Incarnate: In, Over, All
Topic: Christ is the Holiday Scripture: Colossians 1:15–1:20
When I was a kid, I knew that there was someone who was always watching me. This mysterious figure far above me was in every room. He watched over my every move. He knew what I was doing all the time. I can’t say that it kept me up at night but it was a reality I thought about all the time. It kept me from making some poor decisions from time to time. When my little sister would be pestering me and I felt compelled to retaliate…I would stop and remember there was someone watching me, almost testing me. When mom would make a batch of cookies and step out of the kitchen for a moment, I was tempted to just swipe one of those tasty treats without her seeing, but I’d stop because I wouldn’t want to upset the big man above who was observing me from afar.
There are some of you who think I’m talking about God. No, no, no. The vigilant, omnipresent figure I am referring to is Santa Clause. He’s checking his list and checking it twice. He knows our every move and seemingly even our motives and intentions as well. The right jolly ol’ elf is not a voice of our conscience but rather more of an echoing voice of encouragement to be and do good. We were told, from a very young age, that Santa is a magical person. It’s how we wrap our minds around his global delivery, aeronautical reindeer, and even his ability to observe every child when forming his nice list.
Santa is not the only figure of Christmas that possesses this kind of mysterious omnipresence, this ability to be everywhere all at once. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, the same one who once filled a tiny manger, is described by Paul in a similar fashion. As we approach Christmas, we’ve been using this Advent season to explore the doctrine of the Incarnation. It's this fundamental, foundational belief we hold onto as Christians - that affirms the humanity and the divinity of Jesus. We continue that exploration with our text this morning, Colossians 1:15-20.
Paul’s letter to the Colossians helps us avoid what I think is a fairly common pothole for us this time of year. We are surrounded by depictions of the nativity. We have them at church, maybe in our homes, we see them in greeting cards, and in yards. And we see the baby Jesus. Jesus Christ came here to our world and became just like us, just as we came into the world. He was a defenseless, fragile, precious infant. That reality, by itself, is as moving as it is incredible. But the pothole I think we can sometimes fall into is forgetting that even in his infancy, Jesus was fully God. And the baby in the manger grew up to become a teacher, healer, and Savior for this world.
When I was in college I heard one of the more hilarious examples of this. Will Ferrell’s character in the movie Talladega Nights is leading his family in grace and he prays only to the baby Jesus. He prays to the little 8-pound 6-ounce baby Jesus with tiny little fists. His family tries to tell him that Jesus did grow up but Ferrell’s character says he likes the Christmas Jesus the best.
We can’t fall into the same mistake here and let our image and understanding of Jesus remain in the manger. Paul shows us just how reaching the identity of Christ truly is. He starts off with the most powerful declaration about Jesus. “The Son is the image of the invisible God.” We go through life and we wonder what God looks like. A big white beard is a better description of Santa than it is God. But it’s not just what God looks like. We also wonder and ask what God is like. We want to know if God is nice, if God is kind, if God is stern or strict. Bottom line: we wonder about God. Well, Paul answers that question for us. You are wondering what God is like? What God would do? Paul says look at Jesus. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He shows the heart of the Almighty in the everyday.
We don’t have to wonder what Jesus would do in the face of injustice and pain. We are shown Christ’s love for the lost and neglected and we recall the tears he cried when his friend Lazarus died. We don’t have to wonder if God would accept us and love us. Jesus gave meaning to fishermen and tax collectors. He welcomed children into His lap and He gave voice and dignity to the forgotten. In watching Jesus, we witness God. And then Paul continues in our text, and he uses three words to try and summarize the scope of Christ’s presence: Over, In, and All.
Jesus is over all creation. Heaven and earth, visible and invisible, every pronounced power whether private or political. Jesus is over all of it. There is nothing in all of creation that is not beneath the authority of our Savior. In the manger, Christ was vulnerable to the wind, the elements, and to the harshness of the straw and wood. But before the beginning of time, Christ has possessed authority over every facet and atom of creation. His arrival in the form of an infant does not denote a weakness but rather His love and indescribably relentless pursuit of us.
Paul tells us that in and through Jesus everything was created. We read Bible passages, like this one we heard this morning from Genesis, about creation, and we usually don’t think of Jesus. But we’re told that everything in this world was formed and shaped and given a purpose by the Son of God. Paul goes even further and reveals to us that it is in Christ that all things are held together. Maybe some of you have seen or heard about Laminin. Louie Giglio, a well-known pastor, and speaker - spoke about it in a moving message I attended several years ago. Laminin is the cell adhesion molecule in our bodies. It serves as the network and foundation for every cell in our body. It is the protein that holds our cells together and gives them the function they were designed to fulfill. Louie Giglio describes it as the “rebar of the human body.” If you’ve seen or heard this before, you know where I’m going with this. Do you know what laminin looks like? The scientific representation and diagram of laminin is a cross. The genetic material that holds us together and forms us is in the shape of the cross. In Jesus, all things hold together. And this isn’t just true from a molecular perspective.
The holidays might be a hectic time but we all have moments and seasons of life where we feel like things are falling apart. A fractured relationship, an unforeseen health issue, a sudden loss, a missed opportunity. It can be a single thing or a teetering pile of many things that lead us to feel the dizzying and terrifying sense that we can’t keep it together anymore. Some of you are feeling that right now. Every circumstance is unique, but friends, we are offered hope here. Our Savior, the One who knows us and loves us suffered the worst injustice and pain, and He is the One holding us together.
In the long, dark night of the soul, we can sometimes feel as though it is all up to us. That we are alone in this world. In reality, we have a Savior and Friend who is with us and for us and beside us. And He possesses all of the heart and strength to hold us, my friends. You are not alone. The One who was before all things and created all things holds you and He also calls and sends people like those you see around you. As the church and followers of Christ, each of us are given the gift and mission of being the hands, warmth, and heart of Jesus. For each other, for our community, for the world.
Jesus is over the entirety of creation. Jesus is in each of our lives in the most microscopic and meaningful ways imaginable. And Paul’s words conclude with one of the most inspiring and reaching declarations of our Savior born in Bethlehem. Throughout the month of December we see the tiny wooden manger and the infant Christ laid inside. It is the beginning of the story of our salvation. The crescendo and climax of that story features our Savior, laid instead over the wood of the cross. The Son of God, in whom all the fullness of the divine dwells, gives His life on a cross so that we, me, you so that all things might be reconciled to God so that the world might finally have a true, lasting peace.
That, my friends, is the power of the Incarnation. It is the trajectory of the nativity. It is the purpose of Christmas. That we might bear witness to the true nature and personhood of Jesus Christ. So that we might gain the ability to see this infant, this person, as not merely a child in a story but see Him as the One in whom all things are made, as the One who holds all things and all of us together, as the One who is all the fullness of God. So that we might know Jesus as the infant who not only slept in a manger but as the Savior who saved us on the cross. Jesus Christ, our Savior who is In, Over, and All.