TODAY’S READINGS, Psalm 96, Zephaniah 3:8-13 & Romans 10: 5-13
As we head rapidly towards Christmas, as the waiting is almost over, from all the many words that compromise today’s readings I want to focus in on just three.
JESUS IS LORD”
To misquote Churchill, never in the field of human reality has so much been said to so many by so few, words. Those three short words are the earliest, simplest and yet at the same time most significant summary of what Christians believed about the one’s whose birth we are celebrating on Sunday. Paul in the passage from Romans we read makes this phrase the defining expression of genuine faith. “Jesus if Lord” is Christianity distilled to its essence. Simply believing Jesus was born in the circumstances described in the Gospels is not enough to make us His disciples. These three words remind us that Christmas is a good starting point for anyone seeking the truth about Jesus but its not the destination of that journey. A spiritual search becomes a transformative relationship with Jesus when we come to the point that we can say and mean “Jesus is Lord.”
But what exactly do we mean by saying “Jesus is Lord?” At least two things are involved when Christians say Jesus is Lord.
A RADICAL THEOLOGICAL CONVICTION
We don’t have time to survey all the New Testament evidence but one passage take us to heart of the radical conviction that Jesus’ followers came to about His identity.
Philippians 2:6-11: New International Version (NIV)
6 Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
We tend to forget this passage was written by a Jewish Pharisee, one steeped in militant monotheism. Yet Paul adapts a passage that had been about God himself in the OT to describe Jesus (Isa 45:23), He uses a God title for Jesus, the word LORD here is the same word used for Yahweh in the Greek translation of the OT and finally and perhaps decisively he claims for Jesus God worship, worship which is appropriate for none but God himself. To me Paul’s theological conviction about Jesus is clear, for him and the early Christians had reached the conclusion that in Jesus we encounter God himself. Now that really is a radical theological conviction for Jewish monotheists to come to and today its still that radical theological conviction that Jesus is God that marks us as Christians from all other religions. The uniqueness of Christianity flows from the uniqueness of our belief about Christ, He is LORD! He is God.
This weekend the best of the Carols we will sing remind us of this radical theological conviction that created Christianity and makes us Christians. It was certainly a human baby that was born in Bethlehem but it was no ordinary child for He was also undiluted Deity. Jesus is, to use Charles Wesley’s tremendous words, “Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensible made man”
So let’s sing these words like we believe them, for if we don’t as Christians, we have nothing to sing about.
Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
A RADICAL PERSONAL COMMITMENT
The meaning and significance of saying “Jesus is Lord” in the sense that Paul uses it Romans I think goes beyond the radical theological conviction we have just described. The word “LORD” gk Kyrios was used in a secular sense to denote someone with power over others. It was used by slaves to describe their masters, it was used by Romans to describe their absolute ruler, Caesar. Yet Paul applies it to Christ and makes sure we understand the implications of the title by repeatedly calling himself a “slave of christ.” When Paul said “Jesus is Lord” he meant that Christ had personal ownership and complete authority over his whole life. It shouldn’t mean anything less to anyone claiming to be a Christian. To utter those words “Jesus is Lord” is to make the most radical personal commitment we can make as humans. Those three short words imply that we have radically reorientated our lives around Jesus without reservation.
Using a few more words than Paul did in 1880 the later to become Prime Minister of Holland Abraham Kuyper put it like this, There is not one inch in the entire area of human life about which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry “MINE!” That’s the claim that the Child of Bethlehem makes over our life, He claims sovereignty over every inch. To be a Christian is not simply to believe in Jesus’ divinity it means responding by accepting His complete authority. The Baby truly was born to be our King, not just our advisor, not just our counsellor, not even just our Saviour but our Lord. Many will sing these words this weekend and not mean them, but for us a Christ followers lets make sure we are not among them. Let’s make sure that these words express for us anew the radical personal commitment we have made to the Babe of Bethlehem whom we acknowledge as Lord of All, all of the world and all of our lives.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
So as we sing these great Carols which for many are little more than a meaningless but heart warming tradition lets make sure that we sing them with the radical theological conviction we have come to about Jesus identity and the radical personal commitment we have made to His authority. Lets have a SIGNIFICANT CHRISTMAS!