A New Family

By Jane Williams

A Reading from Colossians 1:9-20

9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in 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 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.

Meditation

The Colossian church must have been thrilled to receive this letter from Paul. We can imagine them gathered in the house of one of the members, or perhaps meeting outside, while someone reads them this glorious message. They are no longer just a small isolated group, cut off by their faith from the rest of their families and the people around them: these words connect them to other believers all over the world. Their faith and their courage are not just about themselves: they are also a joy and an encouragement to others. They know themselves to be spoken about and prayed for in places they have never visited and probably never will, but where they now have Christian “family.”

Even more significant than this connection to a wider human community is the connection to God’s beloved Son. Indeed, it is because they are reconciled in Christ that they are reconciled to each other, too. The invisible God has chosen to share this image with them, the image of the one through whom all things come into existence, and in whom all things will find their fulfillment, the one whose birth we are celebrating in this Christmas season.

The scattered communities of Christians, unimportant, liable to persecution, are at the forefront of God’s reconciling work in Christ; they are mentioned in the same breath as “thrones, dominions, rulers and powers,” just as important to God’s peaceable kingdom. May we, too, be “made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power” (v. 11).

Dr. Jane Williams is McDonald Professor in Christian Theology at St Mellitus College. She is also an editor, a sought-after public speaker, and is involved in promoting theological education in the Anglican Communion. She is the author of a number of books, including The Art of Advent (SPCK, 2018).

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