Pastor Steve – Dec 3, 2017
I. ADVENT SEASON: The Christian Calendar
The most common pattern for planning worship services in Christian churches throughout the centuries has been through the use of the Christian Calendar.
This Calendar was the way in which churches worshiped up until the Reformation. After the Reformation, Protestants abandoned the Christian Calendar because it worshipped Saints rather than Jesus.
1. Not too many years later the Reformed Churches made a new Calendar which Focused on Christ rather than Saints.
2. The New Christian Calendar begins with Advent . Today is week 1…Advent means coming, it celebrates the four-week season before Christmas.
We are starting a new Series, “God With Us.”
Todays message is “God in a Manger.”
(Some of the material for this series of messages is from John MacArthur’s book titled God with Us: The Miracle of Christmas.)
II. 1st Sunday of Advent — Colossians 1:15-20
My text for today can be found in Colossians 1:15-20, there is no greater text to describe who Jesus is!!
15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. 17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. 18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. 19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. Colossians 1:15-20
Illu. When Natalie was around 3 or 4 years old she was old enough to know about and anticipate Christmas. In the weeks leading up to Christmas that year I would often ask her, “Natalie, what is Christmas?”
“Christmas is when baby Jesus was born,” Natalie would answer.
Then I would ask a second question, “And who is baby Jesus?”
“Baby Jesus is God’s Son.”
In that short little discussion with Natalie I was trying to impress on her the true meaning of Christmas.
- You see, our culture has no trouble accepting Natalie’s first answer: Christmas is when baby Jesus was born. Christmas for our culture is simply the celebration of a baby named Jesus.
- But our culture does have trouble with Natalie’s second answer: Baby Jesus is God’s Son. Our culture is not prepared to affirm that statement.
However, it is the answer to the second question that gives Christmas its true significance. Baby Jesus is God’s Son. Christmas is not merely the birth of a baby. Christmas is the celebration of God’s entry into our world.
- Our culture shifts the true focus of Christmas to the infancy of Jesus, whereas the true focus of Christmas is actually on the deity of Jesus.
- Our culture will sing about the birth of a baby, but will reject Jesus as God come in the flesh.
- Our culture will embrace the accompanying events of Christmas—the manger, shepherds, wise men, angels, Joseph and Mary—but will not believe the advent of God in human flesh.
Christmas is not primarily about Jesus’ birth, infancy, and nativity. Christmas is about God’s Incarnation. Christmas is about God’s advent in human flesh. Christmas is about God in a Manger.
Today, let’s observe several truths which affirm this…
- Jesus Is the Image of God (1:15a)
Speaking of Jesus, the apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1:15a, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.”
a. Jesus is the Perfect Replica, a Precise Copy, a duplicate—something even more like the original than a Photograph.
b. The Greek word used here is Eikon is Eikon. Exact Image of God. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” John 14:9
- The apostle Paul is saying that Jesus is the perfect replica, a precise copy, a duplicate, the exact image of God.
- I read a story about a boy whose Dad went off to World War II for many years. The boy was just a toddler when his Dad went away. Before he went away Dad made sure that he left a portrait of himself for his son. After a while the boy forgot about his Dad as a person. He would look at the portrait of his Dad more and more frequently and say, “If only Dad could step out of the picture and be real. . . .”
- At Christmas we celebrate the truth that God stepped out of heaven and into this world in the real person of Jesus. Jesus is the exact representation of God. Or, as the apostle Paul puts it, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.”
- Jesus Is the Firstborn of God (1:15b)
“He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,”
a. The Greek word for firstborn is Prototokos. Prototokos means first in rank or honor, Jesus is the one who is 1st in rank and honor and He has the right over all!
b. Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. He is the most exalted of the kings of the earth. Indeed, he is “the King of kings and Lord of lords,” to use the language of 1 Timothy 6:15.
2. Jesus Is the Creator of All Things (1:16-17)
a. The claim that Jesus, being the firstborn of God, means that he is a created being completely ignores the context of Colossians 1:15.
b. Instead of being created Jesus is in fact the Creator of all things. Colossians 1:16-17 explicitly states that Jesus is the Creator of all things:
16 For through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. 17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Colossians 1:16-17
- Jesus was not created…Jesus is the Creator of all things.
a. Have you ever reflected on Jesus’ creation? If reflecting on Jesus’ creation doesn’t cause you to marvel at his deity, then you really don’t understand who Jesus is.
b. Think of the Expanse of Creation. The expanse of Jesus’ creation is staggering.
A ray of light travels at 186,000 miles per second. Imagine for a moment that you could travel that fast—and not get a ticket for speeding! You climb into your Lightmobile and set off. You will reach the moon in 1½ seconds! You will reach Mercury in 4½ minutes. Getting to Jupiter will take about 35 minutes. Suppose you decide to keep going. You will get to Saturn in about 1 hour. Do you know how long it would take you to reach the nearest star? It will take you 4 years and 4 months!
- Traveling just to the edge of our galaxy—the Milky Way—will take you about 100,000 years, assuming you had no breakdowns along the way! If you counted the stars as you sped along to the edge of the Milky Way, you will count about 100 billion stars!
- Suppose you wanted to explore other galaxies. You would have, “billions and billions” of other galaxies from which to choose.
- The size of our universe is incomprehensible. I ask you, “Who created all this?” The baby in the manger created all this…
I. This is the Glorious truth we celebrate at Christmas! Jesus is the Creator of all things. Jesus is God in a Manger. And by Him all things were Created .
- Jesus Is the Head of the Church (1:18)
The apostle Paul says in Colossians 1:18:
18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.
Illu. Sam Bronfman, the late CEO of the Seagram Company, once entered a crowded conference room and, anxious to get on with the meeting, plopped into the nearest chair. One of his young assistants immediately said,
“No, Mr. Bronfman, you’re supposed to sit at the head of the table.”
“Young man,” replied Mr. Bronfman, “wherever I sit is the head of the table.”
We cannot tell Jesus what to do or what not do. Because Jesus is God, He is the head of the Church.
- Jesus is the Head, the Beginning, Supreme over All and First in Everything.
- Jesus is God and He is the Head of the Church.
- Jesus Is the Fullness of God (1:19)
There has never been another person like Jesus. The New Testament repeatedly underscores this truth, stressing his deity.
Colossians 1:19 in particular captures the essence of Jesus’ divine nature. The apostle Paul writes,
19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ
- There has never been another person like Jesus. The N.T. repeatedly underscores this Truth, stressing his Deity.
- No one can really explain what it means for God to be Born in a Manger. How do we explain the Almighty God Stooping Down to become a Tiny Infant ?
- Jesus’ birth was the greatest Act of Humiliation the world has ever known or ever will know. We cannot begin to understand what was involved in God becoming a Man.
- Without forsaking His Divine Nature or Diminishing his Deity, Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem.
- We know from other passages (such as Philippians 2:5-8 and John 5:30) that Jesus voluntarily set aside the prerogatives of deity in order to come down to earth.
- He did not give up being God, but he willingly gave up the independent use of the privileges and powers that were his as God. Nevertheless, in all this he remained fully God and all the fullness of God dwelt in him.
illu. Paul London, served as a missionary with the Sudan in Africa. At a Missions Conference Paul shared that where he ministers in Africa the strongest man in the tribe is the chief.
Water is very scarce where these people live, so they have to dig deep wells. These are not wells as we know them—with brick walls, a pulley, and a bucket at the end of a rope.
The African people sink a narrow well shaft as much as 100 feet into the ground. Even though the well is deep, the ground water of that dry land seeps very slowly into it and there is never a drop to waste. If the water were too easy to reach, the people might not use it sparingly, or an enemy might steal the next day’s supply at night.
So, the tribesmen cut alternating slits into the wall of the well all the way down to the bottom, where the water is. By alternating his weight from one leg to the other, a man can use these slits as steps to walk down the shaft to the water.
One day a man carrying water out of the shaft fell back down and broke his leg. He lay at the bottom of the well, crying for help. No one was able to help the man because no one had the strength to make the climb back up while carrying another man.
And so the chief was summoned. When he saw the plight of the injured man, he took off us massive headdress and set aside his ceremonial robe. Then the chief climbed down into the well, took the weight of the injured man on himself, and brought the man up to safety. The chief did what no one else could do.
This is just what Jesus did for us. He came down from heaven to earth. He set aside his heavenly glory, just as the chief set aside his headdress and robe, in order to rescue us.
Let me ask you a question, “When the chief took off his headdress and robe, did he stop being the chief?” No. Of course not. He was still the chief.
In just the same way, when Jesus left the glory of heaven and set aside his divine prerogatives, he did not stop being God. He was still God. Indeed, as the apostle Paul says,
“For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,” Colo 1:19
- Jesus Is the Lamb of God (1:20)
The apostle Paul tells us why in Colossians 1:20: “. . . and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”
- The question naturally arises: Why would God become man?
- If He is before all things & has Supremacy in all…Why would He come to earth, suffer & die a horrible death?
- Because, Jesus was born as God in a Manger in order to make peace through his blood. Jesus’ goal was to Reconcile people to God.
Illu. Earlier this year I read this story about a pastor and his son. The Pastor received a phone call one Sunday evening telling him to come quickly because his son Jon had broken his arm. When they arrived at the scene of the accident they found their son in terrible pain as his left arm was very badly broken. We rushed him to the emergency room at the Hospital. Even though Jon was heavily medicated he was still in painful agony. I knew that his arm would have to be set. The doctor eventually asked Eileen to leave the room so that he could set Jon’s arm.
The pastor recalled the time earlier in his life when he dislocated his shoulder and had to have it repositioned in the hospital emergency room. It was agony. And so he knew the pain that his son Jon was about to undergo. It was in those moments of heartbreak that he found myself thinking, “Oh, my son, how I wish that I could suffer in your place.”
That’s what Christ did for us, He willingly took our sin upon himself and he suffered in our place. Why? Jesus did that so that he could reconcile me to God the Father by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Friends, this is the marvel of Christmas…God With Us!! Don’t miss the true significance of Christmas. Christmas is not merely the celebration of a baby. Christmas is the celebration of God in a Manger.
But Christmas is meaningless unless you make it personal. You make Christmas personal by believing that Jesus is indeed God in a manger. But more than that, you believe that Jesus is the only one who can reconcile you to a holy God.
Believe that Jesus is God. Believe that he paid the penalty for all of your sins. Believe that you can do nothing to earn or merit God’s favor. Believe that Jesus is the only one who can take you to heaven.
If you believe that, let me assure you that you will discover the marvel of Christmas and receive the greatest gift ever: God in a Manger. Amen.