CHRISTMAS: So What?

It was the lat week in August I saw the first Christmas merchandise appear in our local supermarkets. Well despite all those months of preparation Christmas is now over. The decorations will be coming down, the cards sent to recycling and the last of the Turkey will be curried and eaten.

I think many people are left kind of deflated after Christmas.

The main lasting impact Christmas has for most people is a larger waist line and a smaller bank balance.

What I want us to think about as followers of Jesus is what the lasting impact of Chrostmss should be for us. When I say Christmas I don’t mean the tinsel and parties, mince pies and trees I mean the real meaning of Christmas.

For me I don’t think anyone has distilled that essential meaning of Christmas better than James Packer. Here is what he said

“It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. ‘The Word became flesh’ (John 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child.

And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.”

Packer is saying there that for us as .Christians the staggering truth about Christmas is that Jesus was both God and human in a way that neither diminished his divinity or humanity.

Now that is great theology but so what?
What difference does it make to living our lives in the world of mobile phones, economic austerity and a world and lives that some times feel like they are out of control?

I am fairly sure if you had asked the first generation of believer what difference it meant to them that .Jesus was fully human and fully God they would have replied by simply saying

JESUS IS LORD.

“Jesus is Lord” …. Is in fact just two words in greek. They may two just two words but they are also the earliest, simplest and yet most profound summary of who Christ is and what it means to be his disciple.

In other words they spell out the lasting implications of Christmas to Christ followers.

Paul, one the first generation of Christian leaders said simply this that to be a Christian “you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” Romans10:9

What I am suggesting to you is that saying “Jesus is Lord” is both the essence of Christianity and essential to being a Christian.

It’s what we say and mean in response to what we know about who Jesus is and what he has done

“Jesus is Lord,” if you like, is Christianity distilled to its purest form.

Which means of course we cannot underestimate the importance of that simple phrase, JESUS IS LORD, In fact Alan Hirsch writes that these two Greek words are the “spiritual core to which we must return if we are to renew the church in our day”

Now all of that is very interesting and even very important but what does it mean in practise to say, “Jesus is Lord.”

Well there is a passage which explains to us what it meant for the earliest generation of believers

Philippians 2:5-11

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 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,

That passage reminds us that Saying “Jesus is Lord” is about having

1. A THEOLOGICAL CONVICTION ABOUT JESUS

Saying Jesus is Lord means having a theological conviction about Jesus, about who he is and his relationship with God the father, it means being convinced as the writer of this hymn was that Jesus is 100 % God.

We know that is what they believed because they …..

TRANSFERRED A GOD TITLE TO JESUS

kyrios in Greek meant different things depending on the context, it could just mean a polite title like “sir” but for the earliest Christians it was a title given to Jesus, he was known as THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

The background to its use here is Greek translation of the Old Testament which used kyrios to translate YAWEH, the most sacred name of God.

so to say Jesus was Lord was tantamount to saying Jesus was God.

TRANSFERRED A GOD VERSE TO JESUS

Isa 45: 23 By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.

The composer of this hymn shows that the background to his use of the word Lord is the Old Testament by taking a verse that clearly was about Yahweh and applies it to Jesus. The honour that belongs to Yahweh also applies to Jesus.

TRANSFERED GOD LIKE WORSHIP

“bowing before” …. The final part of the jigsaw that shows that the theological conviction of the earliest Christians was that Jesus was god is shown in the way that the language of worship, was transferred to Jesus, Jesus was the object of worship which was only appropriate to God.

Every day I see the Jehovah’s Witnesses stand on the Royal Mile handing out their literature, if you were to talk to them they will say that the church went seriously wrong in believing Jesus is God and that the very earliest Christians didn’t believe that, well we have just seen differently haven’t we ?

The first lasting implication of Christmas for Christians is this theological conviction that Jesus is God.

2. RADICAL COMMITMENT TO JESUS

The second thing that Christians meant by saying Jesus is Lord, is that because of their theological conviction about Jesus they had a radical commitment to Jesus

The fundamental message of the Roman Empire which it proclaimed to all it’s citizens was that “Caesar is Lord.” That he was the one with ultimate authority over everyone and everything.

Proclaiming “Jesus is Lord” was for the first generation of believers a radical act of commitment to Jesus that gave Him the unique place of ultimate and unchallenged authority over their lives and equally importantly to deny Caesar that place.

To say Jesus is Lord, is to be a subversive in this world, we are saying that who ever or whatever claims ultimate authority over is to deposed by our loyalty and obedience to Jesus our Lord.

Nothing has changed, saying JESUS IS LORD, means having the same radical commitment to Jesus Lordship today.

John Stott explains the all encompassing nature of Jesus’ lordship and our commitment to it

“The two-word affirmation *Kyrios Iesous* [Jesus is Lord] sounded pretty harmless at first hearing. But it has far- reaching ramifications. Not only does it express our conviction that he is God and Saviour, but it also indicates our radical commitment to him.

The dimensions of this commitment are intellectual (bringing our minds under Christ’s yoke), moral (accepting his standards and obeying his commands), vocational (spending our lives in his liberating service), social (seeking to penetrate society with his values), political(refusing to idolize any human institution) and global (being jealous for the honour and glory of his name). “

The claim Jesus is Lord excludes all other claims of ultimate loyalty, confessing the Lordship of Jesus means being committed to rejecting and subverting the lordship of Caesar that is whatever claims the position of authority over our life that jesus should have.”

This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, to live out a life in which every area of our existence is a living demonstration that Jesus is indeed Lord.

3. A MISSIONAL VOCATION FOR JESUS

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,

Our theological conviction about Jesus and radical commitment to Jesus works it’s self out in a Missional vocation for Jesus.

Disciples of Christ live to serve GOD’S mission in a Christ like way empowered by Christ’s Spirit.

Paul draws our attention to the fact that

“God has exalted Jesus above EVERY name

So that

“EVERY KNEE, EVERY TONGUE …. UNDER HEAVEN AND EARTH”

Will confess he is Lord.”

The implications of Jesus’ Lordship is universal it is for everyone, every where at every time.

God’s deepest desire is that everyone comes to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, that they come to this radical conviction about Jesus and so make a radical commitment to Jesus we have been thinking about .

If it it is God’s desire that everyone acknowledges Jesus as Lord, it must then be the mission of God’s people to work towards that goal for

His glory. As Christ followers we are to give our lives by our words and deeds to persuade others that Jesus is indeed Lord.

Alan Hirsch in his book THE FORGOTTEN WAYS shows that it’s this commitment to Jesus as Lord which activates, inspires and and energises missionary people movements which in turn impact cultures.

We might get to take down the Christmas trees and put away the Christmas decorations but we never as Christ followers get to ignore the implications of Christmas, this radical conviction, commitment and vocation.

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