Second Sunday in Advent, December 5

Reader: “Every time I think of you,”

Response: “I give thanks to my God.”

Scripture:  ​​Philippians 1:3-11   

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

Some thoughts:

I can affirm all these words of Paul in regard to all of you who subscribe to this devotional (except the part about my being in prison)! I appreciate you and your support of this ministry. You are partners in spreading the good news about Christ as you live out your faith and share it with others. Through his word, God is continually working in all of our lives until the time when Jesus returns. In their letters, Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude all spoke of the Lord’s return. These early days of Advent remind us of the same thing, the Second Coming of the Jesus. While we don’t walk around saying “the Lord’s coming today, the Lord’s coming today,” we nevertheless live with the expectation that that day is coming, maybe not in our lifetime, but then again . . . only God the Father knows.

The last paragraph of today’s reading captures the heart of my prayers for you all and the very reason in my mind for writing these devotionals. I pray that as a result of your time in the word each day your love toward others around you will grow. I pray that your knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures will grow to the point of continually deepening your faith, love and relationship to the Savior. I want us all to realize “what really matters” in Paul’s words. 

We live lives that are continually bombarded with information of all kinds. The news cycle is endless and endlessly sensational. Wars, murders, disease, political conflict, moral and societal corruption abound. Truth is hard to find. Then there are the pressures of work, finances, family and relational concerns. In the midst of all these things we all face daily, Paul writes my prayer for all of you. “I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.” It seems like Paul’s head is in another world and it is!

All the news and issues we’ve mentioned above have an expiration date. The “What really matters” has one expiration date, your death or the return of Christ, whichever comes first! Living life as God intended produces eternal rewards. Think of it. This kind of living is monumentally deceptive. We tend to value grand and glorious things and major accomplishments. Then the world will notice! We will have an impact. Who would have guessed that living a pure and blameless life―living the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ―would bring glory and praise to God, something that really matters. Live day to day with heaven in mind. In the familiar words of C.S. Lewis, “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’; Aim at Earth and you’ll get neither.” (The Joyful Christian). Most of our world is aiming only at Earth. And so this is my prayer for all of us in these familiar words: I pray that he who began a good work within you will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. This truth is what really matters.

Music: “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”    Laura Story

Prayer:Grant me, even me, my dearest Lord, to know Thee, and love Thee, and rejoice in Thee. And, if I cannot do these perfectly in this life, let me at least advance to higher degrees every day, till I can come to do them in perfection. Let the knowledge of Thee increase in me here, that it may be full hereafter. Let the love of Thee grow every day more and more here, that it may be perfect hereafter; that my joy may be great in itself, and full in Thee. I know, O God, that Thou art a God of truth, O make good Thy gracious promises to me, that my joy may be full. Amen.   ―St.Augustine (354-430 AD) from Prayers Ancient and Modern. p.182