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A Hidden God and His Icon

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation; (Colossians 1:15, HCSB)

In Paul’s letter to the church of Colossae, we come to what most scholars consider a hymn of the early church. There are two stanzas which basically repeat the same idea in 1:15-17 and 1:18-20. The hymn is steeped in OT references, especially from Genesis. The overall idea is the superiority of Jesus.

The first line gives us Jesus’ first characteristic: He is the spitting image of God…God’s representation on earth…his icon or image.

Pascal, the philosopher, was famous for saying vere tu es deus absconditus: “Truly you are the hidden God.” And in many ways he was correct. There is great mystery surrounding the God of the universe. But the mystery of God isn’t like one of our who-dunnit shows where if we find enough clues we can figure him out. God is only understood by our limited reasoning as he chooses to reveal himself to us. Paul reminds us here that he has chosen to reveal himself through his Son, Jesus.

But if Jesus is eternal God, then how is he the “firstborn?” The word isn’t intended to mean anything about the “beginning” of Jesus, but to show his place in the universe. The firstborn is the heir – the one who is given authority over his father’s house. In Jesus’ case, his rulership includes “all creation.”

Sunday was the first day of Advent and will end on Wednesday Dec. 24. It is that time of year we prepare our hearts for Jesus’ coming – both 2,000 years ago and his second coming in the days ahead. Jesus came to reveal God to us and to take his rightful place in our hearts.

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