I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:3 – 5)

Yesterday we got to thinking about the exiles in Babylon – taken from family, friends, and home – and living in a strange new place. In the same way I think about refugees and immigrants coming to a new land, apart and separated from everything they had ever known. I am sure (or at least I hope) the folks “at home” remembered them and kept them in their thoughts. And those who were in a new place thought of those they left behind, bittersweet memories.

I remember Advents from past years; one that stands out is the first Advent after I started seminary. There was a new & special feeling celebrating Advent that year. I remember to Advent seasons when I was a child; there was not the same emphasis as now. But I do remember setting up the nativity scene and deliberating setting the wise men and there camels at a distance from the manager, Mary, Joseph, the sheep, and of course baby Jesus. As each day passed and we got closer to Christmas, I would move the wise men and their entourage closer to the manager. I thought myself quite clever in this, recognizing that we need to “journey” to Christmas. Looking back on that I can see that I craved rituals and symbols that marked the faith path – foreshadowing, I think, that I would end up at seminary.

“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (Verse 6)

Of course the faith path is more than Advent; even more than Lent, that season Advent inevitably points to. I would, however, disagree that the “good work” can ever be complete. I would contend it is not completion that ends up, but that it is no longer needed.

“It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.” (Verses 7 – 8)

I think back to all the faith circles I have been a part of, and all the people who became dear to me during that time. I am, beloved reader, somewhat alone in the place I am now. But the Divine has been good to me in this “hard” and “faraway” place. What has gone before in my faith life has prepared me to be where I am now; and where I am now prepares me for the future and where I will be then. And because of this I can say with Paul . . .

“And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” (Verses 9 – 11)

May your Advent path, beloved reader, prepare for the times ahead. And may the memories of the past light your way into the future. Shalom & Selah!