Advent II

In the preparation and waiting of Advent, both the waiting associated with the Incarnation and Christmas and the preparation for the Second Coming, one of the questions that arises is: how do you prepare? How is anticipation channeled? In the passage for the Second Sunday of Advent from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the waiting is given a practical spiritual focus, in one of my favorite Pauline passages. The conjunction between love on the one hand and knowledge and insight on the other hand juxtaposes what we often separate:

"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" (Philippians 1:9-11)

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We are asked to allow our love to "overflow more and more," but whereas our culture often sees love as strictly emotive, feelings untethered from responsibility or reason, Paul asks that our love overflow "with knowledge and full insight to help you determine what is best." Love should be driven by spiritual virtues, not untethered from them, and this is of value not only for the others to whom our love is directed, but for ourselves. Our task is to "be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God." Paul is descriptive in this passage, not exactly prescriptive, and note the stress he puts on love coupled with insight as a means "to help you to determine what is best." Our preparation, our anticipation is largely in our hands, but Paul seems to be suggesting that we can neither have Love without Truth or Truth without Love. It seems that this path, working out our own salvation "with fear and trembling" as Paul writes elsewhere in Philippians (2:12), ought to be enough to keep us active as we prepare and wait.

John W. Martens

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