Christ is born!
And Happy New Year!
There’s no getting around this. The identity of Jesus Christ is the crux on which human history rests. He’s either merely an itinerant Jewish rabbi that fell afoul of the Roman occupiers; a gifted religious teacher and philosopher and “ascended master”; a figment of the imagination of gullible people; a “great prophet” that had some good things to say; or He’s actually what the Historic Church says about Him – God made flesh for our sake to make us like Him and enjoy Him forever.
The debate about Jesus goes on forever precisely because His identity tells all of humanity something about our identity. If God goes to this length to reconcile us to Himself then our worth is greater than any of us ever imagined. And if that’s how much our Creator values us, then we do great harm to Hs creation by failing to enter into that very value ourselves. On this first day of 2018, we need this wisdom to get started right this year.
Look at our lesson today in Colossians 2:8-12:
BRETHREN, see to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
St. Paul is writing the parish in Colosse because some false teachers were spreading an old heresy that was common in most religious philosophies – the physical is bad and the spiritual is good. Paul even calls this religious philosophy “empty deceit” and “according to human tradition.” This dualism so common in Eastern religions especially (by the way, Christianity is an Eastern religion), was a great threat to the central message of the Christian faith, namely that God became physical in Christ to reclaim the physical as “good” just like the Creator declared it to be in the beginning!
Paul combats this heresy by specifically focusing the Colossians, and us, on Jesus Christ.
He declares that in Jesus “the whole fullness of the deity dwells bodily.” Jesus isn’t just some great religious teacher or some Prophet, but the very Incarnated God – God with skin on Him – God Visible – God Himself. This is no mere incarnation of some aspect of a god or some offspring of a god. All those pagan precursor ideas were just shadows meant to prepare the whole world for the amazing reality of Jesus Christ.
Paul insists that Jesus is “the head of all rule and authority.” You see, in the ancient world, whoever held power was seen as “ordained” to execute power and rule “by divine right.” But this Jesus is the Ruler and Authority above all. St. Paul insists that Jesus has the Authority of the Creator, the Cause of all being. This is no mere mortal. Paul, and the history of the Faith don’t give us that luxury of doubt. The Jesus Paul preaches and the Church declares is “Light of Light, True God of True God, begotten, not made.”
And this Jesus has transformed all the shadows of the previous centuries into realities that marry the physical and the spiritual together as they were meant to be! Jesus does for the soul what the religious observances of centuries past did for the body. The circumcision of the heart is now performed by Faith in Christ and the baptism of the body washes not only the flesh but the spirit as well, making us, by faith, what Christ is by nature! And the very Eternal Life that Christ experiences by His resurrection from the dead; the ultimate negation of our flawed human condition, is now shared with all those who follow Him!
Today, as we embark on a brand New Year, get the identity of Jesus right in your head and in your life. The Faith enshrines for us a pattern of theology, a way of life meant to forever transform our thinking and our living as we enter 2018 committed to being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Happy New Year! And what a New Year it’s going to be by God’s grace! Thank you to all our Monthly Patrons for your support, and thank you to all who participated in our End of the Year campaign making it such a success! Please pray for Faith Encouraged Ministries as we launch into 2018 with hope, humility, and faith!