God's Christmas Card
A sermon based on Hebrews 1:1-9
Christmas Day A – December 25, 2007
Quick quiz: What's the busiest day of the year for the US Post Office? Did you guess April 15th? Close, but not quite. December 21st is the busiest mailing day of the year. On that day millions of people send packages in the hopes that they'll arrive before Christmas. And even more send their Christmas cards—their annual attempts to stay in touch with distant relatives and old friends.
Do you send out Christmas cards and letters? If so, why? Don't you write the letters to share with your family and friends what you've been up to the past year? Don't you send those cards to express the love you have for them, the wishes and the hopes you have for their year ahead?
The author to the Hebrews wrote a letter to group of struggling Christians who were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus. And he wrote to give them encouragement. But really the Christmas card we read today isn't from the author to the Hebrews. It's from God. And really the Christmas card isn't the letter, but Jesus, whom we find described there.
God sends us a Christmas card. He sends his son, Jesus, born on Christmas Day. And through Jesus, God tells us what he's been up to. He expresses his love for us. In God's Christmas Card—Jesus—he reveals his glory to us and he reveals his grace to us. Listen now to Hebrews 1:1-9…
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. 5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"? 6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." 7 In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire." 8 But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."
I. Reveals the Glory of God
"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways…" What did God say through those prophets? Well, isn't that really what we've been looking at the past couple of weeks as we've been studying some of the prophecies of Isaiah? He said, "I'm sending my Son." But now, in these last days, God has spoken to us in a different way. He's spoken by his Son—by Jesus. What does he say through Jesus? First, he speaks of his glory.
Have any of you ever seen the sun? "Of course we have," you're thinking, "every day—at least for a little while, anyway" right? But the truth is you haven't really seen the sun. You've seen the light of the sun, but not the actual sun—the very mass of burning gas—itself. Why not? Well for starters it's over 93 million miles away. But even looking at the light of the sun for too long causes problems right? We can't handle the intense light of it. To stare at the sun can burn your eyes.
In the same way we can't really see God, can we? Even Moses who's face shone with the glory of God was told, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." (Exodus 33:20) Why not? Because we're sinful. We would be consumed by his glory if we saw the face of God. Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark? They opened the Ark of the Covenant to see God himself and they melted. That's not that far off. Because of our sin we are impure and cannot see God.
So God sent his Son. "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being…" Ever looked at a solar eclipse? What do you need to do if you want to view it? You need to wear those special glasses, or at least look at it through a piece of cardboard with a pin hole in it. Even though it seems dark, the power of the sun can permanently burn the retinas, so we need to only take in a part of it's light.
In a similar way God veiled his glory in flesh, so we could see it. Want to see the glory of God? Look at Jesus and veiled in the flesh of Jesus we do see God's glory. I know he didn't look like glory in that stable—with no clothes, no crib, no clean place to sleep. But God would reveal his glory through his Son. When the Father spoke and the Spirit descended on him at his Baptism, on the mountain where Jesus transfigured himself, as he ascended into heaven, we see a glimpse of that glory. In the world around us that he created, in the world that he continues to sustain by his powerful word, we see God's glory.
And in Jesus we see his holiness… Want to see God? Look at Jesus and learn how holy he is. We cannot stand the sight of God because he cannot stand the sight of sin. We get a glimpse of that holiness in Jesus. The author to the Hebrews says of him, "You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness…" Jesus never sinned. Not even once. He hated sin with a passion. And yet, he was crucified. He was damned to hell because he took our sin on himself. God could not stand the sight of sin even when it was on his holy Son, so he abandoned him, he fried him with his holy wrath poured out against sin.
Yes God's Christmas card of Jesus reveals his glory and his holiness. But in that person, Jesus, God also reveals his awesome grace…
II. Reveals the Grace of God
While Jesus is true God—an exact representation of his being, he was incarnate, that is, he became flesh—true man in every way. And he did it for one reason and one reason alone. Even though it's buried in our text as a subordinate clause, it's the most important part of our text, and the content of the rest of this letter to the Hebrews—Christ's work: "After he had provided purification for sins…"
God became man to purify us from our sins. The prophets said what God would do, but Jesus actually did it. Jesus is superior to the angels not only because of who he is—eternal God, begotten of the Father, not made, while the angels are created beings—but also because his work is far superior. The angels serve in two ways: 1) they carried special messages from God—like announcing Jesus' birth to Mary and Joseph and the shepherds, and 2) they protect God's people as guardian angels. But Jesus job is much more important. He provided purification for our sins.
A few years ago Becky took the boys to Wisconsin to visit her family. And I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to clean the carpet in our living room without having to keep the boys off it while it dried. Much to my dismay once I cleaned it, the stains stood out even more against the now cleaner carpet around them. After using three different stain removers, now you could still see (though just barely) where the coffee spilled, where the food fell, and where someone started to draw a smiley face with magic marker before mom walked in.
But with Jesus it's different. It didn't take multiple tries. And there aren't any remnants of our sin, no residue left to vacuum up, no hint of any blemish. He provided purification for our sins with his blood. And he did a perfect job. Our sins are gone, no spot remains. It's in the past tense because it's done and complete. And as true God, "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being," his death on the cross counted for the sins of the whole world!
What grace God reveals in his Christmas card! He doesn't just express his love for us, he shows it to us. He doesn't just tell of the wishes and the hopes he has for our future, but actually takes our sins away so our future is changed! We have heaven instead of the hell we deserve! What an awesome Christmas card!
And now, with his work on the cross complete, Jesus has received the glory due him. "He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven…. he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs… [his throne] will last for ever and ever…"
And in that glory of heaven, he rules all things for us, his Church, until he finally takes us to be with him in that glory! Rejoice, dear friends, in that God has spoken to you, not through a paper card or printed letter, not through a telephone call or an email, not through a prophet like he did in the past, but through his Son. He's revealed to you his glory and his holiness. And he's revealed to you his astounding grace in providing purification for your sins.
Merry Christmas to you from God through Jesus Christ his Son, our Lord, our Savior. In his name, dear friends, amen.