Reflections on a Stable—and Galaxies

by Bob Bradley

The Christmas season is now upon us, and I want to share some thoughts with you about the wonderful and inconceivable nature of the Christmas event. In Colossians chapter one Paul declares that the Creator of the universe, the One who holds all things together (vs. 16, 17), is the one Who became a man and offered His blood as an atonement for our sins (v.14).

Think of it! In the Old Testament, Almighty God declares that He numbers the stars, and calls them all by name (Psalm 147: 4). In Hebrew thought, to name something is to know it intimately. Thus God is saying, “I have named the stars. I know each one of them with intimate, perfect knowledge.” Just how many stars are there? Several years ago astronomers were using the number 70 sextillion as the estimated number of stars in galaxies which we can see with the Hubble Space Telescope. That represents a number that is greater than all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches and deserts! But it is a very low estimate.

There are galaxies which we cannot see with the Hubble telescope because they are obscured behind clouds of gas, and they can only be detected by infrared radiation. In addition, astronomers are now exploring the idea that there may be billions of galaxies which we will never be able to detect, no matter what technology is used, because the universe is expanding faster than the speed of light. So the estimated number of stars keeps going up and up with each passing year. Only God knows the true number, and His knowledge is not an estimate, but is based on his intimate awareness of every star in every galaxy, no matter how far away.

In thinking about these things, I have come up with a pet phrase—“God has the universe in His hip pocket.” In Psalm 147:5 God declares that His understanding is infinite. Based on this verse, we can Biblically declare that no matter how big the universe may be, God knows every star and is perfectly in control of His universe. And He not only knows His universe perfectly, He actually holds it together! (Colossians 1: 17; Hebrews 1: 3).

When contemplating these incredible truths, our tendency is to say, “Isn’t God the Father great!” But the New Testament explicitly declares that it is the Eternal Son of God, the pre-incarnate Christ, who is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). Of course, the Father and the Spirit were also active in creation.

No wonder our Lord tells us that the very hairs of our heads are numbered! He who can number the stars effortlessly has no trouble tracking a few thousand hairs on our heads. The prophet Isaiah ties it all together in this powerful and touching statement of God’s heart, “Lift up your eyes on high, and see Who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God?’ Have you not known, have you not heard, the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength (Isaiah 40: 26-29 NKJV).”

So Who is it that humbled Himself to enter the womb of a poor peasant maid? None other than the Lord God Almighty, the Eternal Son, equal in all respects to the Father and the Spirit. Language is not adequate to describe what happened when Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb, nor can it fully describe what happened on the day of His birth.

The Lord God became one of us, assuming our limitations and weakness. And the unspeakable glory is that He will wear our humanity forever. By His initiative, not ours, He calls us “friends” and “brothers” (John 15, John 20). It is entirely appropriate that we should stand in awe of these “things which angels desire to look into (I Peter 1: 12).”

In fact, one of the surest signs that we are growing spiritually is an ever-increasing sense of awe and wonder at what God has done on our behalf. I want to share with you the words of a German hymn writer named Johann Franck. He wrote these verses in 1649. Although it is not a Christmas hymn, but rather alludes to The Lord’s Supper, it draws us into a place of awe and reverence. These verses were copied from the website of cyberhymnal.org with permission. The title of the hymn is “Deck Thyself, My Soul, with Gladness.” I have omitted some stanzas.

He who craves a precious treasure
Neither cost nor pain will measure;
But the priceless gifts of heaven
God to us hath freely given.
Though the wealth of earth were offered,
Naught could buy the gifts here offered;
Christ’s true body, for thee riven,
And His blood, for thee once given.

Ah, how hungers all my spirit
For the love I do not merit!
Oft have I, with sighs fast thronging,
Thought upon this food with longing,
In the battle well nigh worsted,
For this cup of life have thirsted,
For the Friend Who here invites us
And to God Himself unites us.

In my heart I find ascending
Holy awe, with rapture blending,
As this mystery I ponder,
Filling all my soul with wonder,
Bearing witness at this hour
Of the greatness of God’s power;
Far beyond all human telling
Is the power within Him dwelling.

Human reason, though it ponder,
Cannot fathom this great wonder

That Christ’s body e’er remaineth
Though it countless souls sustaineth
And that He His blood is giving
With the wine we are receiving.
These great mysteries unsounded
Are by God alone expounded.

Let’s trust Him with all the uncertainties in our lives! Warmly wishing you a wonderful Christmas,

Bob, Sandy, and Ben

 
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