It’s always a special joy for me also to come to the Christmas season and have the opportunity to focus on the simple and yet profound message of the birth of Christ. You know, it is an irony of rather significant proportions in America that we celebrate the birth of someone we refuse to acknowledge. Sort of a curiosity. We have George Washington’s birthday and Abe Lincoln’s and they have to share a day. And Martian Luther King gets his own day and we, to my knowledge, I have never heard of anybody from the ACLU suing someone for celebrating the birth of any of those three, it amazes me that in any public setting on any public property we can’t celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We can’t sing his praise or articulate his uniqueness without the threat of a lawsuit or a ban. Now the truth is, nobody wants to stop the celebration. That’s not the idea, not the commercial world anyway, they want the money.
Not the government, they need the taxes that buying and selling and traveling produces, and not the partygoers, they want the fun. If we can just have the party without Jesus, everybody will be happy. The birthday of Jesus, frankly has become very useful. It has immense pragmatic value if you can just keep Jesus out of it. You might be the impression based upon that that Jesus is an insignificant person, a figment of some well-meaning Christians fantasies or some character of archaic antiquity who has been embellished through the years to have become something he never really was and we are kind of just stripping it down to eth way it out to be.
Is Jesus someone less important than George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Martian Luther King? Is Jesus someone about whom we shouldn’t be making so much fuss and certainly not too much articulation of the character of his life and what he said and why he came. Is Jesus someone to be pushed into the background? Should we keep the party and get rid of the person whose party it is. Is he insignificant? Should people who want to proclaim Christ and sing his praises be silenced?
Well, the apostle Paul wants to help us understand who Jesus is. And I want you to look at your Bible to Colossians chapter 1. Among all of the passages of scripture that we might have looked at to see the reality of the child who was God, none is more grand than this one in the first chapter of Colossians. I want to read to you starting in verse 15. Listen to what the Bible says about Jesus Christ. “He is the image of the invisible God. The firs born of all creation. For by him all things were created both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities, all things have been created by him and for him. And he is before him all things and in him all things hold together. He is also head of the body the church, and he is the beginning the first born from the dead so that he himself might come to have first place in everything. For it was the father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in him.”
Every one of those statements that was made from verse 15 through verse 19 is absolutely exclusive. They are true of him and nobody else. And the sum of them all is at the end of verse 18 where it says that he is to have the first place in everything. No one else is the image of the invisible God. No one else can be the first born of all creation. No one else can be the creator of things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible. No one else sits over the thrones and dominions and rulers and authorities, no one else is before all things and holds all things together. No one else is the head of the bod, the church, the beginning, the first-born. No one else has all the fullness dwelling in him to the pleasure of the father. Those are all absolutely exclusive statements. And what they tell us is, that Jesus Christ is utterly unique. There is no one like him. He is beyond everyone else He is infinitely beyond everyone else and if we are going to slight somebody at his birthday, better it be a man than the God man.
The humble birth of Jesus Christ that we read about a little while ago from Luke’s gospel and the manger, which is a feed trough in a stable. The humble garment that wrapped his little body was never intended to be a quiet façade to hide the reality that God was being born. Although the world has tried to make it that, it was really a demonstration of condescension, servant hood, humiliation. And frankly, those people who have tried to find in the accoutrements of Christmas the simplicity and humility that covers up reality, have a hard time explaining how an event so humble could be the most widely known event on the face of the earth. If Jesus wasn’t so unique, how in the world did we set the calendars of history by his birth.
Seems to me that all the protesting about Jesus, all the trivializing of his birth is like the confession of which Shakespeare commented when he had one of his characters say, “Me thinks you protest too much.” The betrayal of a wicked motive. The truth is that as the angel said, this is Jesus who will save his people from their sins and as the prophet said, his name shall be called Emmanuel which is God with us, the truth is, what you have in the birth of Christ is a savior who is God in human form. God entered our sin polluted world without being tainted by it he took our guilt, he bore our griefs, he carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. He was raised for our justification. He ascended to intercede for us, to prepare us a place and will return to take us to be with him forever. This is Emmanuel, this is God with us. To slight the child of Christmas is to blaspheme the God of Heaven. He is unique, no one has ever been like him. No one ever will be.
In the book of Revelation, John has an amazing experience in chapter 5 as he is taken by means of a vision into the very throne room of heaven and the presence of God. He sees God seated on a throne and in the hand of God is a scroll. That scroll represents the title deed to the universe. The universe at the present is in the hands of a usurper, Satan, the archenemy of God and the destroyer of souls. And Satan now is the God of this world. The ruler of this age, but God is seen in the picture of Revelation 5 holding a title deed to the earth and to the universe in his hand and saying, who is worthy to take the title deed and to open its seals and to take back the world and the universe. And as John looks, all of heaven and earth is scanned and no one is found worthy, absolutely no one. No great intellect, no great academician. NO great military leader. No great monarch, ruler, king, emperor, no great religious man, no one is found and John begins to weep and he is weeping because no one has the authority or the ability to rise to take back the universe from the usurper. And in the midst of his tears, he can discern one stepping forward from the throne who is both a lamb and a lion, none other than Jesus Christ and he reaches to the fathers hand and he takes the scroll.
In all the universe, he alone is worthy. In all the universe, he alone has that authority and that ability. There is none like him. And if ever there is a celebration for anyone, there should be a celebration for him. And to exclude him from the celebration is the most profound kind of blaspheme. He is God in human flesh come to save. But to see the greatness of his person, one needs only to go back to the text, which we read. Now, I must admit to you that I had a little struggle in my heart between this text and Hebrews Hebrews 1:1 to 3, so I’m going to throw Hebrews 1:1 to 3 in along the way, okay? Because they are so parallel. And I want you to see a portrait painted by the apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that gives us a series of strokes that revel Jesus Christ and each of these five strokes represents a particular relationship. We see Christ and his relationship to God and then in his relationship to the created universe, then to the unseen world, then to the church and then to all other revelations. Let’s start with Jesus in his relation to God. Verse 15, he is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. Now you need a little bit of background. I won’t take a long time on this, but just to help you know the setting, the church in Colossi was confronted by typical religious error at that time as churches are today, there were false teachers then as there are now. People purveying lies as if they were religious truths. And there was a group of these religious teachers and they thought that they had the super knowledge, the superior knowledge. They were the supposed spiritual intellectuals of their time. And they thought that Christianity was a common mundane low level kind of religion and they had elevated themselves to a much higher one.
They fancied themselves as the spiritually elite. The theologically elite, the intellectual elite and they twisted the scripture in their quest for a superior position. Now just to give you a brief kind of understanding that will help you fit this into the context, they believed in creation out of evil matter. They believed that an evil being created the universe and that all that the evil being created is evil. Therefore, matter is evil. All matter is evil. Anything that is physical is evil. They believed that spirit was good. Anything that was invisible and intangible is good, so God could never take on a body. That would be for good to be mixed with evil. And God who is good, would never do that, in fact, God who is good would never have created anything. Who created, well, they said, God created a series of imitations or angel beings out of himself and out of almost an infinite line of creations from himself and God is far, far away and as he spun off these emanations they kept coming down a descending ladder and at some point they went past the point of good and they entered into evil. And one of those evil ones created matter.
Some foolish evil sub god and now the rest of human history is people trying to fight against the stupidity of this sub god who crated matter and messed up a perfectly good spiritual world. Jesus could never be god in human flesh because the true God is good and he wouldn’t touch flesh. Whoever had flesh is evil. Jesus, they said, was one of these good emanations and Jesus also would never take on a physical form because he would never associate with evil. So, God didn’t create, Jesus is not the creator God, God would not incarnate himself in human form and neither would Jesus.
Paul is writing against this background and he simply says to them, Jesus is the image of the invisible God. And in verse 16, by him, all things were created. Get rid of this ridiculous system that you have developed and understand this, there is one God and he created and that one God came into the world in the form of Jesus in human flesh, that’s truth. In relation to God then, Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He is the replica, the iconian. He is the reproduction. In Hebrews chapter 1 and verse 3, it says this, making really the same point, Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his nature. He is the radiance of God’s glory. That is to say, he is the shinning forth of God. He is the exact, says the writer of Hebrews, representation of God’s person. He is not only the brightness, but he is the essence, the substance.
This term, image is the classical Greek term for a die or a stamp. He replicates God. He’s the exact reproduction of God. As John tells us in his account of the birth of Christ, we beheld his glory and what glory was it? The glory as of the only begotten of the father full of the same attributes that are characteristic of God. Paul writing in Philippians 2 says, Christ in one point was in the form of God. But divested himself of that and came in the form of man. He is the precise copy, reproduction, replica of God. He is the very substance and essence of God. He is the radiance of God’s shining glory in human form. That’s why he could say in John 14:9, if you have seen me, you have seen the father. In fact, he is not just a sketch of God, verse 9 of chapter 2, in Colossians it says, in him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form. And back in verse 19 of chapter 1, all the fullness is caused to dwell in him. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul says, Christ who is the image of God. He is a full manifestation and revelation of God. Paul wants it crystal clear that there is no equivocation as to the identity of Jesus Christ. He is God in human flesh. That’s not unreasonable if you look at the life of Christ. Think of it this way, if God were a man, what would we expect him to be like?
Well, if God were a man, here is my list. I would expect him to be sinless. Jesus was. He was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin. Even pilot who sat as his judge after all the hullabaloo that had gone on, came to this conclusion, I find in him what? No fault. The Roman centurion came to the same conclusion and so did the thief on the cross. Nobody could ever bring an accusation against him. A trial before Anas, a trial before Caiaphas, a trial before Herod passed back to Pilate, nobody could come up with anything. If God were a man, I would expect him to be sinless.
The record of history and the affirmation of apostolic testimony and the truth is, Jesus was sinless. If God were a man, I would expect him to speak the most profound and greatest words every spoken, wouldn’t you? Jesus did.
A comment of his detractors was, we never heard anybody speak like this and every time he preached they were absolutely astounded. If god were a man, I would also expect him to exert a profound influence over human personality. He did. The impact of Jesus Christ on humanity is without equal. In fact, if you just look at the disciples who were basically bumbling common characters who had a hard time comprehending seemingly some of the basic issues of theology and truth, but the power of Jesus life transformed them into people who changed the world. And still, he’s transforming people like that.
Influence. I would expect that if he were God he would have that kind of influence. Now if God were a man, I would also expect him to do miracles. Jesus did, repeatedly, publicly, unarguable, dramatically, prolifically, and if God were a man, I would expect him to know the future. Jesus did. He predicted things about himself, things about the nation of Israel, details about the future, the end of the world. IF God were a man, I would expect him to show us what God was like. He did. We saw in him love and kindness and mercy and grace that was absolutely and utterly and beyond anything any human could ever experience.
And we saw in him a level of virtue, fairness, wisdom, the likes of which the world has never seen. Anyway you look at it, if God were to come into the world as a man, he would come out Jesus Christ and that’s the case. Jesus Christ is the exact reproduction of the invisible God he makes the invisible God visible. If you trivialize the birth of Christ, as I said earlier, that is a monumental form of blaspheme because that is a striking of a blow against the revelation of the eternal God in Christ. Furthermore, verse 15 identifies Jesus of the first born of all creation. That is not a reference to time. He wasn’t the first person born in creation. Adam was made and then Eve was formed out of his rib and then they started having babies. There were plenty of them before he was born. It doesn’t mean that he was the first person ever born in all of creation. What it means is that of all of creation he is the prtotokos. That is to say, the ranking one. In ancient one, the first born meant the heir. The supreme one, the superior one. The one with the right of inheritance. The one with the rights of privilege and prestige and honor. Jacob was not born first, but he was the prtotokos. He was the heir.
Perhaps you can understand it if you can understand Psalm 89:27, God says, I will also make him my first born, the highest of the kings of the earth. First born being defined as the king of kings, the supreme one. Hebrews 1 also speaks of this, verse 2, his son whom he appointed heir of all things. That’s the issue and that’s why in verse 3 at the end he sits down at the right hand of the majesty on high. He sits down on the very throne of God. And Paul is saying in relation to God, he is the exact representation of God and of all who have been created, he is the heir, he is the supreme one. He is the ranking one. He is the ultimate one. Paul declares then that Jesus is God, the exact replica of God. The supreme being of all who have ever existed.
Some people may be confused about whether Jesus claimed this, certainly the Jewish people of his time weren’t, they wanted to stone him for blaspheme, John 10:33 says, because they said, you being a man, make yourself God. Indeed, he was God. Thomas had it right when he reached out his hand and commented my Lord and my God. Look at the second relationship in verses 16 and 17, not only do we see Jesus in his relationship to God, but in his relationship to the world or to creation. Verse 16 says, for by him all things were created both in the heavens and on earth. Visible and invisible. And then at the end of the verse, all things have been created by him and for him and he is before all things and in him all things hold together. We are dealing here not with a man, not just with a great man, we are dealing here with the creator and the sustainer of the whole universe. Whatever is in heaven and in earth. Whatever is visible or invisible. It is all crated by him. It is all created before him. He is before all of it and in him, all of it hangs together. He is the creator and again, that is exactly what we read in Hebrews 1:2, through whom also he made the world. Or literally, dia by whom he made the world. The whole universe, the whole cosmos. The whole material universe was made by Jesus Christ.
I mean and just to think about that is mindboggling. If you could bore a hole in the sun and start dumping earths into it, you could put 1,200,000 earths into it and still have room for 4,300,000 moons, the sun is inconceivably massive. The sun is 93 million miles away. The nearest star, alpha century is five times bigger than the sun. Now, the moon is only 211,463 miles away. IT’s just a walk really. It’s true. You can walk to the moon in 27 years if you can go 24 miles a day.
A ray of light travels at 186,000 miles per second so it reaches the moon in 1.5 seconds. Now, if we can go that fast, if we can get up to that speed, we can reach mercury in 4 ½ minutes. It’s only 50 million miles away. In fact, in two minutes we can be at Venus, that’s just 26 million miles and 4 minutes and 21 seconds we can hit Mars. It’s only 34 million miles away. And then if we want to take a little longer trip, we can go all the way to Jupiter. That’s 367 million miles and it will take us 35 minutes and 11 seconds. And if we want to go to Saturn, well, that will take a while. That’s an hour and 11 seconds. It’s 790 million miles away. And then if we still want to go further we can go to Uranus which is 1,608,000 miles and Neptune which is 3 billion and Pluto is past all of that. And when you get all the way to Pluto, you haven’t left the front porch. Bettlejuice, this amazing star is 880 quadrillion miles away, are you ready for this, and has a diameter that is greater than the earths orbit. That is a big star. Who made all that matter? Who made all that stuff? Jesus. Somebody ought to tell the ACLU some of this, you know? Might help them.
He made the creation and he made it good, didn’t he? Man stained it with sin and he will one day come back to recreate it and bring it to the glory originally intended. Look at verse 16, at the end, all the things have been created by him. And for him. For his own good and his own pleasure and his own purposes. He is before all things. He had to be before all things or he couldn’t have created them. That is to say, Jesus is preexistent. He was alive before the incarnation and in him all things hold together. He was before the creation because he was the creator. He is the one who holds it all together. He is the cohesion. We don’t accept the deist view that he wound up the world and walked away. He holds it together. Hebrews 1:3 says he’s upholding all things by the word of his power. He’s the principle of cohesion. He’s what keeps everything moving, keeps everything in orbit. Do you understand that? Do you understand that the bodies in the universe don’t stay in their orbits just because they stay in their orbits? They stay in their orbits because he keeps them there. And do you understand that when you go down and you look inside an atom and you are looking for a components of an atom and a neutron and a proton an electron are doing exactly what they are doing inside an atom not because there is something about them that sustains itself, but there is a God who is making them function in that way consistently. He’s holding it all together by the word of his own power. Do you understand that if the worlds rotation slowed down, we would alternately freeze and burn? He’s got to keep this deal moving at the same speed, all the time. Our globe is tilted at an exact angle of 23 degrees, which enables us to have four seasons. If it weren’t tilted like that, vapors from the ocean would move north and south and pile up massive continents of ice on both ends and we would have some major problems in the rotation to say nothing of seasons. IF the moon didn’t remain at the exact precise distance it is from the earth, the ocean tide would inundate all the land twice a day. Who keeps all that stuff in place? If the ocean even slipped to a few feet deeper than it is, carbon dioxide and the oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere would be completely absorbed and no vegetable life could exist. Who sustains the delicate balance? It is Jesus Christ. He is before all things and in him all things cohere, all things hold together. And all of that was in the manger, creator, sustainer, before all things. This child is the beginning of creation, the end of creation, the upholder of creation and the goal of creation.
Look thirdly at his relationship to the unseen world. In the middle of verse 16, all things were created by him. Whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. Now those terms are familiar to any student of the New Testament because they are indicative of ranks of angels. You will see those terms a number of times in Paul’s writings, several times in his letter to the church at Ephesus and what it tells us is that he is the creator and the kind over all the angels. Thrones, dominions, rulers of authorities, just talk about the strata or the ranks of angels. He is over them all. The highest angelic princes are subject to Jesus Christ, whether they be seraphim or Cherubim or whether they be demons or Satan himself.
The very angels who said that night, glory to God in the highest, were the servants of the baby in the manger. They had been created by him. Angels, whether elect angles, holy angles or fallen angels are subject to Christ. They would not exist apart from his creative power and they could not continue to exist apart from his sustaining power. In Hebrews, again, chapter 1 verse 7, it says that it makes his angels wins. It’s talking about a creative act. And his minsters a flame of fire, but of the son he says, thy throne, oh God is forever and ever, when God made angels, by his creative act. When Christ made angels by his creative act, he made them minsters. That’s word for servants. But when God sent his son, he wasn’t a servant. He said, they throne, oh God is forever and ever and the angels worship him because he is the sovereign. Verse 6, when he again brings the first born into the world he says, and let all the angles of God worship him. Angels are servants. He is the one to be served. He is the king. He is the sovereign. There is a fourth relationship here that I would point out to you.
Look at verse 18. We have seen Jesus in his relation to God, to the created universe, and to the unseen world of angels. Now Jesus and his relationship of the church. He is also head of the body the church. He is the beginning, the first born of from the dead so he himself might come to have first place in everything. Some tremendous truths here. He is the head of the body, the church. Biblically the metaphor of the body is often used. The church is like a body and Christ is like its head. That’s comprehensible to us. It means what we would assume it means, the ability to produce growth in your brain, at the base of your skull is small cavity. In that cavity is contained a gland that is called the pituitary gland, that is related to growth. It carries the growth hormone among others that stimulate growth and growth of the body is directly related to the power provided by the head. Our cerebrum controls parts of the body, cerebellum has been called the harmonizers of muscle action. All the functions of the human body are under the control of the brain, both voluntary and involuntary. They are stimulated by what goes on in the head, growth, guidance, and certainly all the thought process are contained in the mind and the head, that give the direction to all that we do and say and think.
And that simply illustrates the fact that Christ is the source of all truth, all knowledge, all wisdom, all growth, and all guidance in his church. He is the head of the church. Secondly, he says, he is the beginning. He is the beginning of the church. He is the source of the church. Matthew 16, Jesus said, I will build my church. That is the idea here. The church is the creation of Christ. He is the source of its existence. And truthfully, it’s most prominent member by virtue of resurrection which we shall see immediately in a moment. He is the arch, He is the pioneer. He is the forerunner. He is the leader. He is the source of the church. Not just its head, but its creator, its source. And then follow along in verse 18, he is also the first born from the dead, there is that prtotokos again. It’s not that he’s the first person ever resurrected. There were people in the Old Testament resurrected. There were people that Jesus raised from the dead before he himself was resurrected. We are not talking about first in time, but of all who have ever been raised or ever will be raised, he is the prtotokos He is the supreme one. Here Paul zeroes in on the resurrection. He was born, but he was raised from the dead. The first fruits of them that slept. His resurrection is a guarantee of the ultimate resurrection into eternal life of all men. He is not a dead hero. He is a resurrected God man. And of all who have ever come from the dead, he is the supreme one, the superior one. You can’t dismiss Jesus as some dead historical figure, he is alive. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the source, the imitator of the body, the church, and he has given birth from death to the whole church by his own resurrection.
As a result of all of these things, as a result of being the very reproduction and replica of the invisible God, the most ranking individual of all those created, as a result of being the creator himself, who made everything in the universe visible and invisible, as a result of being the sovereign over all the spiritual world, as a result of being sovereign in leader and authority and source and life for the church, the end of verse 18 says, he himself has come to have first place in everything. He is absolutely preeminent. And it stands to reason, doesn’t it, that one who is first to rank in the universe, who is point of reference, who is agent, goal, forerunner, sustainer, governor in the sphere of creation, one who is head of the church, beginning and first in rank of those resurrected would be the preeminent one. How inconceivable it is then to have a holiday in which we celebrate and try at the same time to ignore the one who is the reason we celebrate. And when you are ignoring someone, it is not just some historical personality, but rather the living God.
And then just to make sure nothing gets left out after having said it all in verse 19, Paul adds a word about Jesus in his relationship to all other revelations. It was the father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in him. All the powers of deity, all the attributes of deity, verse 3 of chapter 2 says all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, verse 9 says, all the fullness of deity, everything is in him. Everything is in him. He is the fullness of God’s essence, God’s glory and it’s in him and him alone. And that is to say if somebody comes along after this and says, I’m God, don’t believe it he needs no supplement, he had no rivals. There are no more revelations. It’s in him and him alone that God has put all the fullness of his own deity because it pleased him to do that. Now the closing question is why? And the answer comes in verse 20, listen, and through him to reconcile all things to himself having made peace through the blood of his cross, from him I say whether things on earth or things in heaven, and although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds, yet he has yet reconciled you in his fleshly body through death in order to present you before him holy and blameless and beyond reproach. Why did Christ come into the world? To save sinners. To go to a cross, to shed his blood through death, pay the price for sin in order that he might present you to God, holy and blameless and beyond reproach.
He came to gather a redeemed humanity to take back to God. He came into the world to save sinners, that’s why he was to be called Jesus. He came to bring reconciliation between sinners and a holy God. He came to remove the curse of the universe and to reconcile the universe to its original, intended, created purpose. He came so that he might gather together men and women like you and like me. And all the others throughout all of human history that God set his hand upon to gather them together and present them to God, holy and blameless and beyond reproach. He came to save from sin and bring us to God, to reconcile the lost. He took our flesh in him that we might become holy as he is holy.
It’s a tremendous truth, as Joab you remember in the Old Testament pleaded for Absalom the wayward rebel’s son, and brought him to David and David kissed him. So Jesus Christ brings us to the kiss of God so that we might be reconciled. This is the meaning of Christmas, nothing less, and certainly nothing more. It’s a sad thing in our culture that Christmas on the one hand is trivialized and on the other hand it is assaulted in an effort to remove the only thing about it that is important, eternally important. And I think in closing it behooves us at a time like this to take every opportunity to make sure that people do understand what Christmas is really all about.
I’m not defending December 25th as if it were the day Jesus were born, that’s very unlikely. I’m not defending all of the stuff that goes on around Christmas, but I am saying, if the world is going to give us an opportunity to focus on the birth of Jesus Christ, let’s take advantage of it. Let’s take advantage of it in order to worship and to praise him because that’s right in an order to speak of him to those who so much need to hear. Foolish, foolish people who want to eliminate Jesus Christ, keep the party, just get rid of the reason and in so doing, in their effort to gain the world, they lose their soul. We have a tremendous responsibility to them. Let’s bow together in prayer.
Father it is with great thankfulness and gratitude of heart that we acknowledge you this morning as our savior because this is not something that comes from us, but from you. This is a gift. We can’t even comprehend why you would be so gracious as to give it to us, but we thank you. We pray for those who do not know Christ. We pray that at this Christmas season particularly through the testimony of faithful folks who belong to Christ, people’s hearts might be turned toward the savior and while the world is doing everything it can to cover up the reality of Christ blurring completely the celebration of his birth, the concept of the incarnation, the truth of salvation, Lord, may we speak boldly as the attacks escalate, may the witness escalate as well and give us the privilege of leading people to the knowledge of Christ. These things we ask for his glory. Amen.