I – Colossians 1:15-28II – Christmas: Nativity / Birth / incarnation
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
21And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— 23provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel. 24I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 25I became its servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. 27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Incarnation: enfleshment; embodiment. Carne is latin for meat. Carne Asada; Chile con Carne; Carniceria.
By definition Christianity is incarnational. On Christmas we celebrate Jesus's birth among us in a body made out of the stuff of the earth; a body that is finite, decayable, and will die.
A couple thousand years ago it was commonplace that you'd be talking or walking with a person who was half human and half divine. In Jesus Christ we meet someone fully human and fully divine.
III – Colossians
For today and the next two weeks the RCL includes readings from the Letter to the Church at Colossae. Today we're using the default lectionary readings; as we celebrate enfleshment / incarnation / embodiment, how apt that the Colossian community tended toward the heresy of gnosticism that somewhat denied the essential reality of the body and focussed instead on the supremacy of spirit.
Probably written two or three decades after Jesus' death and resurrection, in Colossians we find theology (the word about the divine), Christology (words about the Christ), and cosmology (word regarding the scope and reach of all creation) that anticipates the worldview of John's gospel a half century later. We sometimes talk about the Cosmic Christ!
The apostle Paul is about outward from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth; Colossians' author moves beyond planet earth and into immeasurable time and space. Colossians also contains many words not found in any of Paul's epistles as well as syntax and sentence structure different from Paul's.
IV – God Among Us: historical witness – OT/Hebrew Bible; NT
Colossians tells us about the image, icon, of God. What does God's image look like? Icon, logo examples: google; ELCA; other products. Not the entity itself but a pointer to it.
God's first act of covenant, creation itself shows God's passion to live among us. James Weldon Johnson's poem, The Creation opens with:
And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I'll make me a world.
We find God's voice and physical presence in the prophets.
3 Samuel 7: 4-6
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David, "This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.
Later on the passage God via Nathan promises David a house, a dynasty, a lineage, that wouldn't be a building but would be enfleshed, incarnate, in Jesus of Nazareth, "Son of David."
After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the inspired late exilic (or post-exilic community brought us Genesis 1, with all creation as God's home, God's temple.
God among us in Jesus' birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension.
God in our midst in Word and Sacrament.
V – Last week: Neighborology
Colossians tells us about the image, icon, of God. What does God's image look like?
Us as God's incarnate, enfleshed, presence in the world here and now, particularly in our very local communities.