Reader: “Christ is the visible image . . .”
Response: “. . . of the invisible God.”
Scripture: Colossians 1:15-20
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body.
He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.
So he is first in everything.
For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
Reader: “The powerful word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
As a Christian who is a musician and one who has composed thousands of notes and set countless texts for worship, I’m always keenly aware of the theology of the songs and hymns we sing. Hence, I have an unsettled concern for the large numbers of “love songs to Jesus” and the overwhelming use of the first person pronouns in the contemporary songs of much of the present worship culture. Christianity is a singing faith and we sing what we believe which is what brings the unease. One would be hard pressed to build a biblical theology based on the sung texts of some of the more popular worship songs. For example, in many cases you would never discover the Trinity. And right about now, you are thinking, what does this “soapbox” have to do with Christmastide? Thank you for asking! The passage you read from Colossians is most likely a hymn text from the early church, already in use by the time of Paul’s writing of this letter. The nature of the Greek sets it apart from the rest of the body of this letter. This is a hymn text that truly sings what we believe. In fact it is so sound, it has wound up in the Bible! I dare say few of our current day texts would ever wind up as Scripture! Take the first nine words: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.” The Greek word for image is “icon.” It means that he is exactly like the Father in every way. If you want to know what God is like, immerse yourself in Christ. Study every facet of the Savior you can find. Study what he says, why he says it, how he says it, when he says it. Ask yourself the same questions with what he does. Put yourself in the story when he’s talking with his disciples or speaking to the leaders or healing a blind man or raising the dead. The rest of this pericope answers every question you can think of: where you came from, why you are here, where did everything else come from, what’s the point of it all, how he solved the human problem, what’s the relationship between heaven and earth, in a nutshell, how everything fits together. That visible image which arrived a few years back in Bethlehem, will become visible again when he returns to bring a new heaven and a new earth . . . and visibility will be beyond anything we can imagine! Colossians 1:15-20 is a text worth singing and believing! You can see some of the other texts of our songs in the book of Revelation.
Music: “Jesus, What a Wonderful Child” Christ Church Nashville
Bonus: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” Medieval
Lord Jesus Christ, you are not simply the best human being, but God Incarnate in human flesh. You came from the highest and holiest and entered into this world through the lowliest door. In the same way, you entered my heart, another lowly door, another Bethlehem. And with that entrance into my life, a new life in me was born. Lord Jesus, how very grateful I am for your humbling of yourself out of love to come to us, to come to me. It is your great grace and mercy that gives light and life to all who will respond to the gospel. May you receive glory as you live your life in all those who have put their trust in you. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp