Rev. Kurt Lantz Christmas Day Hebrews 1:1-12
December 25, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people to whom God has spoken by His Son,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, I’m talking to you. I know what it is like, sitting there listening to a preacher. It’s not like when someone usually talks to you, standing in front of you face to face and looking you in the eye. It is not like sitting down with a cup of coffee across the table from someone who shares something with you and then you share something related back with them. It is all one sided here when the preacher steps up into the pulpit and goes on and on while looking down at everyone.
And it goes on longer than just about anything else that we sit and listen to, so it is hard to do so attentively for the whole thing. We are used to commercials and ads breaking things up, or multitasking so that we always have something else to share our concentration. We listen and drive or listen and walk or listen and cook or listen and draw. Surprisingly, it is hard to stay fully engaged when there is nothing to do but listen.
But that is the point that God is making. Yes, He is talking to you and it is unlike anything else. The author of the letter to the Hebrews, wrote to tell them of the uniqueness of their Christian faith. He knew there were many things that attempt to draw the hearers away. There was their own laziness, and the nostalgia of how things used to be, and the distractions of the world, and the threat of persecution upon those who give ear to this kind of Christian preaching, and the seeming hopelessness of it all.
There is much that draws away our attention as we celebrate Christmas, and much that draws us away from hearing what God is speaking to us. There is our own laziness. Coming to church three days in a row is a bit much isn’t it? There is the nostalgia of how things used to be at Christmases past and the thought that this year is not going to be as good as it was in the old days. There are the distractions of the world turning Christmas into an atheistic celebration and the threat of persecution upon those who would still hold onto this church-y Jesus stuff. And there is the seeming hopelessness of it all as our lives in this world never seem to be getting better.
“Long ago at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). It was the case long ago that God’s people heard His Word piece by piece as the prophets spoke at His inspiration. And over many centuries and across many lands the message was given, part here and part there.
When we hear the Old Testament readings (the prophecies about Bethlehem, and a virgin birth, and the name Immanuel), we fit the pieces together but we tend to do so only to construct another historical picture, that of shepherds and a baby in a manger wrapped in swaddling cloths. It is a pretty picture, and lends itself to nostalgia, and also must compete with the flamboyant pictures that the world is throwing at us along with its accusations against a church which pulls out this same old picture year after year to try to curry the favour of a few old-fashioned conservatives.
It is then that we are distracted, when Christmas is a picture of the past, a memory of bygone days, a faded hope that has not been realized. “Long ago at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.” When it stays there, then we are easily distracted and dismayed.
“But now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.” It is not all about the nostalgia of bygone days. It is now, in these days, that God has spoken to us. It is not all in pieces proclaimed by prophets in the past. It is now that God has spoken to us and given us the full picture. It is now that His Son speaks to us. We are not rehearsing what He spoke long ago to other people far away in time and geography. We are, here and now, in these last days, hearing God speak to us by His Son.
It did happen over two thousand years ago that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea to Mary and Joseph. It happened at a specific time and place in history. God sent His Son into this world. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). But that historic event ushered in a new interaction between God and man. “Now... He has spoken to us by His Son,” not just at that moment, but now, today, here, at this celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord, in this Divine Service.
God spoke to King David through Nathan the prophet. He spoke to ancient Israel through the Psalms that David wrote, and the prophecies of Isaiah. He spoke to Mary and Joseph by an angel and in dreams. He spoke to the shepherds in a chorus of the heavenly host. He spoke to magi by the stars. How incredibly wondrous and amazing! “But now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son,” not less wondrous, but more amazing.
And still we are distracted by the false prophets sounding forth in our world of coming destruction which you must avert, and calamity which mankind must band together to prevent. Still we are distracted by the sounding of secular kings who sing the psalms of apostasy, having rejected the Word of God for themselves and for our nation. Still we are distracted by dreams of wealth and leisure brought to us by the disembodied messengers advertising quick roads and easy paths to pleasure.
Yet God speaks to us, now, in these last days, by His Son, not only in a clearer and more wondrous way than He spoke to His people of old, but in a truer and more pure way than the world speaks its distractions. Now He has spoken to us by His Son, the heir of all things. He created all and He continues to carry it along. “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:2-3). All things are His to continually care for and so He speaks even now to us.
He speaks and in His speaking He reveals to us the true nature of God. God’s radiance flows through Him. The nature of what He says and does reflects the nature that He shares with the heavenly Father. “We have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The One who spoke the world into existence is speaking now, in these last days, to us. The One who spoke with all the glory that had to be concealed on Mt. Sinai, now speaks openly to us. The One whose face shone like the sun now speaks with all of His radiance.
He speaks now as the One who has taken our nature upon Himself and called us brothers, making us children of the heavenly Father and co-heirs with Him. He speaks now to us whom He has purified from sin through His own sacrifice on the cross. He has purified us from our distractions, from wanting to be distracted and from not being able to stop being distracted even when we didn’t want to be. His death and resurrection in the flesh that He became, has made us children of God and He speaks to us now, in these last days, as His brothers whom He has forgiven and saved.
He speaks as the One enthroned with God. He is not sitting idly texting us in His spare time, but He speaks to us as the enthroned King over all, to grant us His pardon and blessing. He speaks to bestow upon us regal honours and to appoint us His royal priesthood. He speaks now to us from the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
But “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him” (John 1:11). He came to speak to them in the flesh and they did not hear. They didn’t hear His words of grace and blessing, forgiveness and salvation. God spoke to them by His Son and they killed Him. “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God” (v. 12).
“Now, in these last days, He has spoken,” now, today, to you. The Word became flesh to speak to you now. He has spoken to declare that you are purified from your sins through His precious blood shed upon the cross. He has spoken to declare that you are children of God. He has spoken to declare that you have an inheritance in heaven.
The distractions will continue to come, but so does He. He comes right here to speak to you, like He is now. He comes in these last days to speak forgiveness and grace and peace amid the distractions of your life that seek to draw you away from Him to where there is no peace. So don’t lose sight of Him amid the nostalgic pictures of Christmas past. Don’t mistake His voice as the cry of a baby in a manger long, long ago. He is speaking now, in these last days, to you.
The creator and sustainer of all things, the radiance of the glory of God, who having purified you from all sin, is seated on God’s throne of power. This is more majestic than the songs of angels. Ever since Jesus was born, God now speaks to you by Him. It happens right here, right now, in these days. It is He who is speaking when His Word is proclaimed to you in the Divine Service. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He is here in His Word and He gives you His enfleshed body and blood right here, right now. He is speaking to you, His forgiveness, His blessing, His promises, His peace.
Grace be with you all.