Summary: As the Apostle Paul prays, his heart goes out to his fellow Christians. What can we learn for our prayer-life from the Apostle? Parts: A. Remember the deep bond of fellowship in Christ Jesus. B. Pray that love overflows in knowledge.

Text: Philippians 1:3-11

Theme: A Christmas Prayer from the Christian Heart

A. Remember the deep bond of fellowship in Christ Jesus

B. Pray that love overflows in knowledge

Season: Advent 2c

Date: December 6, 2009

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus’ great compassion is Philippians 1

"I thank my God in all my memory of you, always in my every petition for all of you joyfully petitioning regarding your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, since I am convinced of this very thing, namely, that the One who began a good work in you will fully complete it up to the day of Christ Jesus -- even as it is right for me to be mindful of this on behalf of you all because I have you in my heart. All of you are my fellow sharers of grace both in my bonds and in the gospel’s defense and confirmation. For God is my witness how I long for you all with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is what I pray that your love still more and more increase in knowledge and all insight so that you can test what is superior, in order that you may pure be and blameless on the day of Christ, having been filled with the righteous fruit that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:3-11)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Christmas is full of memories. The smell of pine and Christmas cookies. Family coming home, the warmth of a fire. Children’s gleeful shouts, Christmas programs, presents, carols, falling snowflakes, the night in jail . . .

Well, hopefully that is not part of your Christmas memory. But that was part of Paul’s memory of his time in Philippi. He and Silas had been stripped and severely beaten by the authorities. Bloodied and bruised, they spent half the night in prison, praying and singing hymns until the earthquake came.

Yet he reflected on his memory of Philippi with thanks and great joy as he prayed for all the Christians there. Why? Because of the wonderful work the Lord had begun to do among them and continued to do. We can learn much for our own prayer-life from the Apostle Paul, especially as we approach Christmas when our thoughts turn to the spiritual. Use Paul’s prayer as a model for a Christmas prayer from a Christian heart, from your heart, dear friends,. That’s our theme this morning.

A. Remember the deep bond of fellowship in Christ Jesus

1. Where did Paul’s emotion in his prayer come from?

Paul’s heart flows into his prayer. Sometimes conservative Lutherans are portrayed as emotionless, stone-faced, and stoic. Dare we even smile in church? But emotion fills and drives Paul’s prayer. "I always pray with joy" (Philippians 1:4 NIV). "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart" (Philippians 1:7 NIV). "God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:8 NIV).

But where did this emotion come from? It certainly wasn’t that Philippi had been such a good time. A public beating will quickly drive that kind of joy out of you. It certainly wasn’t family affections or childhood memories that tied him to Philippi. Paul had never been there until his second missionary journey. It was quite a foreign city without even a Jewish synagogue to make it feel like home.

Where did Paul’s emotion come from? From that deep bond of fellowship in Christ Jesus that he shared with all the believers in Philippi. That’s what moved him to pray from his heart. "I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now" (Philippians 1:4, 5 NIV). That word translated "partnership" is the Greek word for "fellowship."

2. What kind of fellowship moved Paul to pray?

What kind of fellowship is this? Fellowship in the Gospel, in that Good News of what Jesus has done to save us. That deep bond of fellowship was created by the Gospel, and it served to further the Gospel. Think of Paul’s first Sabbath Day at Philippi. Without a synagogue to go to, they went down to the river to find a place of prayer. They spoke to the women who had gathered there. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia not only to believe the Gospel but also to insist that she furnish Paul and his coworkers with housing while they were at Philippi. That’s the deep bond of fellowship in Christ Jesus from the first day onward that Paul mentions.

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