First Thursday in Advent: Finding hope

First Thursday in Advent

Luke 1:68-79; Malachi 3:5-12; Philippians 1:12-18a

“…my imprisonment is for Christ.” Philippians 1:13b

I doubt I’ll ever have a brush with anything like real persecution. That reality makes it hard for me to fully feel what Paul is expressing here. I’m put off by minor inconveniences. I don’t like it when people drive slowly in front of me. I hate it when I run out of half and half for my coffee. When I forget something on my list and have to make another trip to the store. And I’m not grateful for any of that.

I don’t think there’s any need to begin boldly proclaiming, “I’m out of half and half for Christ” the next time it happens. I just mean my bar for “what is an inconvenience?” is set a little low. If anything real comes up, I’m not well prepared to dig in and look for the spiritual good in it.

So here’s Paul—in the sort of prison where “alive” isn’t really assured from one day to the next—grateful for the new opportunity to proclaim Christ. He has a solid point; it might have been hard for the imperial guard to find out about Jesus without a Christian in lockup. But to find hope in a situation most of us would find hopeless—how does he do that?

To say “his hope is in Christ” would seem like an obvious church answer, but I think there’s a reason that we overlook that makes it possible. Paul’s hope is external. Like Christ, Paul has learned to hope for things beyond himself. Most if not all of the things I hope for are for my own benefit. It’s like a little half step to discipleship: I can’t fully put my hope in Christ until I can learn to stop putting my hope in myself.

Thank God it’s a journey.

For reflection:

What are the little things that frustrate you the most? What can you learn about yourself from those situations?

What external things are you able to place hope in?

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