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Epistle to the Hebrews 1: 1-4 (NIV)
1 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. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
It is still possible to find nativity scenes displayed in the public domain in this country however these are far less evident than when I, as a child, was overawed by the season and all that Christmas represented.
Nativity scenes, Christmas cards with Biblical imagery (also much less in evidence these days) and the words of the carols all present the infant Jesus in the bosom of the holy family in his most vulnerable state – or is it? The Son of God, born a long way from home and soon laid to sleep in an animal feeding trough was later to be an infant refugee fleeing from the murderous emissaries of King Herod. Yet the protection of the Father ensured he would survive to adulthood where he again was made vulnerable through his arrest, trial and execution on a cross.
The birth story we are celebrating is presented in swaddling cloths of powerlessness and helplessness; “From Heaven you came, helpless babe”* expresses it well. So it is helpful for us to consider passages such as the opening verses of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of the Gospel of John** to be reminded how this baby of Mary carried the divine character into a desperately unhappy world.
At this very moment, this “Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (verse 3) where he sits down “at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven”. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” when he was making the universe, and when he was providing purification for sins, and when he was “sustaining all things by his powerful word”. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” when he was teaching his disciples and the crowds which followed him. As the infant Jesus, lying in an animal trough and being stared at by illiterate shepherds, he was “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being”.
We dare not stoop to pick up and coo over and cuddle this infant! This infant is “much superior to the angels” and the heavenly host which sing his praises and glorify God for the incarnation of the Saviour of the world. How dare we come to him in any manner short of reverence and awe.
May this be an awe-some Christmas for you and those whom you love.
* The Servant King by Graham Kendrick
**The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1: 14).