“Here am I, the servant of the Lord;
let it be with me according to your word.”
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn
from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.
I look forward each Advent to the Christmas Eve service that begins with the reading from Luke’s Gospel: “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1). I listen to the words and marvel that with a quick stroke of his quill and stamp of his seal, Caesar set the whole world in motion. But that is the power of Imperator Caesar Divi filius Augustus, that is, “Commander Caesar Divine Son Majestic.” That’s a mouthful, but that is how the world saw Caesar Augustus. He was, after all, supreme over all. But Augustus took to himself and favored the title Princeps (Latin: “First”), as it recognized him as First over all people and all things. The time periods from Emperors Augustus to Diocletian in the early fourth century were called the Principate, or, “rule of the Princeps”.
It is during the Principate of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus that Paul is under house arrest awaiting appeal to Caesar. But Paul keeps right on spreading the world changing news that it is Jesus who is First over all things and all people. It is the resurrected Jesus who is the creator and sustainer of the cosmos, the firstborn from the dead, “so that he might come to have first place in everything.”
Think of the impact of saying that Christ is to have first place in everything! Not Caesar, but Christ! Not public opinion, but Christ! Not my plans, but Christ’s! Not even my life, but Christ’s! Think of the countercultural blowback today to say that Christ is to have first place! Are we ready for the consequences?
What would it mean to say that Christ is to have first place in our churches? What would it mean to say Christ is to have first place in our homes? What would it mean to say that Christ is to have first place in our checkbooks, first place in our daily schedules, or first place in our hearts?
God will not be satisfied for Jesus to be First over a small band of followers in Colossae. His goal expressed in today’s scripture is far grander. As the firstborn from the dead, Christ is to be First in everything! For the arc of history bends toward the day when “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” (Philippians 2:10-11). All of creation, visible and invisible, awaits the consummation! The entire cosmos will be brought into complete harmony with the Father through Jesus Christ. Today, we get to be part of that great vanguard movement worshipping and serving Jesus as First over all!
- Looking at your checkbook, credit card, then at your daily calendar, what might it mean to make Christ First over all in your life?