It is hard to believe that it is December 5th, only 20 days until Christmas. Are you ready? I am not even close to being ready, I have some Christmas decorations out but there are still fall decorations out as well. I haven’t even begun to start shopping or writing Christmas cards, which if I think about it too much, it just gets very stressful and I don’t think stress is the feeling that one should have about the coming of Christmas. We should be preparing for the coming of Christ with hope and joyful anticipation. However, sometimes, hope and joyful anticipation aren’t the things in the forefront of our minds. I think what Trish read in the responsive reading of the Advent portion this morning, is very fitting. She said: We watch for hope in the midst of despair, we watch for forgiveness in the midst of rebellion, we watch for peace in the midst of conflict, and we watch for the presence of God in the midst of a fallen world. What sticks out in those phrases to start with is despair, rebellion, conflict, and even a fallen world. Even though now is the time of joy and hope, it is to a point superseded by the negative things that are all around us; the negative things that so much a part of our life these days it seems. Yet if we add the first part of each sentence to the second part that is so distressing it helps us cope and look forward to the coming of Christ; we watch for hope, we watch for forgiveness, we watch for peace, and we watch for the presence of God.
When I was reading the scripture passages that were suggested in the lectionary for today’s service, the scripture from Philippians spoke to me the most.
The book of Philippians was written by the Apostle Paul at a time when he was imprisoned in Rome. He wrote it in appreciation to the Philippians for their support in his ministry. Here is a man who is imprisoned and yet he still had the ability to find the positive things in life, namely his faith in God and Jesus Christ and the love he had for the Philippians.
He wrote this passage to help the Philippians keep their faith, to keep growing in their faith, and to keep their love for one another overflowing. We should take Paul’s words of encouragement to heart. How do we do that?
First, I think we need to remember that we all are a work in progress. None of us are perfect. There is something in our lives that always needs to be worked on. You could liken it to being a highway that is always under construction. Every time you drive down that road, you think to yourself that they should be done fixing it by now, but no; there are those workers still working on that highway. God is the master road construction supervisor. He can see where the weak spots and rough spots are in the highway of our lives and He is constantly working to fix those spots. One gets fixed and another weak spot pops up. So if we are still being worked on we need to remember that it is the same for the people in our lives and everywhere. If we have weak spots so do they.
Second, we need to have that love that is overflowing in our lives so that we know that we are loved and that we can love. We need to remember that we aren’t the only ones that need to have that overflowing love, everyone needs that love. You can liken that overflowing love to that first cup of coffee or whatever you like to drink in the morning. You don’t want to stop pouring it into your cup; for it provides what you need best to get your day going. It is the same with overflowing love, it provides what you need to get your day going and keep going. Life is just better when one feels loved and when life is good, you can share that love that you are feeling.
When I was writing my message, I found these words about the scripture of Philippians. They are written by Chuck Swindoll. He said “Though we all have so much to be thankful for, the pace and pressure of life often squeezes the joy from us. Our shoulders slumped and our heads bowed, we find some days or months very difficult to get through. Desperate, we often search for joy in all kinds of ways, acquiring possessions, visiting places, or seeing people. But none of these can provide lasting joy. Where do you find joy in the midst of a trying circumstance? Paul knew, as did the Philippians, that true joy comes only through humble faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ, joining ourselves in harmony with his followers, and serving others in the name of Christ. This was the life experienced by the Philippian believers, and it is a life available to us today. Allow the joy you find in Christ to keep you from useless quarrels and divisions and to instead guide you into harmonious relationships with God’s people.”
For me keeping that joy, having that overflowing love, is to remember what God said are the two greatest commandments. The first is to love God with all our hearts, our souls, and our minds, and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. For we all are a work in progress, none of us are perfect, but we are all loved by God. We are all his children no matter who we are or where we are on the path to everlasting life.