In this series we’ll reflect on the Advent Scriptures in the Revised Common Lectionary as a way of enabling us to celebrate the birth of Christ.
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:3-11 ESV)
Once again the lectionary calls us to remember that the Christ who came at Christmas will come again. Twice in our text Paul writes of “the day of Christ.” We are to live with our eyes on that horizon. We celebrate Jesus’ first coming. We anticipate his second coming.
Specifically, Paul urges us to remember that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” We find courage and comfort in knowing that the one who first resided in a humble manger now resides in our hearts and is hard at work transforming us.
But how does he do this? John Ortberg writes that the answer to the question is found in the sailboat.
Imagine that the shoreline on the opposite side of a lake represents the you you long to be. The fully grown and fully mature and fully transformed you. The you, as Paul writes, “filled with the fruit of righteousness” and having a love that abounds “more and more.” How do you get to that shore?
You could jump onto a raft and assume that God’s going to do all the work for you. But you’d just end up drifting aimlessly.
Alternatively, you could jump into a rowboat and assume that you alone must do all the work. So you row and row, but eventually you burn out.
What you need is a sailboat. Sailing is not easy. It still requires intense effort. But ultimately, the wind carries you to the other shore. You and the wind co-labor.
In the same way, Paul envisions us and God working together to achieve true life-change.
How’s your sailing?