Christmas Day - Hebrews 1:1-12 - December 25, 2015

Order of Service - Pg. 15
Hymn #102 Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful
Hymn #85 From Heaven Above to Earth I Come
Hymn #87 Joy to the World

Readings
Isaiah 7:10-14
Hebrews 1:1-12
John 1:1-14

Collect for the Nativity of Our Lord
Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that the new birth of Thine Only-Begotten Son in the flesh may set us free, who are held in the old bondage under the yoke of sin; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Epistle


1)         God doesn’t speak to you through prophets anymore. Throughout the Old Testament the Lord God chose to communicate with His people through prophets because sinners can’t bear to hear the voice of God unfiltered. After Adam and Eve fell into sin they heard the Lord walking in the Garden in the cool of the day so they hid themselves. Having rebelled against God’s commandment they feared God’s voice. When the Lord God gave the Ten Commandments to Israel, immediately afterwards all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Exodus 20:18-19). Since the Fall into sin the Lord has rarely spoken to anyone directly and typically the only ones He speaks to directly are His prophets whom He calls and sets apart for that holy task. The word of the prophet was the Word of God. Yet the children of Israel rarely listened to the word of the prophets because the human nature always hates God’s word and it is much easier to despise and ignore a flesh and blood man than it is a booming voice from heaven. Throughout Israel’s history they persecuted the prophets, scourged them, and murdered them. Yet this was how the Lord God desired to speak with His people, by sending an intermediary to speak His Word to them so that those who believed the Word of the prophets might repent of their sins and receive life from the hand of God.

2)         The Lord also no longer uses angels to speak to you. Like the prophets, the holy angels were commissioned throughout the Old Testament to speak God’s Word to specific people. Angels visit Abraham, Jacob wrestles with the angel of the Lord. Angels protect Lot and his family from death in Sodom and lead them out before the city’s destruction. The Lord makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire (Psalm 104:4), the holy angels are powerful to do the Lord’s bidding. The Lord sends His angel before Israel into the Promised Land to prepare their way, to deliver them from their adversaries, and in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites (Exodus 23:23). The Lord also delivers messages through His angels, for that is all that the word Angel means, messenger. So throughout the Old Testament we hear of angels bringing messages to people. Manoah and his wife are told they will conceive and bear a son, Samson by name, who will free Israel from the Philistines. It is a holy angel, one of the Seraphim, who cleanses Isaiah’s lips by taking a red hot coal from the altar and touches it to the man’s mouth so that his mouth can hold the pure words of God. And most recently we have heard in the first chapters of St. Matthew and St. Luke’s gospels how the Lord sent His archangel Gabriel to Zacharias, to Mary, and to Joseph, announcing the births of the forerunner John and the Messiah to be born in the womb of Mary, who was to be called Jesus. In fact, angels were only used in the Scriptures to communicate promises to individuals that moved history closer to the birth of the Messiah.

3)         These are incredible ways for the Lord to communicate with His saints, through intermediaries like angels and prophets. But the author of Hebrews tells us that this is no longer the case. God’s people are no longer to expect prophets, nor are we to expect angels to appear to speak God’s word to us. God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who, is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person (Hebrews 1:1-3). We have no need for prophets. There is reason to desire the appearance of the holy angels. God the Father has spoken to us by His Son. And the Son is a true and worthy revealer of God the Father because it is not as if the Son were of a different “stuff” than the Father. The Son is described as the brightness of His glory. Solomon says the same thing when he writes that Wisdom is the brightness of the everlasting light (Wisdom 7:26). The Son is to the Father what brightness is to light. You can’t have light if that light doesn’t have brightness. So the Son is the brightness of the Father’s glory. If you see the brightness of the light you are seeing the light itself. Hebrews also called the Son the express image of His person. Solomon writes that Wisdom is the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness (Wisdom 7:26). The Son is the express image of God the Father’s person, meaning that there is no change or variation between the Father and the Son. The Son shares the will of the Father that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

4)         The Son is the image of God the Father so if you want to learn about the Father, you must look to Jesus. There is no way to circumvent Jesus to get to God. Jesus is God Himself in human flesh as St. John writes in today’s Gospel, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Jesus assumes human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Ghost. He bears our flesh to reveal God the Father to us. And what does Christ reveal about God the Father? Grace and truth. The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). The Son does not reveal a God who is angry with humanity and wants to condemn everyone because of their sin. The Son also reveals the Father to be truly just and righteous so that not a single sin of humanity can be tolerated or ignored. If God ignored a single sin He would not be holy. As the Psalmist says, You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You (Psalm 5:4).

5)         The Father doesn’t change His stripes at Jesus’ birth, ushering in an age where sin will no longer be condemned. Instead He offers His Son as the propitiation for the sins of the entire world, propitiation being the thing that turns away God’s wrath. The Son reveals God as a Father who so loved the world that He gave His Only-Begotten Son (John 3:16). The Father’s wrath against sin must be fulfilled. God the Father cannot go back on His word that sin must be punished. But it is not His will to punish mankind. It is instead His will to punish His Only-Begotten Son upon the altar of the cross, so that by His innocent, bitter sufferings and death as the spotless Lamb of God, He might atone for the sins of the entire world. The Son also shows us that it is the Father’s will that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Since it is the Father’s will that all be saved by faith in Christ, He sends His Apostles and Evangelists out into the world. He sends His Bishops and Pastors and Deacons to the furthest corners of the world to preach the perfect merits of the Son and His atoning death for the sins of all, so that whosoever believes the Gospel has what is promised: everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:17-18). So it is faith alone that justifies the sinner and makes him righteous before God. There is no justification, no salvation, no reconciliation apart from faith in Christ, trust that His death covers my sins and confidence that His perfect righteousness availeth for me in spite of my sinfulness.

6)         This is the God that the Son reveals to humanity. Christ does not show us a God different from that of the Old Testament. Nor does Christ show us a God who nicer or more tolerant or more in line with modern moral sensibilities. Christ Jesus is the brightness of His glory. To see Christ is to see the heart of God. Christ Jesus is the express image of the Father’s person. To gaze upon Christ is to see the will of God for you. He wills your salvation from sin. His desire is to baptize you and then keep you steadfast in the true faith unto life everlasting through your own sufferings, crosses, and trials just as the Father did for His Only-Begotten Son. It is Christ that we see the great mystery of the ages, that God would become man and yet remain fully God while becoming fully man. For Jesus doesn’t merely contain some of the Godhead, as much as you could stuff into a human body. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). It is as we just confessed with our mouths in the words of the Creed of Nicea, that we believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

7)         He was made man for you. He was made man so that He might soak up your sins in the Jordan River. He was made man so that He might take your place in this life, walking the straight path of the Law from which you have wandered daily. He was made man so that He might die like a man, yet also as God to atone for your all your sins of thought, word, and deed. He was made man for us men and our salvation. This is the reason for the incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity. For this we owe Him our thanks and praise on this day and every day. God the Father has spoken to us in a final way so much better than a prophet and in a manner much more glorious than the holy angels. He has spoken to us by His Son, so that all who believe in the Son have everlasting life. Amen.
 

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