Encouragement From The Word

The Glue and the Head

This Advent, we’ve been looking at Jesus through the eyes of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians.  In Colossians 1.17-18, he writes, “He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.  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” (NLT).

Imagine that:  were it not for Jesus – who, we learned, was present in creation – the world would quite literally fall apart!  He is the Glue that holds creation together.

And this Amazing Baby we celebrate in these days is also the Head of the church.  No matter what your tradition or polity, the very top of the chain of command is reserved for Jesus.  Why?  Because he was born for it, gave his life for it, and rose from the dead for it.

So, this Christmas, let me encourage you to make him, in Paul’s words, “first in everything”.

You won’t be disappointed.

Since the next two Fridays happen to land on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, let me take this opportunity to wish you a very merry Christmas, and happy new year.  Thanks for reading Encouragement From The Word.  It’ll return in January.

Make Jesus first!

Encouragement From The Word

This Amazing Baby

This Amazing Baby whose birth we anticipate is, as I’ve been pointing out in this Advent season, no ordinary Baby.  Not only was he present at creation, but he was active in creation.

How can a baby do that? you might rightly ask.  

Well, Jesus was not always a baby.

Of course, we know that he grew and became a man and ministered until he was crucified.  He rose from the dead and ministered again until he was taken up to heaven, from whence he came.

See, Jesus of Nazareth was the incarnate version of the second Person of the Trinity.  The Trinity is a difficult doctrine, one that is inferred by Scripture and that has been a hallmark of apostolic Christianity for almost 1700 years (so it’s proven the test of time).  As the second Person of the Trinity, our Saviour was active in creating the world, so it’s no wonder that he was willing to give his earthly life for it.

Yet Jesus did not only create the mountains and valleys, the lakes and trees and rocks; he also set forth less immediately tangible realities.

This Amazing Baby in the manger is the Creator of heaven and earth.  Imagine that! 

He’s worth anticipating, worth worshipping, worth being ready for when he comes again.

[F]or 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.  He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together” (Colossians 1.16-17, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

The Birth of the Firstborn

In Advent, we anticipate the birth of Jesus – something that happened more than 2,000 years ago.  Yet it has been commemorated annually by his followers for centuries.  What makes it a birthday worth getting ready for?

Jesus was no ordinary baby.  I’m pretty sure, though, contrary to the carols that proclaim “Silent night,” and “no crying he makes”, that his birth was a fairly normal human birth, with all the liquid and drama and emotion that go with it.

Mary, his mother, knew he would be different.  An angel of the Lord had told her as much.  But we can’t be certain when that different-ness became obvious to either Jesus or his mother.

Still, the birth was special, because Jesus was no ordinary baby.  The Apostle Paul would write later that “He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation” (Colossians 1.15b, NLT).  Other translations render that as Jesus having been the firstborn of all creation.

No wonder he would later say to the Pharisees, “Before Abraham was even born, I AM!” (John 8.58, NLT).

There’s definitely something special about celebrating the birth of One who has existed since time began, One who was present at the very creation of the world.

Whatever your seasonal celebrations look like this year – and I’m sure they will be different than in years past, at some level – there is definitely a reason to keep them special, since we’re celebrating the birth of no ordinary baby.

What will you do to make it special this year?

Encouragement From The Word

All about family?

Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day in the US.  Today is Black Friday.  This Sunday begins the season of Advent, as we count down the days to Christmas.

And we’re still in COVID.

Many people say – reinforced by countless television commercials aimed at selling you something neither you nor your loved ones need – that “The Holidays are about family.”

I’ve been saying for years that this statement misses the mark significantly.  And this is the year to find out if that’s true.

I’m astounded – nay, gobsmacked! – at the attitudes I see on social media with respect to the pandemic and family gatherings.  These days, I see photos of some of my American friends, gathered in large crowds for Thanksgiving, as if they are unaware of the risk that if even just one person in a gathering is carrying Coronavirus, the whole group could be infected.  Why are they taking this risk?  Because “the Holidays are about family.”

In other words, maintaining a tradition is more important than preserving life.

We are entering what is usually the most socially-packed month on the calendar.  This year, that may need to be handled differently.

This may be the year that you prove that the Holidays are not really all about family.

It is possible to be thankful without having The Whole Gang present in the room.

Christmas parties can take place virtually, or in physically distanced settings.

We can still celebrate the birth of Jesus when it’s just our own household.

I don’t want to pretend I’m anybody’s Medical Officer of Health, and I’m certainly not trying to engender fear in anyone.  We serve a God who is bigger than any virus!  But as Advent begins, I think this is the year we can demonstrate, once and for all, that the Holidays are not all about family.

In this year of craziness, let’s focus on the One (in the) Stable:  let’s remember the Reason for the Season.

Whatever shape your Advent and Christmas celebrations take, be safe.  And let Jesus be the Centre of it all.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1.15a, NLT).