Settle yourself into prayer and get ready to reflect on the Word of
And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became
obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that
is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The sweet fragrance of apple and cinnamon comes from the kitchen. Houses are outlined with bright lights and glistening icicles. Christmas music plays 24/7 on local radio, and the excitement of children is skyrocketing. It’s almost Christmas, a good time for thinking about what Christmas means.
C.S. Lewis wrote an essay, “What Christmas Means to Me”, in which he said there are three things that go by the name Christmas. First, he said, there is the religious celebration that is so important and obligatory for Christians. Second, Christmas is the popular holiday for merry-making and hospitality. Third, Christmas is what Lewis called “the commercial racket” set off by all the giving and receiving of gifts. (God in the Dock)
I ponder Lewis’ three meanings of Christmas and admit that, even as a minister, I can struggle with keeping the religious celebration of Christmas at the center. I think of a letter C. S. Lewis wrote to a friend saying: “My brother heard a woman on a bus say, as the bus passed a church with a crib outside it, ‘Oh Lord! They bring religion into everything. Look – they’re dragging it even into Christmas now.’” (C. S. Lewis, The Collected Letters) But we know what Christmas is about; it is celebrating Christ as Lord!
It is no small thing for a Jewish apostle Paul to confess Jesus as the Messiah and Lord. Paul had been a prominent rabbi persecuting early Christians who confessed Jesus as Lord. He grew up in the synagogue where the word “Lord” (Greek: Kurios) was a translation of the holy Hebrew name for God, Yahweh. But when Paul encountered the resurrected and glorified Jesus, he proclaimed Him as Lord, Kurios, over all!
In today’s scripture Paul writes as one steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures. As he tells of the day when every knee will bow and everyone will confess Jesus as Lord, Paul is applying an Old Testament passage to Jesus: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other… To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (Isaiah 45:22, 23b). Thus, Paul and all of the New Testament writers proclaim Jesus as Yahweh, Lord. He is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God before whom all heaven and earth will bow.
We learn in the New Testament that Jesus was Lord at the beginning of time, creating all things (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-17). We see also that it was the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus who lead the Israelites in their Exodus journey (1 Corinthians 10:13); and it was Jesus whom Isaiah saw as the Lord in the temple high and lifted up (John 12:41).
In that great culture war within the Roman Empire, the early Christians refused to back down. Even at the threat of death, followers of Jesus would only confess Jesus as Lord. They spread out across the wide empire heralding the Good News about Jesus: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
The promise of the Gospel holds true today for any who would confess Jesus as Lord. Amidst all the great fun in store for us this Christmas, it’s important to stay focused on what Christmas means. The little Babe, our humble God, is Lord over all!
- Where do you see Jesus as “Lord” in the Old Testament?
- What might have been the consequences for early Christians to confess Jesus as Lord, rather than Kaiser Kurios, “Caesar is Lord”?
- In practical terms, what would it mean in today’s culture to confess Jesus as Lord over all?
“For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.”
From “The Nicene Creed”