share in that – in communicating that – in living it out – in loving it out!
Paul continues, v.6:
6 And I am certain that God, who began a good work within you, will bring it to fulfillment and maturity as the Spirit of Jesus Christ is ever more fully revealed to and within you.
The good work that God has begun in you is nothing less than the transformation of your heart and spirit into ever-deepening Christ-likeness!
That’s not just a good work, it’s an awesome work! And it’s an unending work – not because you’re some kind of problem case, but just because deepening has no end, as God’s love has no end.
You are a good work! You are a work in progress!
And the good works you do are an extension of the good work God is doing in (and through) you.
Doesn’t that make you feel great?! It made Paul feel great too!
He continues, v.7: read on