Hebrews 1:1-3 (The Nativity of Our Lord—Christmas Day)
“Jesus, the Ultimate Word and Revelation of God”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
December 25, 2016
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is Epistle Reading from Hebrews 1:
In various portions and in various ways long ago God had spoken to the fathers in the prophets. In these last days He spoke to us in the Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world, who is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and carries all things along by the Word of His power. After He had made purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Jigsaw puzzles can be a great hobby. There are several members of our congregation who are puzzle hobbyists. I’ve only put together one in the past few years, a picture of steam trains in the railyard. I have one puzzle remembering the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and another of Oriole Park at Camden Yards that are in the drawer waiting for me. When you start your puzzle, it doesn’t look like much. But ever so slowly, the picture becomes clearer and clearer. Over time you begin to make out the details of what will eventually be the finished product.
As we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus on this Christmas Day, the writer to the Hebrews begins his letter to the Church illustrating how we got to this Holy Day. Throughout the time of the Old Testament God proclaimed His Word through the mouths of His prophets. In the Book of Genesis, Moses recorded the very first Word of promise about a Savior in Genesis 3:15. God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Like a puzzle put together piece by piece, throughout history, God expanded and clarified and filled in more and more details about the One He would send to be the Savior of the world. He would be a descendant of Abraham (Gen. 12:3). He would be of the house and lineage of King David (2 Sam. 7:12). The Savior would be Emmanuel, God with us, born of a virgin (Is. 7:14), Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6b). This Savior would be the Servant of the Lord upon whom the Spirit would be given (Is. 42:1), who would bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Is. 61:1-2). This Servant would also be despised and rejected by men, stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God and pierced for our sins. He would heal us with His wounds (Is. 53:3-4).
In various portions and in various ways God’s promise of a Savior was revealed and repeated and expanded. Then at the right time, the Son of God came from heaven above. He took to Himself a real human nature, being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14). That Word of promise long spoken by the prophets dwelt among sinful humanity as the sinless Savior, true God and true Man. He preached the Good News that the promise of God was fulfilled—the Kingdom of God was near and here in the person of Jesus Christ. The very God who first spoke creation into existence was preaching on the hillside, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). The very God who gave the Word of the Law on Mt. Sinai announced again and again, “You have heard that it was said. . . . But I say to you,” as He rightly interpreted His Commandments for the people. The God who fed the Israelites in the wilderness with manna and quail, in the person of Jesus, fed the 5000 plus with bread and fish. Jesus, true God and true Man, healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, restored hearing to the deaf, and made the lame to walk. He cleansed lepers and raised the dead to life. He spoke the Word and it was done.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh. He is the fulfillment of the prophetic Word of Promise. He is the final Word of salvation from the Father because He is salvation. He is the Savior promised long ago in many and various ways. It was Jesus who brought the mercy of God the Father to us who are like filthy, polluted rags, people lost eternally to death in our sins. And so Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man, made purification for sins. Not His own sin, but yours and mine.
The Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ, was nailed to a cross. There it was that this Servant of the Lord was pierced for our transgressions. He shed His blood as the once-and-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It is this blood, this holy, precious blood of the God-Man Jesus Christ, that cleanses us and purifies us from all our sins (1 John 1:7). Jesus’ blood merits forgiveness for you and me. Jesus’ blood takes away our sins, making atonement for us before God the Father so that we are declared to be holy and righteous before Him. Our sins are no longer counted against us because Jesus has purified us from them all.
The puzzle picture of salvation is completed through the saving life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. His Word to you on Christmas and every day of the year is this: “I am your Savior. I loved you so much that I took on flesh and suffered all the temptations that you face. On your behalf, I kept all of the Father’s commandments perfectly. Then I took your sin and guilt into My own person and paid the wages of sin for you. I suffered hell on the cross, shedding My blood to make you clean from all sin, rescuing you from death and from the power of the devil. I rose from the dead on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, as promised. I ascended into heaven and have given you the Holy Spirit who delivers faith, forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation to you in the Gospel Word, in Baptism, and in the Supper of My Body and Blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.”
That is the final, definitive Word for you and me from God Himself in the person of His One-of-a-kind Son. Jesus continues that proclamation of His Gospel through the Means of Grace and through His called pastors who administer those Means in the stead and by the command of Christ on behalf of the congregations that they serve. Let there be no doubt in your minds that, when I, as your called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God to you in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, that your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is just as valid and certain in heaven as if Christ our Lord spoke to you face to face because His Word does what He says it does.
The same is true for your Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. “Baptism now saves you,” the Word promises in 1 Peter 3:21. The water and Word of the Gospel applied to you in Baptism does what the Word says it does. It rescues from sin and death and creates saving faith in Jesus. This faith receives the forgiveness of sins purchased and won for you by Christ. And the Word of Christ combined with bread and wine delivers to our lips and hearts the true Body and Blood of Jesus in, with, and under the elements of bread and wine. In the eating and drinking of the Sacrament of the Altar, you receive the gifts of the Word of God who was made flesh—His body, crucified for you; His blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, for life, salvation, and the strengthening of your Baptismal faith.
The jigsaw puzzle of Scripture is complete and it is the most beautiful picture! In the Incarnate Son of God, our Savior Jesus Christ, you have the ultimate Word and revelation of God to you for your forgiveness and salvation from sin, death, and the devil. This Word accomplishes all that it promises to you in Jesus. It is a Word that you can trust in, a sure Word that declares you purified from sin and at peace with God the Father who loved you so much that He sent His One-of-a-kind Son to take upon Himself human flesh in order to save you and all humanity from death and hell. “In various portions and in various ways long ago God had spoken to the fathers in the prophets. In these last days He spoke to us in the Son” a Word of forgiveness, a Word of everlasting life, purchased and won for you and me through the precious blood of Jesus, who takes away our sin. This is the gift of Christmas and it is all yours year-round, forever and ever! Amen.