It’s at this time of year that we celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus, or to put it another way: the coming of God to earth as a human. The Nativity scenes that lie in churches across the world, and find themselves on the front cover of many Christmas cards, rightly depict Jesus as the helpless baby in a manager. Paul, however, paints Jesus in a completely different light and challenges us to remove all small thoughts about Jesus.
This is what the Apostle Paul wrote about Jesus in Colossians 1:15 – “He is the image of the invisible God”. Or, in the words of the carol: “veiled in flesh the Godhead see.”
The Most Real Thing
“Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see”. So said the train conductor in one of the most famous Christmas animations of all time: “The Polar Express.”1
If we ever read only the Nativity story, it’s easy to imagine Jesus as more human than God. And yet, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the same human Jesus who is in the manger is also “the image of the invisible God”. Although “veiled in flesh”, Jesus really is “the most real thing in the world”. Jesus said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The writer of Hebrews wrote that Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).
No small thoughts allowed: The most real thing in the universe, the invisible God, put on flesh for all to see. That is who Jesus is.
Higher than High and Lord over All
Paul writes: He is “the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15).
Firstborn means “priority” and “sovereignty”. So Paul says that Jesus is first in order. In the Old Testament the idea was used for the eldest son in a family, the one who carried the family name. There was no one like them who was able to carry out the wishes of their father. This is why the psalmist wrote: “And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:27). We shouldn’t understand “firstborn” to mean that He is the first one created; It simply means that He is not outranked by anyone.
The second thing the word “firstborn” means is the idea of sovereignty. Paul says that He is sovereign over creation. He is not part of creation but sits outside of it and rules over it. J.I. Packer wrote: “The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man [that the second person of the Godhead became the “second man”] … determining human destiny … and that He took humanity without loss of deity.”2
No small thoughts allowed: He is the One who is the highest of high and Lord over all. That is who Jesus is.
Never Out of Reach
Paul then writes: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).
Are you starting to get a picture of who Jesus is? May I tell you something that will blow your mind? Paul is saying that Baby Jesus was not only the instrument by which creation was made but that everything that was made, was made from within Himself. For example, we take pigments of colour and blend them and organise them and call it a painting. We haven’t created anything. We take audio frequencies and organise them into patterns and call it music but we haven’t created anything. Even the most glorious Beethoven symphonies are just organised audio frequencies.
But all that exists, everything visible and invisible, Jesus made out of nothing.
Let me tell you why this is important: Paul wrote to the church in Rome and reminded them that since Jesus is the firstborn of all creation and the sovereign creator of all things that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Why? Because Jesus is sovereign over all those things. These things are all within the reach of Jesus … and so are you.
No small thoughts allowed: The moments and situations that seem out of control have Jesus sitting sovereignly over them. He is not out of reach and none of the things that seem to us out of control are ever out of His reach, or out of His control. Everything is held together by Him. That is who Jesus is.
To Reconcile Us To Him
Paul writes: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:19-22).
Frank Cross (Bill Murray), in the hit film, Scrooged, said this: “It’s Christmas Eve. It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year we are the people that we always hoped we would be.”be.”3
Maybe C.S. Lewis sits better with you. In his book, Miracles, Lewis puts it like this: “In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity … But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him…”4
All that God desires in saving people from their sins and the brokenness of this life was made possible through Jesus. The little baby that was born in a manger 2000 years ago was God Himself coming to break the power of Satan and forgive people of their sins.
“Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”
“A great shadow has departed,” said Gandalf.”5
Perhaps this Christmas we’ll join in with Sam’s bewilderment and great joy as we look to Jesus: the image of the invisible God who is higher than high, Lord of all. Who has all within His reach. Never out of control. Come to reconcile us to Himself. “Born that man no more may die” says the carol. “Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth”.
No small thoughts allowed: Paul calls to us this Christmas to throw ourselves into the “life and light [that] He brings” and to join in with everything that is visible and invisible to exalt and glorify Jesus … with no small thoughts allowed.
1 Robert Zemeckis and William Broyles Jr, The Polar Express, directed by Robert Zemeckis (2004, Burbank, CA: Warner Bros. Pictures), DVD.
2 J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 45-46.
3 Mitch Glazer and Michael O’Donoghue, Scrooged, directed by Richard Donner (1988, Los Angeles, CA: Paramount Pictures), DVD.
4 C.S. Lewis, Miracles (New York, NY: Touchstone, 1996), 148.
5 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King: Being the Third Part of the Lord of the Rings (Boston, MA: Clarion Books, 2020), ch. 4.