Philippians 1:3-11

cheer is in the air although we are barely into the season of Advent. For many
of in our culture today the Christmas season begins at Thanksgiving. For some,
however, Christmas festivities begin even prior to Thanksgiving Day. Yet, in order
to make ourselves spiritually outfitted to accept God’s gift of the Christ child
perhaps we need to prepare our own spiritual lives. Like fertile ground primed
to receive a farmer’s seed, we too need a season of preparation to receive God’s
gift. Advent, like Lent, is a season of prayer and reflection for what God brings
to God’s people respectively at Christmas and Easter.

tying the idea of Thanksgiving to the idea of preparation for the Christ child
is not as far-fetched as it might appear from a simple surface understanding.
To be a part of a community of faith is certainly a time for thanksgiving. Paul
unquestionably thinks as much. Paul initiates our lesson today by stating clearly,
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Of course Paul is writing
to exceptional friends – the faith community that constitutes the church
at Philippi. These are folks who have stood beside Paul through many of his trials
and tribulations-indeed Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian church while
he sat in jail (1:13). Yet, it is out of a profound joy and thanksgiving that
he remembers his friends in Philippi.

thanks God when he remembers them. This statement is potent because it reminds
us of a truth that functions in our lives like it evidently operated in Paul’s.
When we remember those who have given us joy, we as Christians are likely to pray
for them with joy. The Philippians have shared the gospel from the beginning with
Paul and even, as he himself says, “because you hold me in your heart.”
These folks – Paul and the Philippian church – have a sacred history
between them. Sacred history between people is indeed a time for joy and thanksgiving.

there is ever one activity that saturates the season of Christmas (and Advent)
it is the activity of eating together. Many Sunday school classes have parties
that, more often than not, involve meals that assume an appearance of banquets.
Families gather around the table in ways that they rarely do at any other time
of the year with the possible exception of Thanksgiving Day. Many churches celebrate
Holy Communion during the season of Advent and often on Christmas Eve.

another name for Holy Communion is the Greek word that we translate “eucharist.”
Eucharist simply means “thanksgiving.” When we eat together as a church
we include not only our church family, but also those saints from around the world
and through the centuries. Hebrews 13 characterizes these believers as “the
great cloud of witnesses.” When a church recites the Apostles’ Creed together
it suggests this idea when we say something about “the communion of saints.”
When I was young I could not grasp a table large enough to include places for
all believers of the church for all time. However, now I understand that in the
mind of God we are all gathered around one table whenever we celebrate the Lord’s
Supper that we also call the Eucharist – a meal of thanksgiving.

ask you to do something that will help you spiritually prepare for the coming
of Christ this Christmas. Take some time during this Advent season to do more
than simply send a non-descript Christmas card to those you love. This season
I ask you to engage in a spiritual exercise much like Paul did when he wrote the
Philippians. When you write your Christmas cards be sure to write something that
tells that person how much you thank God for them. You might even try beginning
your Christmas card message with a biblical phrase. If you need a good place to
begin, why not write, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”


brief provided by: David N. Mosser, Pastor, First United
Methodist Church, Arlington, TX

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