For at least the past 5 years as I have brushed my teeth in the morning I have prayed a prayer attributed to Mother Teresa and have ended with this line from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1.3). This line from scripture appears in the readings for this Second Sunday of Advent and I was pleasantly surprised to read it and see where it falls into the cycle of liturgical readings. It is a perfect line for Advent as is the whole reading (Philippians 1.3-6, 8-11). Why? It gives us a moment to consider the people in our lives that have encouraged us and supported us. It gives us a moment to reflect on the works we are doing – are they good and life-giving or empty and life-draining? It gives us a moment to consider Emmanuel – God with us – at work in us today, tomorrow and until forever.
I pray it each day before I step into the world to remind myself that God is at work in me, and that I do have good things to build the kingdom and that God’s goodness is a part of my days even when the days seem long or heavy or dark. I pray it each day to remind myself that I don’t walk this journey alone that indeed God is present and drawing me deeper into the great love of God and that God places good people in my path to journey alongside. In these Advent days it challenges me to be more aware of my actions and words. In these Advent days it echoes the challenge of John the Baptist to “prepare the way of the Lord” so all may see God’s love. The God of love who comes to us on the journey, through people, in scripture, in words of others, in the actions we do and the actions of others and our own actions and words.
The chaos around us may try and steal from us Advent hope and Advent joy. The world around us as in the days of old may try and make us believe, we are not worthy, we have not done good, and there is nothing great at work but all we need to do is look to Psalm 126 and be reminded that “the Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” The birth of God’s Son is indeed a launching point for discovering the great things God has done for us and fills us with a joy even in our struggles and hurts. It is the ultimate reminder of true hope.
Hope calls each of us beyond the instant and to rise up with confidence that good work is happening within us and through us and leading us closer to the crib and cross and empty tomb of Christ. Hope calls to us this Advent to seek truth, to be open to new-life, to change, to growth and to the unexpected. In this season hope underlines the journey that with each step we too become bearers of Christ and birth God’s love into the world. Advent is a gift to us to remind us of the great things that God is doing in our lives each day and that we too can say “I have this hope, in the depth of my soul, in the flood or the fire, You’re with me and You won’t let go” (lyrics from Tenth Avenue North) (so grateful this song was shared with me this week).
As we continue deeper into our Advent journey may we remember that a good work has already begun within us, that we too are preparing the way of the Lord, that God continues to do great things and fill us with a joy that is deeper than any smile we meet and that hope is deep within us for our God – Emmanuel – is with us and is not letting us go.
Week 2 Advent Goals:
Identify the people in your life who are encouraging and supporting you and your goodness. Send them a Christmas card.
Make a list of the good things in your life (even a list of the last week) and write a prayer of thanks.