"I thank my God every time I remember you … because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now."
Nothing bonds like shared experience. A few months ago, I watched a televised tribute to baseball players from my hometown who had played together a decade ago on a World Series team. These athletes only vaguely resembled their former selves; their jerseys now fit oddly over shrinking shoulders and growing waistlines. But as each name was called and they rejoined one another on the field, their camaraderie was evident. They had done something together that made them a kind of family, a band of brothers. As the crowd cheered, they exchanged knowing looks: they had once shared something big, and they hadn’t forgotten it.
Paul writes to his friends at Philippi, wearing his heart on his sleeve. He recalls them fondly and longs to see them again, and he tells them so. What bonded them together in such a lasting way? The gospel of Jesus Christ. Once upon a time they were "gospel sharers," and the memory of that experience was still with Paul.
As we observe Advent, we remember with gratitude and joy the incarnation of Christ. But we also remember the benefits of Christ’s first coming—of his birth, life, sacrificial death, and resurrection. One of those benefits is our membership in the Body of Christ. Our faith in him makes us co-heirs, brothers and sisters, and sharers of the good news that Jesus Christ has made a way for us to have peace with God.
Paul prayed that the love of his brothers and sisters at Philippi would "overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight," looking forward to the coming day when they might be "pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ … "
In this season of hope and remembrance, remember those with whom you have shared together in the gospel. If you are able, thank them—family members, friends, teachers, students, and colleagues—for that privilege. Tell them what their commitment and fellowship have meant to you. Encourage them in their devotion to Christ. Celebrate the way their gifts are manifest in the Church, and rejoice in the bond that you will share with them forever, "for the glory and praise of God."
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:
Who are the people you get to thank? Why?
Heavenly Father, thank you for the fellowship of the saints—for the privilege of being a part of the family of the redeemed. We praise you for your saving and sanctifying grace and ask you to help us each day to remember the great grace that has made us brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Amen.
READ THE PASSAGE IN CONTEXT:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.