Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hebrews 1:1-3 Christmas Day

A Christmas card says that you care.  Carefully chosen picture show a warm, caring scene. —warmth of a fire inside of some snow-covered cabin.  Christ-child in a manger, all-aglow; amidst a dark, starry night.  Quiet Bethlehem, big bright star shining down.  The wise men, exotic, far-away kings traveling to see the humble little baby.  Even the Santa Claus—you have to admire the charity, wanting to give gifts to all.  It is, after all, God’s gift to us that has inspired all this gift giving, warmth, and caring.
And yet, it is possible that God’s gifts to you this past year haven’t all been pleasant.  He may have seemed far away, and you may at times have felt forgotten.  It’s nice to get a Christmas card from the people you haven’t seen and haven’t heard from.  We may feel like it would be nice to hear from God, get a Christmas card from him.
The birth of Christ says all of that.  Better than a Christmas card, he has spoken by his Son.  A personal message that conveys the warm caring heart of God.  He shows that God remembers us and cares to help.  If you want to see God, know that he remembers you and cares about you, look no further than Jesus.  In the birth of Christ, we see that God cares.  God was born as a man to help and save.
         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.           
Hebrews 1:1-3
1.  When a baby is born, people will often remark on the incredible similarity between the baby and his father or mother.  The words here call our attention to the incredible similarity between God the Father and God the Son.  The Son is the “radiance of God’s glory”—just like the light of the sun radiates off of the surface of a lake, and you see the reflection in the water—everything that God the Father is, we see also in Jesus the Son.  All the glory; the power, the greatness, the mercy, and goodness that we expect to find in our God.    The other phrase that caught my eye—“the exact representation of his being”—literally, an exact copy, as if you would take an object, make a mold of it, and then use the mold to make a copy of that object—Jesus is just like his Father.  When you into what Jesus does in the pages of Scripture, you might as well be looking at God the Father.   Everything that the Father is, thinks, and does, Jesus does too.  As he himself said, “What the Father does, the Son does also.”  And, “Anyone who has seen the Son has seen the Father.”  What all of this amounts to is that the manger in Bethlehem held a divine visitor.  It was no less than God himself who came to us to show us that he cares and that he would help.
When important people come to visit, it lifts our spirits, it shows that they care, and that they will help.   Your family may visit you because they care about you.  Recently, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German President Joachim Gauck visit Afghanistan, show that they care, and they promised to continue their support.  Obama visits 10 wounded troops at a medical center in Maryland.  But none of them can truly fix the world or completely help the problems that they visited. 
It might look like Jesus hasn’t been able to fix the world either.  The problem seems to remain; the world really hasn’t changed since Christ was born.  God still may seem far away, and the tragedies of this sinful world still continue.  There is a sharp contrast between the peaceful scene of Bethlehem with its joy that God has come to save us, and the harsh reality of the world that we live in.  This is a world where people are evil.  People fight over Christmas presents and kill each other with hateful words.   Ever hear someone you love say something so awful that it makes you die inside? Worse than that, sometimes people even actually kill each other.
One of my favorite Christmas cards seems to illustrate our world.  It comes in different varieties…there is usually a house, or a church, all lit up inside and warm looking.  Outside it is cold, dark, and snowy.  The warmth and joy inside the house or the little country church reminds me of the Bethlehem scene, and the warmth of God’s loving presence among us in the Christ child.  That cold, dark, snowy world reminds me more of life.  Where is God’s warmth in this evil, sin-filled world?
The Bible describes our world exactly the way it feels—broken, ruined by sin, separated from God.  God through Isaiah, “Your sins have separated you from your God.”  Trying to get out of the cold, trying to fix our world through charity, love, gifts, visits, Christmas cards.  What happens?  Just fight over the gifts.  Just resent the people who don’t show that they care.  Just turn on the news to find more evil.  We can’t fix it.  We are part of the sinful problem.  God knows what is wrong, and he is the one who came to fix it.
2. Because he is true God, the one who was born in Bethlehem to visit us truly can help.  He will fix everything that is wrong.  He is God, the Word who was spoken of in John 1, the one by whom the universe itself was created.  If anyone can fix what is wrong in our world, he surely can.
The Creator knows how this world is put together, and he knows how we are put together.  He saw how the first man and his sin ruined our world, and passed his sin down to us and all the rest of his children.  He knew how to fix it.  The one by whom the world was created has come to restore his fallen creation.
It was just one man, Adam, who sinned and ruined creation by his sin.  All of us have been born from his flesh, shared in his sin, and continued to sin and ruin the world ourselves.  It would also be one man, Jesus, who would live a perfect, sinless life, and then use his creative power to pass that perfection on to us through faith.  In fact, the Bible calls it new birth when a person comes to faith.  Jesus, by his creative power, gave us a new birth from his perfect flesh—through the preaching of his word and through baptism.
Does God care?  Will he help?  He has spoken, and the answer is yes.  The new life that we have through faith in Christ is one that lasts beyond the grave.  In fact, the best of it is still coming.  We don’t get to experience the full blessing of our new life with Christ yet, because we still live in a sinful world.  But when God raises us from death and brings us to heaven…we can only imagine the joy and blessing.
God’s answer is yes, he does care about our sorrows and struggles.  Just look at Christ and what Christ was doing.  All of his miracles of compassion show that he cares, and he will help us in our sorrows.  He healed the blind, the lame, the sick, and the demon-possessed.  He will help us in all our troubles, and through his life we will be rescued from all of this to enjoy a better life in heaven.
Does God care about our spiritual struggles?  He has spoken, and his answer is yes.  Just look at what Christ did, and see how God cares for you.  He commanded a baptism to be given, and by his creative power that baptism gives new life—a life from his life, and a share in his perfection, just as much as being born of Adam has made us share in Adam’s sin.  By his creative power he has put our sins to death with him, and shared his resurrection with us.
Does God care about our continued struggles?  The answer is yes.  Christ gave us his Word, to sustain our spiritual life in him as often as we hear it.  He commanded the Lord’s Supper to be celebrated, so that he could share the body and blood of his death with us—the punishment of our sins, and also the resurrection of the body to eternal life.  Everything that we need for our forgiveness and eternal life is passed down to us, because his creative word has commanded this to happen when we hear his Word and receive the Sacrament. 
No mere man can do all this—he is the one by whom the universe was created.  He is everything that God the Father is.  Jesus is God, the Son of God.

I wrote my Christmas cards a little late this year, and some people might be wondering if I remembered them.  I did, they just haven’t opened my cards yet.  If you are wondering if God still cares, maybe you just haven’t opened his “Christmas card” lately.  Open up what the Son of God brings you in Word and Sacrament.—find the joy of knowing that God comes to you, to help and save.
Later in the service we sing “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come!”  And we will be joyful, but the joy doesn’t need to end when the season isn’t enough to end the bickering, fighting in families and in the world—or even the fighting inside.  Often, we are our own worst enemy.  But the Lord has come.  He cares, and he has been able to help and save, because the man who was born in Bethlehem for us is God.  Truly, Joy to the World!  Amen.