What’s up, readers?
I kind of want to slow things down a bit and dwell with the shepherds and the wise men who came to worship Jesus at His birth. We’ll probably stick with the theme of Worship over the next few days. These are the lyrics to “Agnus Dei,” made popular by Michael W. Smith.
For the Lord God Almighty reigns
Are You Lord God Almighty?
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb
You are Holy
Worship is perennial. It isn’t limited to the moment of Jesus’s birth, but it’s also suitable. I choose to include worship songs in my Christmas playlists because no matter what time of year it is, they are still true.
Jesus is the Lord God Almighty, and He reigns over an everlasting kingdom. This kingdom will be actualized when He returns.
I want to bring us back to Colossians, this time to chapter 1. Verses 15-20 state:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in[h] him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in[i] him all things hold together. 18 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. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (NRSV).
For Christians, Jesus is worthy of our worship because He is the incarnation/visible image of God. God in human flesh. He is holy because He is divine. He is Lord because, not only did He create dominions and powers, but He Himself has dominion and power over all things.
Jesus is also referred to as a lamb because of the extension of Old Testament theology/Jewish theology. Lambs were one of the animals that were sacrificed as sin offerings. When a person came to the temple to present their sin offering, the offering would be consumed by fire as a sign of God’s acceptance of both the sacrifice and their act of repentance. In the New Testament, the apostle John calls Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, NRSV). Jesus’s crucifixion was similar to the sacrifice of a lamb, except instead of having to repeatedly present a sacrifice every time we sin, we can depend on that one act as the sin offering that lasts for all time.
In Revelation 5:12, all of the elders and the angels sing “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
When we sing “Hallelujah” and “Worthy is the Lamb,” we are giving Jesus the same glorification as the angels, the elders, the shepherds, and all created beings. By recognizing Him as the Lamb, we are recognizing His crucifixion as the fulfillment of the practice of sin offerings and sacrifices. The difference, I believe, is in Jesus’s resurrection. Normally, when people sacrificed their lambs, turtledoves, and other animals, those animals never came back to life. But Jesus did. And His resurrection symbolizes victory. Even though our eyes can see sin and evil in the world, what’s happening spiritually/supernaturally is another story. To sound like a cliche, we already know how the story ends. Jesus says so Himself: “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33, NRSV)
I could try to speculate as to exactly how Jesus conquered the world and exactly what that entails, but, to be honest, I really don’t know. It requires wrestling with the really big question of theodicy, i.e. “Why are there bad things in the world if Jesus already won the battle against evil?” or “Why do bad things happen to good people?” etc. And I don’t have the answers to those questions. But maybe that’s a good thing. After all, the thing about God is that God is so vast that God is unsearchable and unknowable. Even based off of what God chose to reveal to us, we’ll never be able to understand God completely, at least not in this life.
This is why–especially if you listen to the linked recording–there is such a sense of wonder and awe when we are confronted by the presence of God. Could it be that this slaughtered lamb, this paschal (related to Easter and Passover) sacrifice is really the Lord God Almighty? That this God, this Lord, who reigns in power and might, would stoop so low as to DIE? Yesterday, we talked about the significance of His birth to poor, young parents in a filthy stable because there was no room in any of the inns in town. Today, we are reminded that His birth was the first in a chain of events that led to His glorification.
Do you remember those trade school commercials from the 2000s? There was one with a young man who wanted to go back to school, but he didn’t have any money. He didn’t have any money because he couldn’t get a job. He couldn’t get a job because he didn’t have any skills. He didn’t have any skills because he didn’t go to school. (See his problem?)
This is how I view Jesus and the Gospel. I can’t talk about Advent without talking about the Crucifixion, because the Crucifixion was the whole purpose of the advent of Christ. I can’t talk about the Crucifixion without talking about the Resurrection, because there would be no victory without the resurrection of Christ. Even Pentecost fits in here somewhere, because if Jesus hadn’t died, He wouldn’t have left us with His Spirit. And all of these are essential elements to the gospel. They are all essential to the narrative.
So I don’t think it’s weird to sing regular worship songs for Advent, because all they do–especially this one–is remind us of the reason why Jesus came in the first place. It’s how we honor Him for what He has done.