We give thanks, as we should, for the Baby born in Bethlehem. But don’t forget who he is before he was born, and who he has become through his life, death, and resurrection. In Colossians 1:15–20 Paul describes something that is almost beyond our comprehension.
Understand who Christ is. He is the image of the invisible God. God is invisible. He is Spirit. Yet, Christ is his exact image. He is the one who expresses God’s own nature, Hebrews 1:3. Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Crucial to your redemption is the fact that Jesus Christ is more than just a man.
Christ is the firstborn of all creation. Firstborn implies the rights of the eldest (remember Esau and Jacob). Firstborn does not imply that he is part of creation, for the verse goes on to talk of him as Creator. As Creator all belongs to him and is subordinate to him. The term echoes Old Testament language. He is the messianic King. He is also the Wisdom of God Angelic beings and authorities all are secondary to him—he alone is to be worshiped. The angelic messengers and the host praising God in the presence of the shepherds all point to the uniqueness of the One they heralded. “[T]he NT writers know that, whether they speak of this Wisdom expressly or only by allusion, they are speaking of a living person, one whom some of them had met face to face. To them all, as to Paul, Jesus Christ was the incarnate Wisdom of God.” (F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Epistle to the Colossians, NICNT, p. 195)
The fullness of God dwells in Jesus Christ. God is pleased that all of his fullness dwells in Jesus Christ, the God-man, the incarnate Christ. In him all things hold together. The entire creation focuses in and has its unity in Jesus Christ. He is the goal of creation. As you appreciate the majesty of Christ, you begin to understand more clearly the humiliation involved in the incarnation. This helpless baby in Bethlehem is the One who holds together the universe, which he created! Queen Lucy, in The Last Battle, comments, “In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” “The thought of the incarnation is stupendous, for it means the conjunction in one person of all that belongs to Godhead and all that belongs to manhood.” (Collected Writings of John Murray, Vol. 2, p. 133) “We may see in Christ what God is: all God’s glory is reflected in Him; and when we see Him we see the Father also.” (B. B. Warfield, The Lord of Glory, p. 254)
Christ is the head of his body, the church. Parallel to verse 17a, he is before all things. He who is the Creator sustains a special relationship to you, the church. He is the head. His is the beginning. Appreciate the close connection between Christ’s lordship over the entire universe and his headship over the church. As the church faces more overt opposition, take comfort that your head is the exalted Christ. Because Christ is the glorious head of his body, the church, to be united to him involves being united to his church. The response of the church has to be praise. “How utterly the mystery of the union of the divine and human nature in Christ exceeds all our speaking and thinking of it. All comparison breaks down, for it is without equal. But it is, accordingly, the mystery of godliness, which angels desire to look into and the church worshipfully adores.” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, p. 308)
Live in fellowship with your head. Be reconciled by Christ’s blood. In him, as the incarnate Redeemer, God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell, Colossians 2:9. The One who is the Creator of all things in heaven and on earth (v.16) has reconciled all things on earth and in heaven. Paul is not arguing that every individual will be reconciled and saved, but that Christ has accomplished in principle what will be evident in the new heavens and earth—the reconciliation of all things to God. Your sinful behavior has alienated you from God. He has accomplished this reconciliation through his blood, shed on the cross. But don’t stop with the cross. Again Christ is called the firstborn. There is an element of identification and solidarity here that is not found in v. 15. Note the preposition from. Christ is firstborn because he, like his people, was once counted among the dead. But this is past. It is history for him. He is now the firstborn from among the dead, parallel to the firstfruits of the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:20.
Live at peace with God. The only way to peace with God is by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. The “fear not” of the birth narratives hold true because of what he did in his life, death, and resurrection. Grasp how complete his work is–and you are no longer burdened by guilt and shame. He who made all things has now made peace by his death and resurrection. As you experience his reconciling work, propitiating God’s holy anger against you as a sinner and satisfying divine justice, be reconciled to one another. Resolve anger and tensions within your home and between you and others in the body of Christ. Pray and work for his reconciling work to touch people in your immediate circle and around the world, reducing conflict and establishing justice.
Jesus Christ. The Christ in whom you are saints and faithful brothers, v.2. The Christ in whom you trust, v.4. The Christ in whom you have redemption, v.14. Paul can’t talk about this Christ without praising him as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. He calls you to join in that hymn of praise, not just in late December, but every day of your life.