Summary: We need to see the real person of Christ , not a stained-glass window version, for he was the Eternal Son becoming the Emptied Servant and is now the Exalted Lord.
THE ADVENT HYMN TO CHRIST
The Advent season has come around again. What does it all mean? To the world in general and to us? For those in the marketplace of commerce, it’s a time of expectation of the cash till ringing, with everyone who can buying presents. For the man and woman in the street it’s a time for showing goodwill and generosity, generally to those they love and to indulge oneself in some luxury for a few days - and perhaps sparing a thought to the origin of the festival. Sadly, even this is rapidly fading as in these days of political correctness, for fear of giving offence to other faiths, the mention of Christ is actively discouraged. Many people have a hazy recollection of a cosy scene of a baby in a manger being admired by a young couple, with a few cows and sheep in the background.
This sterilised, sanitised, stain-glass picture is something of an illusion. It has no lasting effect on the world at large, which soon resumes its cynical way of life, self-centred and sinful. Why is this? It’s because the reality of the Christian message hasn’t been accepted for what it is - hope for the world in the coming of Christ. The Christians of the first generation knew better. Many of them would have known Jesus personally or knew someone who did. He wasn’t a remote historical figure to them. He was a physical person, not just someone they had read about. One of my boyhood memories is that of seeing Winston Churchill when he stopped off in Halifax for a few minutes in the 1945 General Election. He became a reality to me. I had actually seen the great man in the flesh! It makes all the difference if you’ve met a personality in the flesh rather than just read about them,
The Lord Jesus wants to become a real person in our consciousness this Advent time. He was born of refugee parents in an occupied country. He spent his first nights in an animal’s food trough. He grew up in an obscure village in a backwater of a vast empire. He had a brief ministry as a wandering preacher. He wrote nothing. He had a small band of followers, but all deserted him when he was unjustly executed as a common criminal. And yet, this man has affected the history of the world more than any other person. What is our perception of Jesus? I found it helpful to take the words of St Paul in Philippians 2 as a basis to learn more of the person and work of Jesus. They could well be an early Christian hymn that the apostle wrote or quoted (6-11), and I would like to make them our own Advent Hymn to Christ. It tells of him who came historically, who comes into the life of the Christian and will come to judge the peoples of the Earth as Christ the King.
The apostle urged his readers to turn their eyes upon Jesus (5). He had already established that he was their Saviour but Paul longed that Jesus should become their great Example to follow. "Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus" - this is the message of Advent. Jesus is first portrayed as:
THE ETERNAL SON
The apostle makes a stupendous claim for Jesus. He was someone, he says, "whom, being in the very nature God". Jesus was, and is, and always will be God. The words look back to our Lord’s preincarnate existence as the Second Person of the Trinity. He didn’t come into being at Bethlehem. He already was from all eternity. John begins his Gospel with a confirmation of this claim: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God … he was with God in the beginning" (1:1,2). Here we reach beyond time and matter. The concept is beyond human understanding. We can but join Paul in his doxology in praise of him: "the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever" (1 Tim 1:17).
But not only is Jesus by very nature God, he is God’s equal. He has all the attributes of God. He is the very revelation of God, but in Christ the invisible God becomes visible in Jesus. This is amazing, but there’s more to come. We’re told, he who was in the form of God "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped." What does this mean? It’s that Jesus who was equal with God didn’t hold it to himself. We can picture a selfish child with a toy who won’t share it: "It’s mine, it’s mine!" But Jesus wasn’t like that; he wants to give us his life, and he wants us to follow his example.