Who is that baby in the manger?
Is He a great religious teacher and leader? Or is He the Lord of all? In that day, there was a lot of conflict about who this itinerant preacher was and who this baby was. And today, there is still a lot of conflict.
And so the apostle Paul would write to a group that was a young church in Colossi and he wants to explain very, very clearly, Who exactly was the baby in the manger that grew up to be the rabbi named Jesus – who we sit now, two thousand plus years later, and realize the entire history of the world was transformed when that little baby grew up?
So here is what we are going to do. We are going to take our second look at Christmas, but we are going to look at Christmas from heaven’s perspective. We said we want three questions that demand an answer. The first one is: Why did He come? The second question is: Who is He?
Colossians chapter 1, beginning at verse 15. And follow along. He says of this baby, prior to even coming to the earth, he writes, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Speaking of Jesus, “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.”
As far as time goes, “He was before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have supremacy. For God was pleased to have all the fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”
Now, we talked last week about the apostle Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, directed by God, to speak truth – he seems to have a unique ability to have a lot of commas and a lot of run-on sentences, which at times makes it a little difficult to figure out, What in the world are you really saying?
And I’d like to suggest that there are maybe four questions that we ask of anyone to discover who they really are. I had a meeting in Atlanta so I had to fly there just quickly and then come back, just there a couple nights.
And on the way out, went out of SFO, and sat next to a guy named Frank. And I realized that he was very open, very friendly, we just hit it off. And I realized I asked him four basic questions. I didn’t know him so I asked him, “So, where are you from?”
And pretty soon, Frank, because he had a little bit of an accent and he said, “Well, I’m from Switzerland. I actually grew up there, went to the University of Zurich,” and then he talked about he works for a company here but it’s German based.
And then I just said, “So, what do you do?” He goes, “Well, I’m a chemist.” I said “Really?” I said, “Well, where did you do your training?” And he talked about where he got his PhD. And then I said, “Well, in your company, what kind of role do you have? What exactly do you do?” He goes, “Well, I’m in the research department and I have to fly and I make these presentations.”
And we were both doing a little bit of work and he had, remember in chemistry all those funny little things with all the little charts that look like octagons with all the little letters? He had those all over his sheet of paper.
And I was looking and I go, “Wow, that’s like a whole other language, isn’t it?” He goes, “Yeah, it really is.”
And then finally, we really got talking and I did work and he did work and then pretty soon I said, “So, are you going to stick around America?” Because he had lived in France and other places and he talked a little about his life and his company and talked a little bit about his girlfriend, and they had been together about fifteen years.
And I said, “So what are your future plans?” And he said, “You know, I’m not really sure, but we have been together fifteen years. I’m thinking maybe we should get married.” I said, “That sounds like a good plan.”
And here’s my only point. When you want to find out someone’s identity, we unconsciously just ask some very basic questions. And I think it’s interesting, when you study very carefully Colossians chapter 1, verses 15 through 20, the apostle Paul answers those four questions and tells us exactly who Jesus is.
So the first question, “Jesus, so, where are you from?” This Colossians church, all these people, these false teachers came in and they are saying this and they are saying that. So where is Jesus from?
And the apostle Paul says, “Let me tell you where He’s from. He is the image of the invisible God. He is the firstborn over creation.” The word image here, we get our word icon. That’s the exact word in Greek.
Hebrews chapter 1, verse 3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.”
It’s making the invisible, visible. If you would take a piece of clay, soft clay or even Play-Doh, and then if you take a coin or something that had a lot of impressions on it, and if you pushed it very hard into the Play-Doh or the clay and then you carefully lift it off, what you have in the Play-Doh or the clay is the exact image of the reality of the substance.
And he is saying, “That’s what Jesus is.” He is not just a representative or a reflection, He is the exact representation of God Himself.
Second, then, he says, He is the firstborn. Notice it’s over all creation. And don’t let the word firstborn, there are a couple of different Greek words and it gets a little bit technical, I won’t go into it. But the firstborn here has the idea, not with time, but with rank and honor.
It’s like when David talked about his son Solomon, he called Solomon his firstborn. Well, Solomon wasn’t his firstborn son. Solomon was the highest in rank and order of all of his sons because he was going to be the king.
And so He is called the firstborn. He is the highest, He is the first, He is the preeminent. And so we learn the truth is that Jesus is the physical revelation of the invisible God.
So, “Where did You come from?” From all time and eternity, Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word,” John says, “and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things came into being through Him and nothing came into being that wasn’t created by Him.” And then, if you skip down to verse 14 of John chapter 1, he says, “And the Word was made flesh and,” literally it’s, “He tabernacled,” or, “dwelt among us. And we beheld Him as the only begotten from the Father, full of truth and grace.”
And then it says, “Jesus,” or, “the Word explained Him, the Father, full of truth and grace.” And I just love this picture. You want to know where He came from, who He is? Jesus made the invisible God, visible.
In fact, Jesus, by His own lips would say, “If you have seen Me, you have seen, the Father.” That’s what He said to His disciples. Co-equal, co-existent, co-glory and worshipped. And so the response is this: We can know God personally.
It was interesting, I sat on the plane there and we just got talking and he asked about my life, because he asked, “Where are you from and, so, what do you do?” And we got talking for a while.
And then, I don’t know why, I just said, talking about my past and I said, “I just, the whole God thing was a big turn-off. I had a really bad church experience and you’re supposed to follow all these rules and I didn’t like most of the rules and the people didn’t live the life and it was just like, forget it.”
And then I told him about, I went to this camp and I really loved basketball and I only went to the camp because of basketball and I had never read the Bible and this older, very uncool guy got up and he would read a paragraph and explain it.
And then for the first time in my life, it made sense. And no one preached at me. But then I got around these guys and they lived it out and I could tell they loved one another. And I said, “I believed intellectually in God. I had no idea. I grew up in America,” I’m telling Frank, “I had no idea you could actually know Him.”
And I remember turning to him and we were talking, so I said, “It’s like a big rock star. You can know about him or listen to his music, or the president of the United States. You can know about him, but that’s different than shaking someone’s hand, looking him in the eye and having a relationship with him.”
And I said, “What happened to me was I learned that I could know about God but I could actually know Him personally.” And that started a pretty interesting conversation with Frank.
And before I got off the plane, I just had this little, little nudge from God, because this guy was just, it was like God had prepared him and we were supposed to sit next to each other. And then he was asking me, “So, well, how do you know Him personally and how does it work?”
And we put everything up and we are descending and, like you, I have those little flutters inside like, I don’t want to be pushy, I don’t want to be preachy. And the Spirit is going, Look, what would the guy have to do? Help me? I said, Okay.
And then I just drew a little picture. And a picture of one side with God on it and then one side with man on it. And this chasm called “sin.” And I drew a little bridge with the cross and I just explained the gospel.
And he turned to me and he goes, “Now that is a very interesting way to understand how to have a relationship with God. I’ve never seen that before!” And you know what? Do you realize how many people, do you realize how many people have no idea? That the whole point of the baby in the manger was God wanted you to know that He came and took on human flesh and would grow up and here was the point: That you could know Him personally. That your relatives could know Him personally. That God would talk to you and speak to you and direct you and care about you and love you.
Those Colossian Christians were being taught a lot of wild things like, “That could never happen.” There are all these steps you have to go through and worship of angels and there are all kinds of days you have to follow and food you can eat and things you can’t do. And the apostle Paul says, “No, no, no. This Jesus, that baby in the manger, He is the exact image and representation of the invisible God. He is the firstborn and highest in rank before there was anything or anyone. And He wants you to know that He loves you.”
God loves you so much He sent the Second Person of the Trinity to live this life so that if you want to know how God thinks, how He acts, how He feels about poor people, look at Jesus. How He responds to people that are really repentant when they blow it, how did He respond to the woman at the well? How does He respond to arrogant, religious people who think they’ve got it together? Look at Jesus with the Pharisees.
You want to know what God is like, just look at how Jesus speaks and talks and responds – just read the gospels.
The second question when you want to get to know someone isn’t simply, “Where are you from,” but, “What do you do?” And Jesus had a very interesting job description. It says, “By Him all things were created.”
In your notes, just circle the word all. And just let that sink in. Not some. Not partial. “By Jesus.” What do You do? If we were doing an interview. “Excuse me, sir, I’m a reporter. Could You tell me what you do?” “I create everything.” “Well, could You expand on everything for us, sir?” “Well, how about this? Like, things that are in heaven or things that are on earth. Things that you can see or things you can’t see.”
“Well, what do You mean by that?” “Well, you can’t see bacteria, you can’t see DNA. I created that. You can’t see galaxies that are billions and billions and billions of light years away. Well, I’ve got news for you. I created that too. I created everything. In fact, if you go into the invisible world of the angelic world, of the demonic world, thrones, dominions, powers, or authorities,” they were being taught about all these angels and He goes, “I am over all of that. You don’t get to Me through anything or anyone. I am all powerful, I created all of that. In fact, I existed before all things. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
All things were created by Him and through Him and you might just jot down Romans 11, verse 36, because he will go on to say, “All things were created by Him, all things were created through Him,” and then he will say, “they were created for Him.”
See, you know what God’s agenda is for us, as a church and literally for every Christian all around the world? When we think about the baby in the manger, when we go to a little program and the kids have the bathrobes on, when we see a live nativity scene, when we read the paper and hear about this government or that government and all the stuff that keeps coming back to the manger and the little baby and, “Who is He?” God wants, this year, for something to click and move you out of the cute story or, “Isn’t it nice,” or, “I love that music,” or, “Let’s here, together, ‘Away in a manger no…’” It’s a great song, but He wants you to know that He made all that there is, that the eternal God of the universe was before all things, and the Jesus that we worship didn’t exist, first, by coming into a baby, but He eternally existed as co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
And He chose to leave the glory of heaven and all the angels, being in very nature of God, and He would take on human flesh so He could be fully God and fully man and live a perfect life to reveal what the Father is like and express His love for us.
And so, notice, He is before all things. And not only that, He holds all things together. I think I heard recently that, I’m not exactly sure, but the earth is going around the sun at sixty-five, sixty-six thousand miles an hour. It’s spinning like crazy. We’ve got all these molecules, we’ve got all these bodies, we’ve got all this gravitational pull. Some invisible “glue” is holding everything together, by the Word of His power. And the Scripture says it is Jesus.
The truth is Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer of everything. Boy, talk about someone worthy of worship! Jesus is the Creator and the Sustainer of everything. Our response? We can trust Him completely, fully, about everything.
Now, let’s just do the math on this. If Jesus, at this moment, has created all that there is, He is that powerful, that all-knowing, that all-wise, and each moment of every day, simply by His Word and the nature of being God, He holds all things together. Do you think He is powerful enough to hold your life together?
Can He hold your life together when the report on the biopsy is cancer? Could that Jesus hold your life together when you’ve got the deepest struggle in your marriage you’ve ever had? Maybe infidelity comes in and someone makes a big mistake?
Could He hold it together when you have a rebellious child? Could He hold it together when you lose your job or lose your house? Could He hold it together when the whole of your future is uncertain? Am I going to get in the school? Am I ever going to get married? And what about this and what about this? Will we ever be able to have children? Do you think He has the power to hold it together? Or do you just worship a nice, little ideal? “Away in a manger.” That’s not the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible is the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe.
And what He asked of everyone when He walked upon the earth, and what His Word asks of everyone after He is gone, is He has one agenda for your life and it’s in the form of a question: “Will you trust Me?” Period.