You gotta love Christmas, right? You’ve got the lights, the trees, the songs, the whole shebang. And then you’ve got that little baby in the manger. Right now, my three year old son is fascinated by that baby. He keeps sitting down before the manger scene, and checking baby Jesus out. But as fascinated as he is, he can’t hold a candle to the great Ricky Bobby.
Have you ever seen a movie that just made you laugh so much that you almost fell out of your seat. That happened when I saw the movie, Talladega Nights, about this NASCAR racing character Ricky Bobby. Ricky Bobby had all sorts of quirks, but the one I remember most is how Ricky liked to pray.
Ricky loved to pray to what he called the Christmas Jesus, the baby one. And the man could get eloquent. He’d pray things like “Dear tiny Jesus in your golden fleece diapers, with your tiny little balled up fists pawing at the air” No matter the protests from his wife or his father in law that Jesus did grow up, Ricky stuck with the Christmas Jesus.
But, with apologies to Ricky, his wife had a point. When it comes to Christmas, as beautiful as that baby in a manger is, to truly see Jesus, you can’t stop there. You’ve gotta see the whole picture. Why?
Only when you see that do you see not just what that baby means, but what that baby has the power to do in the world and in you. The world in which we live can be very hard. And when that hardness hits, when fear and anxiety grip you, how do you hold it together? How do you come through it stronger and better than before? The reality of Christmas answers that question. And seeing that reality begins with seeing what was actually happening in that manger long ago. How can you know that? In those powerful words about Jesus, God points the way. So let’s hear what God has to say.
When your life seems to be falling apart, how do you hold it together? How do you not only make it through hard times, but come out stronger on the other side? How do you keep it together then? Here God tells you. You keep it together as you realize this reality. As God holds everything together, God will hold you together too. And how do you know that? Because, God fell utterly apart so that, when the hard times hit, you can hold together.
You see. This church in Colossae was having some difficulty holding it together. Beyond the day to day challenges of following Jesus in a pagan culture, these Christians had folks that were confusing them with strange new ideas on the whole Gospel message. And it was really messing them up. So Paul wrote this letter to get them back on solid ground, to a place that was real and true, or as Paul put it, where they could once again be filled with the knowledge of God.
The key to understanding what that knowledge is, happens in the last six words that Paul writes to these Colossians. Paul writes these stunning words. “In him, in Jesus, all things hold together.” Now why are those words stunning? Because basically Paul is saying that every atom, every particle in the universe, Jesus holds together. Nothing exists without Jesus ordering it and keeping it.
Now you can hear that, and still not really get it. But whether you believe in God or not, you depend on that order every day. Did you ever realize how weird it is that everything in the universe is totally and utterly consistent? If you travel a billion, billion miles away from earth, gravity will work exactly the way it does here. The same rules will apply. And that holds true with everything. It’s what enables planes that fly today to fly tomorrow. It’s what enables everything around you to work not just today, but every day. It’s the only thing that makes science possible, that the universe is this consistent. Yet, do you realize how utterly strange that is?
For example, do you know that there is this number sequence that appears everywhere again and again. Hundreds of years ago, this mathematician, Leonardo Fibonacci, was trying to figure out the ideal pattern for reproducing rabbits (Lord, knows why he wanted that – those animals seem to reproduce fine on their own). The sequence he discovered starts like this: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 and so on forever. You get the sequence by adding together the two numbers before to get the one that comes after. Ok, so you think, what’s the big deal about that? The big deal is that this pattern appears to be a sort of numbering system to order the cosmos.
Here you see it in how flower petals are arranged. So a lily will always have three petals and a buttercup will always have five. And if you look at a daisy, it will follow the sequence and have 34 petals. You can see the pattern in how tree branches divide. It’s why a shell looks this inside. But the sequence doesn’t stop there. You find the same sequence in how a hurricane looks. But forget that, you find the same sequence in how galaxies look, including our own. So get this, a galaxy trillions and trillions of miles in size follows the same pattern as daisies and buttercups. That’s kinda spooky. That’s why when folks assert that the whole universe just sort of happened, it’s really, really hard to explain stuff like this.
But Jesus doesn’t just hold the physical universe together. He holds together the moral one too.
Why do you get upset when you hear about evil or injustice in the world? Heck, why do human beings wherever they are get upset in a similar way that you do? A lot of people don’t believe in God because of that cruelty and injustice. But think about it. What makes something cruel and unjust to begin with? How do human beings just know that? It’s because somewhere along the way, they received a vision not only of what love and justice look like, but that love and justice was the way it was supposed to be.
You see. If you go into the deepest parts of the ocean, you will find fish that are blind. And that makes sense because it is so deep there no light exists. But get this. The fish don’t know they’re blind. Why? They’ve never seen the light.
The writer C.S. Lewis put it this way.
If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.
But because of Jesus, you know light. You know justice. You know love. And you know that love and justice is how God created the world to be. God ordered it that way.
So ok, this is kind of interesting, but what does it have to do with your life? Paul tells you in the weird word that he uses here for holding it together. He takes a Greek word that the philosophers called the Stoics used. The Stoics held to the ideal that no matter what happens to you, you can’t fall apart. You’ve got to stand strong, to hold it together. And Paul uses that same word here. Why?
Paul is telling the folks in Colossae, don’t you get it? The same God that in Jesus literally holds the entire universe together is going to hold you together too. No matter how confused you get, how discouraged, how hard it becomes, this Jesus can and will hold you together. If Jesus is doing it for the universe, Jesus will do it for you.
In fact, Paul just told them, in Jesus God already has done it for you. Paul put it like this. He wrote… He “has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness…
You see, human beings weren’t holding it together. Why? We had walked away from the one who could. And as we fell apart, the world around us fell apart too. So what did God do? God came to rescue you, to take you back from the dark in which you had fallen, to return you to the light for which you and I desperately yearned.
God did it the only way any rescuer can. He went into the darkness for you. He became one of you in that darkness, even to the point of being born. And then He took all that darkness on himself. He let that darkness tear him apart so that it would never do that to you. He fell apart in that darkness so that he could bring you into the light. And because Jesus did that, nothing exists in the universe, not even death, that will take you away from his love. And that love, if you let it, will hold you together no matter what.
This is why Christians put Christmas in the darkest time of the year. Every year, it reminds you, that life will never get so dark, that the light of God’s love will not break through. This is the Good News of Christmas, the God who came for you; the God who went into the darkness of death for you, and the God who will hold you together no matter what you face. So this Christmas, eat, drink, and celebrate the One who holds everything together, including you.