This past week, we talked about the need for urgency and anticipation in the Advent season. In particular, we discussed the need to look forward to Jesus’s second coming. We continue to consider this challenge in the coming weeks. For the next two weeks, we will be surveying Paul’s letter to the Philippians. As we examine the introduction, we see the anticipation of Jesus’s return as a primary focus. On Sunday, we’re going to be talking about the way in which ancient letters were composed. There is a pattern or style of writing for these letters. As we examine the style, it gives us an understanding of Paul’s intentions. The section we will be studying is called a “Thanksgiving” element. In this part of the letter, the author offers a prayer for the recipient. As we read Paul’s prayer, we are able to peer into his heart; we are able to understand what he valued.
When you have children, you pray for them. Sometimes you pray for academic achievement, healthy relationships and spiritual connection with God. You want the best for your kids; the way you pray for them indicates your priorities. In this section of Philippians, we are able to see Paul’s priorities for the church at Philippi. He prays for a unified body. If they are together in mind and spirit, it will mean spiritual health for them. Paul says,
(Philippians 1:10 NIV) so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.
Do you see it in the text? Paul understands it necessary for the church to navigate waters of discord and strife. He knows that unity will produce holiness. It will not be easy; but their struggle will be only for a while. He says, “until the day of Christ.” In other words, when Jesus returns, all will be made right. The church will no longer need to strive.
We will look at other passages in the Pauline epistles regarding the day of Christ. We will see this day as central to the New Testament writers. And if it was foremost for them, it should be primary for us. As we continue through the season of Advent, may we learn to anticipate Jesus’s return. May we learn to balance the here and now with the promise of Christ’s return.