Cherishing Christ as a Family
Merry Christmas! For the last three weeks we’ve been looking at what it is to be the family of God—what it means to belong to the family of God, to live as the family of God, and to multiply as the family of God. And obviously we’ve been talking about these things to bring us to this point. Tomorrow is Christmas—the day on which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
We exist as a family to tell others about Jesus, to rejoice in Jesus, to cherish Jesus above all things. But the hard thing for us to remember sometimes is why we should do that, and how.
If you were to ask any number of Christians why we should love Jesus more than anything, the answer many Christians would give is, “Because he died for our sins.” And while that is absolutely true—as we’ll see—the good news of the gospel is that we have many more reasons than just that.
So we’re going to be in Colossians 1.15-23 today, to see just a couple of reasons why Jesus is worth celebrating in this way, and then afterward we’ll look at how we do this as a church—how we do this as families in the church, how we do this as adults in the church, how we do this as children in the church.
Part 1: Jesus.
Firstly, Jesus is God. Colossians 1.15:
15 [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
How many of you are sometimes frustrated by the fact that you can’t see God? Sometimes I wish for nothing more than to be able to open my eyes and see God physically in front of me.
The thing is that God has always showed himself to his people. First he showed himself to them in the things he did (like rescuing them from slavery in Egypt); and he showed himself to them by the things he said, by the law he gave to his people, that told them what he was like. But it’s still not quite the same, is it? I live far away from my parents and my brothers; I can send them letters and talk to them on the phone—and even now talk to them on the computer, which is pretty great. That’s still not the same as having them in the same room with me.
So at the right time, God became a man—a man named Jesus. And the apostle Paul tells us that this man Jesus was the perfect image of the invisible God. When you looked at this man, what you saw was God.
Now, we haven’t seen Jesus with our eyes—he came a long time ago, and in a different place—but plenty of people did see him, and wrote down what they saw. The people who knew him best told other people about Jesus, and they recorded these stories for us. This is why we read the Bible: when we read in the pages of Scripture descriptions of who Jesus is and what he did while he was on earth, we are seeing Jesus every bit as clearly as his disciples did.
It may not seem that way, but here’s what we know: the Holy Spirit inspired the authors of Scripture to write what they wrote, and he works in us when we read Scripture. He lives inside of us, so that when we read the Bible, when we read about Jesus, we actually see him clearly.
And when we see Jesus, we see a perfect picture of God himself. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
Jesus created everything.
16 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.
Let me ask you a question—what is your favorite thing? Think about it. What is your favorite thing? It’s hard to pick. If I had to pick, then coffee, steak, huge trees, big mountains, a good story, my wife, my son...
Here’s what Paul is telling us: all these things we love were created by Jesus. He’s not being general, merely saying that “God” created these things. Jesus created these things. So when I enjoy a good cup of hot coffee, when I eat a good, juicy steak, when I go to the mountains and admire the scenery, when I enjoy spending time with my family… Jesus made all of these things!
Everything that exists, Jesus created. And here’s the thing—he didn’t created them primarily for us.
All things were created THROUGH him and FOR him.
I don’t know why it’s comforting to know that all the things I love that are good, Jesus loves them too. Jesus loves coffee, because he created it and knows it’s good. Jesus loves the mountains, because he created them and knows they are good. Even those things that someone else made, like a good story, whether we realize it or not, these things were created for him as well, because in making these things, human beings reflect the image of God in them. Jesus put that ability in us to make new things, and when we do it well, he is pleased.
Jesus holds everything together.
17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
This is just as beautiful—the things that Jesus created, Jesus sustains. We have lots of pregnant women in the church at this time. Those women have little babies in their wombs, babies whose hearts are beating. Think about this—Jesus created that little baby; he created that little heart. And from the second the mother’s DNA joins with the father’s DNA to create the DNA of a whole new person, Jesus keeps that DNA intact. From the second that baby’s molecules start forming, Jesus keeps those molecules together and keeps them forming new ones. From the second that baby’s heart begins to beat, Jesus keeps that heart beating.
And when that baby is born and starts to grow, Jesus keeps that baby growing. And if that baby should grow and live to be a hundred years old, every beat of that hundred-year lifespan will be sustained by Jesus.
Kids, you probably will have an easier time with this idea than the adults will. Adults have been disappointed a lot in their lives. Things don’t always go the way we want them to. And so it’s easy for adults to get the feeling that even if God created the world, he’s detached from it—like he created it and then took his hands off and said, “Well, good luck!”
But it’s not true. In Jesus all things hold together. There is not a heartbeat that he does not hold up. There is not a breath that he does not ordain. The bonds that hold our molecules together are governed by him. If you feel like God is distant, if you feel like Jesus is absent, he’s not. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
This is the Savior we serve—Jesus is God, he created everything, and he holds everything together.
Part 2: Jesus in the Church
18 And he is the head of the body, the church.
We have been talking about what it means to be the family of God this month—what it means to be the church. Specifically, the first week of our series, we looked at 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul described what it looks like to be the body of Christ. We saw that if we have faith in Christ, we are all members of his body, and none of us is insignificant. As he said in v. 21, The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you.’
Kids, listen to me. (You weren’t in here with us when I said this to the adults.) It’s easy for kids to think they’re small, and that there’s a lot they can’t do. But we need you. The grown-ups in the church need you. Your parents need you. Very often, you guys see things more clearly than we do. It’s easier for you to believe that you need Jesus; for adults this is hard—we think we’re so smart! But no one is so smart that they don’t need Jesus anymore. And you guys help us remember that.
So we are the body of Christ, and we function as the body—we each have something very important to do, and all of us are necessary. But what Paul says here is important: if we are members of Jesus’s body, Jesus is the head. The head is where the brain is. The head is the thing that controls where the members go; how the arms and legs move; when we eat and when we work and when we sleep. If anyone is wondering who is really the pastor of this church, it’s not me, or Arnaud, or Paul. The real pastor of this church is Jesus. He is the head.
And we need to remember that is because of what Paul says next.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
What does that mean—“preeminent”?
“Preeminent” means simply that Jesus is the most important person who exists. He’s the most important thing that exists. If you make a list of all the things in the world that are the most important, Jesus would top that list. Which makes sense, right? Because all things were created through him and for him.
So if Jesus is the most important, and if Jesus is the head of the church, then we need to know that the most important thing we do, as members of his body, the most important thing we do as the church, is make much of Jesus. The church doesn’t exist for us to have a nice time on Sundays. It doesn’t exist so that we can have someone to talk to when we’re afraid or upset. The church exists to show to the whole world that Jesus is preeminent—that he is the most important.
That’s why we remember that he is our head; he is our Lord; he is our King. He is the most important thing to us, and so our goal is to make sure the whole world knows that.
Part 3: Jesus in Us
Now, we said before that Jesus is the most important thing—that he is “preeminent.” Why is he preeminent?
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
He is preeminent, first of all, because in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Like we saw before: when you look at Jesus, you see God. You don’t need anything else. As hard as that is for us to understand, in this ordinary human being, everything God is—all of his power and might and goodness—was contained and made visible for everyone.
Secondly, Jesus is preeminent because through him, God reconciled the world to himself, making peace by the blood of the cross. Jesus came, and he lived the perfect life we should have lived, and he died the death that we all deserved, and he was raised from the dead, in order to reconcile us to God.
Kids, you know what it means to reconcile with someone. If you’re disobedient against Mom or Dad, and they’re mad because of that disobedience, what happens? They show you grace and forgive you—and what happens when they forgive you? If your family is anything like mine, they crouch down, and they open their arms, and they wrap you up in a big hug.
Now, adults, I know you want to roll your eyes at all of this sentimental nonsense—it’s not nonsense. Because in this context, a hug like that means a lot more than “It’s okay.”
That hug means reconciliation—when Daddy takes you in his arms and hugs you, what that means is, “I was mad before, but I’m not mad anymore. I forgive you. I love you. I am for you.”
This is what God did for us in Jesus. Because we are sinful and disobedient, God has every right to be angry at us. Disobedience deserves punishment. But because Jesus was punished in our place, God isn’t angry at us anymore. God poured out all his anger against our sin on Jesus, and there’s no anger left for us. And because of that, he opens his arms, and he pulls us in, and he never lets us go.
And here’s why he did it:
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 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...
Before, we were disobedient and separated from God; but now, because of Jesus’s sacrifice, we are reconciled to God. And he did it in order to present us holy and blameless and above reproach before him. Do you know what this means? It means that when we are cruel to someone, and they love us and forgive us anyway, that love changes us. Children who are forgiven quickly and often, children who see their parents asking for forgiveness when they make mistakes, are noticeably less apt to lash out in anger; they are less likely to do those things which require forgiveness; they are less likely to hold onto anger. Because they know what it is to forgive, and they know what it is to be forgiven.
When God reconciles us to himself in Jesus, he helps us see how good he is; and that changes our desires. The sinful things we liked before, we don’t like so much anymore. The evil things we wanted to do, we don’t want to do them anymore. He sent his Son to live and die and rise for us, to reconcile us to himself; and he did it all so that he might make us more like him.
Part 4: Our Hope in Jesus
So we’ve seen that Jesus is God; he created all things; he holds everything together; he has reconciled us to God in his life, death and resurrection; and he is the head of the church. That’s who Jesus is; that’s what Jesus did.
So what do we do? He tells us here in v. 23—all these things are true for us,
23 ...if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
So here’s what we have to do: when we know all that Jesus is for us and did for us, our job is to remember that. Our call is to continue in the faith. To remember the hope of the gospel.
You see, at Christmas we don’t mainly celebrate family. We don’t mainly celebrate each other. We don’t mainly celebrate presents, or trees, or hot chocolate, or fun movies, or songs.
At Christmas, we celebrate the hope of the gospel. This baby who was born in a stable and laid in a manger, this baby Jesus is God. This baby created all things. This baby holds everything together. This baby will one day grow up and reconcile us all to God through his life, death and resurrection. This baby is now the head of the church.
We celebrate Christmas because Christmas helps us to remember the hope of the gospel.
And we need help to remember the hope of the gospel, or the Bible wouldn’t remind us to remember it so often. What Paul says here is very close to what the author of Hebrews said in the text we saw last week (Hebrews 10.23-25):
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
And he told us how to do this—how to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, how to continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel. V. 24:
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
We help each other do this by spending lots of time together and by encouraging each other to remember that hope, to remember what Jesus did.
So to close today I want to give all of us something to do for the rest of this day, and tomorrow, as we celebrate Christmas.
First of all, adults: remember that this is no mere bank holiday. There are those who will talk about the origins of Christmas—how the church reappropriated a pagan holiday and made it their own… Who cares? In many ways it’s become a pagan holiday once again—a holiday which celebrates our consumerism and avarice and greed. So let’s keep on reappropriating it. Make the most of this opportunity to remind one another of the hope that we have in Christ.
Don’t let yourselves get distracted by the trappings of Christmas, and don’t let yourselves become jaded. Make the most of this opportunity to remind each other, and to tell others, about who Jesus is and what he did. Be open; be available; encourage one another to look beyond the corporate holiday and to see Jesus.
And kids: at Christmas, maybe more than any other time, we need you. Your parents need you. And here’s what we need you to do. Remind us—remind your parents—about Jesus this Christmas. Find a grownup around you and bug them to tell you about Jesus. Ask us lots of questions. Ask us to tell you the story. Because you’re really good at that, and it’s really good for us. Grownups forget important things really easily—we remember things that don’t matter much, like schedules and bills and what we need to get done… But we forget what’s really important very easily. So one of the best ways you can help us is to ask us to tell you the story again. If something about the story of Jesus is confusing to you, or doesn’t make sense, bug a grownup about it! Get them to explain it to you!
Or, if you’re with a grownup who doesn’t know Jesus, then tell them what you know—even if you don’t understand it all.
You’ll probably get presents tomorrow, and it’ll be fun. But let’s not forget that we give presents to help us remember THE present—the best gift God ever gave us: Jesus Christ. That little baby was God; he created all things; and in him all things hold together; he is the head of the church; and he is always the most important thing. So adults and children, our job today and tomorrow—and really, all the time—is to help each other remember that.