2021 Advent Devotions

Philippians 1:3-11 | December 14, 2021

Joy and Hope
by Vivian Clingenpeel

When I looked at the passages available for writing an advent devotional, I found that these verses gave me a sense of joy and hope, so I eagerly signed up to spend time thinking about Paul’s message and what it might mean for us during Advent in 2021.

Indeed, my feeling that this scripture might be particularly meaningful during COVID was borne out when I read that it is believed to have been written when Paul was under house arrest in Rome for two years. I can relate to that!

This letter is so full of thanksgiving and joy that one commentator stated that the whole message of the book is “I rejoice, ye rejoice also!” However, other commentators point out Paul’s concern about conflicts in the Philippian church. Paul refers several times here to all the Philippians. He doesn’t want to take sides. He prays that they will grow in love. If each one believes that Christ has already made them perfect, there will be conflict.

We are living in a difficult time where each of us believes that we have the truth and know the right way to proceed…if only everyone else would just listen to us! I have been pondering the advice of Thomas à Kempis: “Study always to be patient in bearing other men’s defects, for you have many in yourself that others suffer from you, and if you cannot make yourself be as you would, how may you then look to have another regulated in all things to suit your will?…If all men were perfect, what would we then have to put up with in our neighbors, for God’s sake?” (The Imitation of Christ).

Unfortunately, we have seen, this year in particular, the truth of Thomas Merton’s words that “you cannot live for your own pleasure and your own convenience without inevitably hurting and injuring the feelings and the interest of practically everybody you meet. But, as a matter of fact, in the natural order no matter what ideals may be theoretically possible, most people more or less live for themselves and for their own interests and therefore they are constantly interfering with one another’s aim, and hurting one another and injuring one another, whether they mean it or not” (Seven Storey Mountain).

What to do? We can pray as Paul did: “I thank my God for you every time I think of you; and every time I pray for you all, I pray with joy” (1:3, TEV). And also pray for ourselves that “our love will keep on growing more and more, together with true knowledge and perfect judgment” (1:9, TEV). Thus our “lives will be filled with the truly good qualities which only Jesus Christ can produce” (1:11, TEV).

Prayer: Hallowed be Thy name, not mine.
Thy kingdom come, not mine.
Thy will be done, not mine.
Give us peace with Thee, Peace with men, Peace with ourselves
And free us from all fear.

(A prayer by Dag Hammarskjöld)