Lectionary Scripture Text: Philippians 1: 3-11 (Advent 2C)
3I thank my God every time I remember you, 4constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6I 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.
7It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.
9And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
The passage for today is the beginning of a first-century letter and Paul begins by reassuring them of his prayers and his pride in them because of their faith. See, Paul was never all that interested in winning converts. The game was not about numbers. He was more concerned about people entering into a new relationship with God that keeps them going. He was encouraging a faith that would keep them going through the hard times, would empower them to look at their lives the way God meant them to be, the way God looks at their lives.
This season of Advent calls us to do the same, to change our way of looking at our world, at our lives, at ourselves. It is a way of adjusting our eyes to see the light. It’s not about religious rules or theological presumptions. I don’t even think it’s about doing the right things. It’s about seeing things the way they are. See, contrary to accepted belief, I don’t think Paul had a rigid adherence to religious laws or set ways of believing. (I DO think some of his disciples and followers, some of whom wrote some of the letters attributed to Paul may have been a little more rigid in their belief.) Paul really wanted people to be genuine, honest, and sincere. He wanted everyone to be who they were called to be. Paul’s image of praising God has to do with real people living changed lives and changing others’ lives in the process. It has to do with seeing in a different way.
The world often discolors our view. We are affected by artificial light and fabricated color. Paul talked about “full insight”, actually seeing things the way they are. It means we have to strip away the colors that are not real. You remember your science. Light is just a collection of colors. Black and white aren’t even colors at all but merely an absence or a congruence of colors that make us see things differently. But what if you could see your life the way it was meant to be, with the colors God intended? The Light to which we move during Advent is not some fabricated collection of colors. It’s true light; it’s true colors. But it may not be what we thought it would look like. After all, sometimes life is hard. Sometimes it holds difficulty and loss and things not turning out the way we envisioned. So, Advent calls us to be open, to be open to recoloring our world so that it looks the way it should look. Open your eyes—to everything—to every color and every combination that God shows you on this journey. It will be glorious!
God is in the symphony, where harmony exists amidst the tension of pitch and tone. God is in the beautiful sunset, where contrasting colors hint at the glory of the Creator. God is in the beautiful relationship, where solidarity is born of struggle and disagreement. God is in the beautiful individual, whose wrinkled skin is witness to a life of challenge and hardship lived with the confidence that it all makes sense. (Paul D. Sweet)
Grace and Peace,