So far it has happened every year, and this year was really no exception. I think most of you know, my wife and I have three kids. So, naturally at Christmas time they receive gifts, and sometimes those gifts they receive come from very well-meaning aunts and uncles or grandparents, but as the kids open those gifts there’s always one present that causes me and my wife to lock eyes and mentally say to one another, “what in the world is this?” Anyone else out here experience this? There is always that one toy, that just, ah, really? Someone thought this was a good idea? Where are we going to store that? That thing takes how many batteries? And as thoughts like that are running through your mind, of course, your kids love the gift and want to play with it right away. So, what do you do now? Merry Christmas, right?
This makes me wonder about Mary and Joseph. Now, to be fair they were warned but, like any young couple expecting their first child, it’s hard to comprehend just how life changing that first child will be until he enters the world, and this child was no ordinary child. So, you go back to Mary and Joseph. There’s that big announcement of Jesus’ birth by the angel. There’s that journey to Bethlehem. There is no room in the inn but, finally, that baby is born. Jesus steps into the world. God in human flesh is placed in a lowly manger. A host of angels announce his birth. Shepherds show up to see him, and wise men come a bit later bearing gifts, and you wonder amidst all of this, did Mary and Joseph ever sort of just look at each other and mentally think, “What is this? What do we do now?”
Now, I’m not sure if Mary and Joseph asked that question, but I think that’s a question worth asking. I mean, it’s true, we are not Jesus’ parents, but we are his people and, as Isaiah made clear, “to us a child is born.” So, Jesus is ours; he’s yours. What will you do with him? What are you going to do with Jesus? Especially if you look at these words from our lesson today.
I mean look at what the writer to the Hebrews tells us. Look at verse one and two with me, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” But wait there is more, verse three, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” What do you do with that…with Jesus?
Because do you see what was born in that manger? This was no ordinary child. This was “the heir of all things”, the one whom God used to create everything around us. This child was “the exact representation of God’s being” who “sustains all things.” And we haven’t even got to the best part yet. Here is the best part: these verses tell us that God gave you his final Word and this Word was spoken to you by his Son. Now what does all that mean and why did I say this is the best part?
Well, remember how God used to appear to his people? In the Old Testament, sometimes he’d be this big pillar of fire or this large, impressive cloud. He came in earthquakes and with lighting and thunder. God often was truly terrifying to his people. They couldn’t look at his glory, people died in his presence. But here is Jesus, God’s glory, in a form that we can relate to. He was a human who could interact with us, share in our sorrows, rejoice in our joys, this was someone whom we could approach, who looked just like us because he was like us. And God chose to speak through Jesus not just to give us information but to give us himself, or to say it differently God sent Jesus here – Jesus was born – so we could personally come to know him and have a relationship with the God of the universe.
And, if you think about that, that’s a beautiful thing. God stepped into this world to reveal himself to us. To bring us to him, to gather us up, and make us his own. God chose to do this. He chose to come to us and be with us through that child born of a virgin Mary. Which means, and as the writer to the Hebrews says, from now to the end of time there is no fuller, no more final, expression of God than Jesus. Full Stop. No ifs ands or buts, there is nothing else, this is it. Jesus is the final Word.
And, again, this is a beautiful thing, but it’s also a very hard thing for us to hear because this is it. Jesus is it. If you want a personal relationship with God, it starts with Jesus. And, in a way, this is how all personal relationships work. There is no intimacy in a relationship without finality. What do I mean by that? Well, take a young couple for example, a couple that is madly in love. That young couple wants a romantic intimate loving relationship, so they get married, but then they realize that person whom they’re now married to contradicts them. The two disagree with each other. They have opposing wills; they make statements of finality – “This is how it’s going to be. This is who I am.” When these moments occur and these expressions are made, what do you do?
Well, in the case of that young married couple, at least early on, they likely figure everything is negotiable, and some things are, but eventually in any relationship with any person you do reach a point of finality. This is the way I am. This is how I want to live. And unless you accept those things, those finalities, you can’t have a personal relationship with that person. You want intimacy, well, a person has a will and an identity of their own, so you have to accept some of these finalities or that’s the end of the relationship.
So, here is Jesus, born for you, and he wants a real lasting relationship with you. But here is the thing about Jesus, he has a will. He has an identity, and he doesn’t change. He “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” He sustains “all things by his powerful and final word.” And, so unlike other relationships you’ve experienced in your life, your relationship with Jesus, requires only one person to change. You.
You see, ultimately, Christmas is all about our God getting the last word in about us, about you. And what does he have to say about you? Well, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways…” In different ways at different times, whether through dreams or visions, God told the prophets what to say about you. God told Moses to write: “…I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…” (Exodus 20:5). Likewise he told Ezekiel to write: “The soul who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4). The Prophet Isaiah wrote: “There is no peace for the wicked.” (Isaiah 57:21).
Over and over, again and again, God’s prophets spoke of our sin and how we deserved punishment, and death, and hell and how of this keeps us from a true and intimate relationship with our Lord. But none of that is actually God’s final Word about you. Remember? “In these last days (God) has spoken to us by his Son.” God’s final word is Jesus. He knew that if we were ever going to have a relationship with him. We needed to change.
And that’s why Jesus, the Word, took on flesh. And, he did this, he took on flesh, he humbled himself, because it was in this way that he could provide, as we read in verse 3, “purification for sins.” God put on flesh and blood to earn heaven for us sinners by living the life we can’t live – a perfectly holy life worthy of heaven. This is how God chose to change you. Don’t you see – Jesus didn’t come here for Christmas; he came for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. He came to suffer our punishment and death and then rise to give us life and salvation.
Christian songwriter and singer Michael Card captured this very thought in his song, The Final Word.
You and me we use so very many clumsy words.
The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard.
When the Father’s wisdom wanted to communicate His love,
He spoke it in one final perfect Word.
He spoke the incarnation, and then so was born his Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.
Long ago God got in the last word. It wasn’t not an angry word. It wasn’t not the curse we had earned and deserve. It wasn’t not even a reluctant word spoken with a measure of regret. Not at all. God’s final word to us sinners was Jesus, and it still is Jesus. It’s a word that thrills our God because it changes us and brings us into a relationship with him. So, that now he can say, “you are my daughter, you are my son, and one day you will sit with me in heaven.”
Now, what do you do with all of this? What do you with Jesus? There’s only one thing we can do…shout for joy…burst into song…be amazed…worship him…and follow him…for the Lord has made his dwelling among us and has comforted his people. He has given us his Word. His final Word, Jesus. He who saves born to us this day. Amen.
* This illustration was heard in a sermon given by Rev. Timothy Keller in 2015