“Good News For All The People”—Daily Reflections for Advent 2016
THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, December 12th
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… And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.
Colossians 2:9-10, 13-14
If you start walking northeast from Bethlehem’s Shepherds’ Field, it’s but five short miles to Mount Calvary. For Jesus it was a short lifetime from the angel telling shepherds the good news to His being nailed to a cross. It was but a few short years from the tears of joy at His birth to the tears of abandonment at His death. Today’s Scripture makes that link between Bethlehem and Calvary, between the Son of God taking our humanity and the Son of God taking our judgment.
The apostle Paul says that in Bethlehem’s little Baby “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”. Paul plainly asserts the deity and the humanity of the Christ Child. As we proclaim in the Nicene Creed, Jesus is: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God…who for us and for our salvation, came down from heaven.” He was, and is, the absolute and perfect God, the very essence of deity in whom the fullness of God dwells. And Jesus imparts to us His fullness: “you have come to fullness in him…”. The Living Bible paraphrases this astonishing news: “So you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ.” Christ is all, and all that we need! It is in Christ’s fullness that we participate in the fullness of God’s salvation and the complete forgiveness of our sins!
Paul explains that Christ’s fullness means God making us “alive together with him [Christ], when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us…”. Paul loves to communicate in word pictures, and here he paints a marvelous one. The one Greek word translated, “the record that stood against us…” is cheirographon (cheir = “hand” = grapho “write”), a document written in one’s own hand as legal proof of indebtedness. In papyrus documents a cheirographon was like an IOU. (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words)
With this Paul paints a picture of God forgiving our sin and spiritual indebtedness, i.e. “the record that was against us.” God did this when He “set this aside, nailing it to the cross.” “It is finished!”, Jesus cried out. “Paid in full!” “Cancelled!” “Erased!”
When Paul says that God “set this aside”, he is using the same Greek word that John the Baptist had used when He pointed to Jesus: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away [who sets aside] the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He takes it all away with Him!
Martin Luther once told how the devil came to him when he was praying, accusing him of all kinds of sin. The devil reminded Luther of all his fallings and failures, things he had done and not done, things he had said, and not said. As the story goes, Luther turned to the devil and said: “Is that the best you can do? Is that all that you know about me? Here, let me help you!” Luther proceeded to tell the devil: “There are many, many more of my sins, but Christ has taken them all away!” And Luther rejoiced in the good news of the cross of Christ.
- Imagine “the record that was against us”, as the record of all of your sin. What are your thoughts about that record being nailed to the cross of Christ and cancelled? What do you want to say to Christ about that?
- What do you think of Luther’s encounter with the accusations of the devil about his sin? In what ways might Luther’s example help you to deal with feelings of guilt and self reproach?