The Nativity of Our Lord/Christmas Day – Epistle

by Crossings

“Born The King Of Angels”
Hebrews 1:1-4 [5-12]
The Nativity of Our Lord/Christmas Day
Analysis by Michael Hoy

1Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. [5For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? 6And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” 7Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.” 8But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. 9You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” 10And, “In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing; 12like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end.”]


DIAGNOSIS: The Old Days

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – Fragmented Ways
In the “old days,” the preacher of Hebrews tells us, God spoke “in fragmentary and varied fashion” (v. 1, New English Bible). Exegete Robert Smith gives us a sense of the varied fragments of old by which God spoke: “through dreams and signs, through vision and audition, in earthquake and storm, by Urim and Thummim, in bush and fire, in smoke and a column of cloud, through angels and even through animals. But most clearly, forcibly, and memorably God addressed the ancients by the prophets.” But the conditions of the “old days” are not ancient; they continue as people attempt to ascertain God’s will and purpose for life. Consider the fascination today with angels, not only at Christmas but as a whole entertainment enterprise. Attention to angels and various other spiritual practices today are treated as “new age” phenomena-though there is nothing particularly “new” about this age per se. Other phenomena that have this same “old days-new age” character include bibliolatry (worship of Scripture versus worship of God), legalism (strict adherence to the law as a means to achieve righteousness before God), and antinomianism (lawlessness perceived by the practitioner as religious freedom). These forms of spirituality are all part of the fragmented ways of humanity that miss the core message of God’s will for us in Christ. When we receive God’s will only in fragments we diminish the necessity of Christ and fail to comfort the Christian conscience. That was the problem for the Hebrews, who were persecuted and looking for words of comfort; and that is the problem today for people who are brow-beaten by all the pressures they face in their lives and need true comfort.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – Fragmented (Un)faith
For the Hebrews, and for us, the problem at the spiritual level is similar. They/we begin trust in fragmented versions of the truth. Consequently, what they/we receive is not a whole faith, and certainly not a holy faith. It is apostasy-turning from the promise of Christ to some cheapened version of spirituality.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – Fragmented … from God!
Ultimately, when we hold to such cheapened faith we also hold onto a cheapened and fragmented relationship with God. But God is not cheap about his judgment of our relationship with him. Rather, he leaves us to our whimsical choices, hands us over to our fragmented attempts to achieve life and hope. Left to our own devices, our fragmented relationship with God leaves us fragmented from God.

PROGNOSIS: These Last Days

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – Purification for Our Sins
But God will not leave us to our own devices, so-unlike in the old days (when God spoke in fragmented ways)-in these last days God has spoken to us by his Son (v. 1). This Son is heir of all things, given such power that even the angels are called to worship him (v. 6). And why has the Son received such power and authority? Because through his own sacrifice-his suffering and death on the cross-he demonstrates that he is the very reflection of God’s glory (v. 3). This is God’s unfragmented will for the world-to show mercy through his Son, who is his exact imprint. The Son sacrifices his life, and through his death accomplishes God’s will: We are purified from sin-made pure, holy, and whole before God (v. 3).

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – Sustained under the Name of Christ
The name that this Son, Jesus, inherits is superior to all cheaper versions (v. 4) that call for our attention. And when we see our lives through this Son’s sacrifice, we also understand that we are inheritors of his name and his promise! The preacher of Hebrews makes reference to how this Son “sustains all things by his powerful word” (v. 3). We (sinners for whom Christ made purification) are among those “things” that are sustained by his word. We, who in our weariness and exhaustion have turned in all directions for words of hope and comfort, finally find ourselves sustained by the Son’s powerful word.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – Hooking Others on the Chain
And having been sustained by his powerful word, we too sustain. The preacher of Hebrews sustains his fellow believers by providing further words of comfort and hope (in vv. 5-12), linking all the “fragmented” promises of the “old days” (old covenant) into a catena (a chain) of phrases that point to the Son as the one who is above all angels. The preacher’s point is not to put others down, but to raise them up to a new vision, a new hope, that finds fulfillment and culmination in Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, the “king of angels.” The message is unfragmented: Christ is the one who links us to the hope, promise, comfort, and joy of life with God!

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  • Crossings

    Crossings is a community of welcoming, inquisitive people who want to explore how what we hear at church is useful and beneficial in our daily lives.

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