In this worship broadcast, we hear a message from Christine Samuel, our Pastoral Intern, who speaks about the Transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17.1-9. You can watch the whole broadcast below, or just the message below that.
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!
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).
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?
As Remembrance Day approaches, the word “sacrifice” looms large. We remember, with gratitude, those who gave their lives in the service of our country’s freedom and sovereignty.
But sacrifice is not limited to those who die in battle.
Yes, often, we think of Jesus’ words to his disciples – a veiled reference to himself – when he said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15.13, NLT).
But the notion of sacrifice also relates to our own walk with God. The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12.1, NLT).
He calls us to give – once for all, as a victim – our bodies, which contextually refers to our whole selves – as a living sacrifice.
As disciples of Jesus, our worship involves the complete giving of every part of us to God, in his service, for his Kingdom, for his glory.
So, yes, gratefully remember those who sacrificed their lives for Canada’s freedom. And gratefully sacrifice your body, your mind, your soul, for the glory of God, who in Jesus Christ has redeemed you for his good purpose.
Regular readers of Encouragement From the Word know that I ordinarily end my thought with Scripture. This week, though, I’m going to start there instead. Read this through a couple of times, slowly.
“Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.
“Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.
“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you” (Galatians 3.23-29, NLT).
The context around the letter to the Galatians is that doctrinal troubles had arisen in churches there, due to the influence of what were called “Judaizers” – followers of Jesus who believed that in order to become Christians, Jews and Gentiles alike had to follow Jewish rituals. The apostle Paul wrote this letter to disabuse the churches of Galatia of the notion that they had to follow certain rituals in order to be welcomed into the family of faith in Jesus.
In our context, it has any number of applications that I won’t bother to list here. But I will say this: so often, we find ourselves wanting to be significant, wanting to be ‘somebody’, and we uplift ourselves at the expense of others. We’ve seen examples of this at both opposite extremes in the news recently.
Ultimately, though, if you want to be somebody, live by faith in Jesus.
Now, read that passage one more time.