“Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that . . . I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel . . . .” (Philippians 1:27a,c from Philippians 1:12-30 )
From December 23, 2008: “At the season of Advent and Christmas we do not ask ourselves or each other whether we are worthy of the gift of Christ. That is a question that comes later at Lent and Easter. Christmastime is a time when we celebrate the fact that “God so loved the world . . . “ I went on to make the comparison between God and Santa Claus, noting that God is more forgiving than Santa by not threatening to hold back the gift of Jesus Christ is someone is found naughty. In fact God would say if you are “naughty” you need Christ even more. Then I said, (again from 5 years ago) “Looking at Christmas in this way, we would be foolish to put more emphasis on the Santa-style of Christmas then the Christ-style of Christmas.”
But I made an error back then; I did not delve more closely into the passage but took only the surface meaning. In looking at it again, I realized this passage has little to do with Advent and the birth of Christ, and more to do with the commercialized Christmas – appearance and not inward intent.
But what then do we make of Paul’s admonition to be “worthy”? After I “wrestled” with the passage for a little while, I did a brief consultation with Barnes and his remarks showed me that Paul is telling the Philippians to act in a way that reflects well on Christians and the Christian faith. Not that their conduct be worthy of God and Christ’s grace and mercy, but that others might see and judge that Christians are good citizens and good people.
Early Christianity was lived out in the public eye, and appeasing the public eye was very much a concern. That is not to say that was wrong, nor that we should not take care to live good and wise lives. But appeasing the public eye should not take precedence over living as God has commanded us. Faith was a very private thing, and not shared much unless one specifically asked. When you fear being put together because of your faith beliefs, you are not likely to shout them from the roof tops. Nor by making use of a choir.
I think it is hard for us to conceive of a faith that needed to be hidden – especially at this time of year when Christmas decorations have been in displayed since before the third Thursday in November! If this passage had come earlier, I might not have erred in the surface reading. But here we are, two days short of Christmas, and Paul is speaking to us advocating care and caution in our daily lives.
Did it occurred to you that Christ did not live his life carefully? That he set a course for his life, guided by God, and proceeded to live the life even at the cost of the cross. That is what I would advocate for you gentle reader – live life fully and completely, confident that God is leading you well. Pay attention to scripture, reading it closely and completely. Pray often. Reflect on the inspiration laid down by the saints and spiritual ancestors before us. And celebrate Christ’s birth with choirs and compassion. Let no one come away from you not knowing that you believe fully and completely in our revealed Lord.
As I said last year (at least I got that right!) “May you find the true Divine Spirit of Christmas in your heart and in your home; and may the Divine Spirit be a part of you living all year round. Selah!” And shalom for your day.