Hebrews 1:1-12 If we had been there that first Christmas morning in Bethlehem we would have seen a young family like many others: an exhausted but happy new mother with her husband and their newborn baby in a humble dwelling. In and of itself—that scene is nothing at all remarkable—certainly nothing miraculous. It was repeated thousand times over that same day in the ancient world.
But what we see with our eyes does not tell anything close to the whole story—for the one who lies in a manger-- is God—the same God who is everlasting to everlasting—the same God who upholds the creations that was brought into being through him--the Almighty One, clothed in the flesh of a human baby.
That story must be revealed to us from above—and not only must it be revealed to us—but God the Holy Spirit must do his sanctifying work in our hearts-- so that we might believe it and come to the manger in faith and worship Immanuel—the God who is with us in baby Jesus. The Bible says that his story is revealed this way:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
From almost the very beginning of time, God had been speaking through the prophets and telling the story of the coming One who would make things right between God and man.
Moses promised that he would be the “seed of a woman”. Micah spoke of
, the place of
his birth. David promised that he would
be both a priest and a king like Melchizidek.
Hosea spoke of the years he would spend in Bethlehem . Jeremiah prophesied the death of the Holy
Innocents at Herod’s hands. Zechariah
spoke of his betrayal and the thirty pieces of silver. Isaiah foretold his virgin mother and his
suffering and death and resurrection. Egypt
All of the prophets promised that the Messiah would be a greater prophet than Moses—that he would be an everlasting King—that he would be a priest forever, making intercession for his people so that they might be reconciled to God.
It was the most natural thing in the world then, that among his people-- collectively and individually-- a mental picture would be drawn of this one who was the ancient of days and conquering king and righteous judge—mighty and powerful and strong to save.
And then one night two thousand years, the mighty One promised by the prophets—appeared—as a baby—a newborn. Then and now, God’s appearance in human flesh cannot be discerned by sight—but has to be revealed by the Holy Spirit so that we might know him for who he is and worship him as God. The Bible says that:
In these last days God has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
Oftentimes you will hear Christians say about our Lord’s earthly life—“Oh if only I had been there!” Even one of our Christmas hymns, “Now Sing Ye, Now Rejoice” picks up in this idea in the last stanza: “Oh, if we were there!” The idea behind these expressions that if I had seen it all with my own eyes—then my faith would be greater—then I wouldn’t struggle with doubts. But I’ve always wondered if that is true-- and I’m not convinced it is.
Looking at his peasant mother and her husband--gazing around at the humble place of his birth--looking into Jesus’ rough crib—would we have recognized that baby to be God’s Son and heir of all things—would we have known him to be the One who was from the beginning, the One through whom all things were created and who upholds all things? Would we have perceived the glory of God and the exact imprint of God’s nature in his Jesus’ little face?
No, the truth of this baby’s identity is so marvelous, so wonderful, so glorious, so far above human comprehension-- that it must be revealed and made known to us by God. And that is exactly what happened at our Lord’s birth as the heavens were opened and the angels proclaimed the birth of the Savior so that all might know who he is and what he came to do. The Bible says of his person and work that:
After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God's angels worship him.”
From the moment that John the Baptist and Jesus were conceived-- to the night of our Lord’s birth-- to the day that Mary and Joseph fled to
--the heavenly angels were on
the scene to make sure that everyone knew just exactly what all these
miraculous events meant. They tell us
The conception of John the Baptist was not just a physical miracle-- but the fulfillment of a prophecy of the Messiah’s forerunner—the conception of Jesus within the womb of the Blessed Virgin was not just a biological oddity--but God himself taking on human flesh to save the world from sin—shedding his blood on the cross to purify the world by washing our sins away.
We must never forget that—that Jesus came to make purification for sins-- for his birth was not an end unto itself—but finds it ultimate meaning in the cross and empty tomb-- and the reconciliation that he accomplished there between sinful mankind and a holy God.
It is for the sake of his atoning work that the heavenly Father has seated him at his right hand and exalted him above all things in heaven and on earth—worshiped by angels and archangels and all the company of heaven for who he is as God’s Son and what he has done as the Redeemer of the world.
Seated at God’s right hand—the One born in humility--rules the world for the sake of his people. The Bible’s says that his throne:
…is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
Too often on Christmas Day, the emphasis--even in the church—is on the sentimental and the sweet—and it is a tender scene that we see in our Lord’s birth. But the Holy Spirit reveals so much more—that the little baby who lies in a humble manger is a king—and not just any king—but the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The wise men recognized this and worshiped him in faith—even Herod recognized it but tried to destroy him in fear. And those two poles of fear and faith are still the reaction of the world to his birth.
Those who confess him as their Lord and Savior-- love him, and recognize his authority over their lives, and desire to please him in all that they say and do by living lives that are righteous in his sight. His word-- is the final word-- in their lives-- for by the power of the Holy Spirit they recognize him as their king and desire to serve him with their whole lives.
But there are many, many more who refuse to recognize him for who he truly is—God in flesh, their Savior and Lord and rightful King-- and so they reject his will for their lives and distort or disregard his Word when it rebukes their sins.
And ultimately they reject him because they know that he is a righteous king who hates sin and has never changed his mind about what is right and what it wrong—for the tiny baby who entered into human history at a particular moment in time is also the eternal God who does not change. The bible says of him:
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
Over the days and weeks and months and years after the birth of our Lord, little Jesus began to change—as all babies do. He learned to sit up and walk and talk. He learned to read and the skills of a carpenter in Joseph’s shop. But the God hidden within his human flesh did not change.
From the moment of his conception within the womb of his blessed mother, Jesus was the God who laid the foundations of the earth and made the heavens above. He is the God whose righteous standards have not changed or adapted with the times. And he is the God who will still be there when time comes to an end. He is our Savior and Lord who does not change in his love for us.
The great comfort for us on this Christmas morning is that the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit has been done in our hearts. God has rescued us from the dominion of sin and death in Holy baptism and granted us the gift of faith. He has sustained and nourished that faith through his Word and Sacraments.
And he invites us to gaze in faith at the Babe of Bethlehem and know him to be Ancient of Days who loves us with an everlasting love—to rejoice in the Good News that when our years come to an end-- and finally when time itself comes to an end—that he will still be the same everlasting God of love who was born on this day. Amen.