“Your love has given me much joy.”
Candle Lighter: “I always thank my God…”
Response: “…when I pray for you.”
Scripture: Philemon 1:1-7
1 This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.
I am writing to Philemon, our beloved co-worker, 2 and to our sister Apphia, and to our fellow soldier Archippus, and to the church that meets in your[a] house.
3 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
4 I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, 5 because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. 6 And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. 7 Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.
Reader: The word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.
I read today’s passage in Philemon and thought how am I ever going to relate this to anything about advent or Christmas? In this brief letter, Paul is asking a friend to accept back an “employee,” Onesimus (a slave), who quit on the job…actually, who ran away. During the time of his “one way journey,” Onesimus ran into Paul and became a believer in Jesus Christ! His life was totally transformed, and he became a useful helper during Paul’s time in prison. This letter is written to Paul’s friend, Philemon, who was the master of Onesimus. In some cases a runaway slave was subject to death so this was a very serious matter. Onesimus may even have stolen some money as well. Paul’s clear words to Philemon are to accept back Onesimus as a “brother in Christ.” In other words, take him back as an equal before God, a radical concept considering the times. Paul offered to repay any stolen money on Onesimus’ behalf. In a nutshell, Christ can transform anyone into a new person. And you are thinking at this point, “Nice, but where is the connection with Christmas?” Thank you for asking! My guess is that many of us will be with extended family at some point over the next few weeks. If your family is like everyone else’s, there are “unique” relatives, some of whom are delightful, and others not so much. Our tendency is often to react to the way people used to be. Approach this year’s gathering with the mindset that God may have been working on that “uniqueness” in Uncle Fred and molding him more and more into the image of His Son, or drawing him closer and closer to Himself. That’s what Paul was getting at in this little letter. In other words, give God credit for the ability to transform a person into a new creation. After all, I trust that is what God has been doing with your “uniqueness!” Christmas is about setting in motion the transformation of the entirety of creation. What have you noticed about changes in yourself this past year? Where is God working on you? Merry Christmas, Uncle Fred!
Music: “I Wonder as I Wander Benjamin Luxon
Gracious God, who never gives up on any of His creation, grant that I might attain that loving heart towards all with whom I come in contact over these next weeks and in the months to follow. Father, you have been gracious and patient with my stubborn heart. I thank you for pursuing me when I have resisted you, fighting the transformation you were working on. May I be the one in my family who encourages joy and honors the love and care you are giving to those “unique” people in my family, including me. Thank you Lord Jesus, for humbling yourself to become one of us and living in Israel so many years ago. That is almost more than we can imagine, but it beautifully demonstrates your love and commitment to your people. We do wonder at your great love which led you to die for us. We love you and thank you for loving us to the point of death on a cross. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
― Daniel Sharp
P.S. And may I be a blessing to Uncle Fred.
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