Colossians 2:6-7, 9-10 (New Revised Standard Version)
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. … For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority.
It’s so tempting, when times are difficult, to hunker down. To pull away from the world. To isolate and self-protect.
When we disconnect from the world, at some level we do it so that the world cannot affect us, cannot harm us. So that we can live without interference. So that we can be independent and free.
But here’s the irony: in coming to earth on that first Christmas Day, the eminently independent Creator of the universe made the decision to become overtly inter-dependent with humanity, binding God’s life with ours. God became human. And even more remarkably, became a newborn human baby, utterly dependent upon his parents for survival.
I know you’ve heard this story before. But please, hear it again. Really, really think about it for a moment. Be in awe of what it means…
The Divine set aside limitless power and glory, and became a vulnerable human being. The Divine, walking around with us, would teach, would challenge and frighten, would comfort and heal, would give of himself so fully, sacrificing himself to demonstrate the lengths and heights and depths to which God would go to show us God’s love.
For in Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.
Many years ago during Advent, my small group got together to watch the movie The Nativity Story, a retelling of the Christmas story. I’ve been thinking about one scene from near the end of the movie, when the three Wise Men come to give their gifts to the newborn Jesus. Throughout the movie, the Wise Men have provided a bit of comic relief, as they groused and bickered with each other during their travels.
But as they dismount their camels, and approach the stable with their precious gifts in hand, they are entirely serious and filled with awe. The first wise man gives his gift, saying: “Gold, for the King of kings.”
The second kneels in front of the baby, held in his mother’s arms, and says: “Frankincense, for the Priest of all priests.”
Then the third Wise Man. He looks as if he can barely stand, so overcome with emotion is he. As he shakingly lays down his gift of myrrh in front of Jesus, he almost whispers: “Myrrh, to honor thy sacrifice.”
What a bizarre thing to say at the birth celebration of a new baby:
“To honor thy sacrifice.”
But that Wise Man knew that that baby boy, born in a humble manger, came to offer his life as a perfect sacrifice, so that we could know the depth of God’s love for us.
If we could remember all of this, every moment of every day, can you imagine how joy-filled this Christmas season would be? If we could hold in front of us Jesus’ knowledge of our needs, willingness to meet those needs by giving all of himself, and his unconditional, freely given love — how could that not change everything that we do and say this Advent?
Years ago, my mom gave me a tiny, wee prayer box, which I now wear it at the bottom of a long silver chain. In it, on a tiny rolled up piece of paper, there is a quote from one of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen:
When we live in the world
with knowledge of Jesus’ love,
we cannot do other
than bring healing, reconciliation,
new life, and hope wherever we go.
May we, this Christmas season, live up to the words written so long ago to the Colossians: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him.”
For in Christ, YOU have come to fullness in God.
This Advent, may we be the love of God, incarnate in the world.
What would it look like for you to be God’s love incarnate in the world this week?
adjective: embodied in flesh; in human form
verb: to embody or represent in human form; to make concrete an idea or abstract concept; to be the living embodiment of a quality or ideal