(Hebrews 1: 1-12)
Change is hard. Change is scary. Change means doing something we believe works differently. I know. Back when I was accepted into the Houston Police Academy in 1976 it was the result of a hiring campaign entitled: Houston Needs 2,000 New Faces. The department was experiencing a dramatic increase in retirements. The men, mostly white, that had been hired after World War Two and Korea were all reaching retirement age and bailing out. Plus, the city leadership knew the department had to change the way the citizens were being policed. The push was on to hire cadets with college degrees, to hire women, and to hire minorities so that we could reflect the nature of the city we were being tasked with policing, a city that was also changing. The problem was that the new recruits were often being trained by officers committed to the old way of doing things which, they thought, had served them well in the past, so why change? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, was their credo. To their way of thinking, the law was the law. The law doesn’t change. Forget all that “touchy-feely” stuff they taught you in the academy and watch how it’s really done, our training officers would say. Fortunately, the City of Houston was committed to the new way of applying the law to the citizens, but the change would meet some resistance, there would be doubts and fears. Questions would be asked, and answers would be demanded. The resistance would be stiff.
And it’s the application of that change, the new way of applying the law that the author of Hebrews is talking about in our scripture reading for this morning. The writer is addressing the concerns of Hebrew converts who were having a tough time, second guessing their decision to follow Christ who, by the way, was no longer around. The firmly entrenched status quo saw to that. Many were considering going back to their former way of practicing their faith, the path of least resistance. God was still God. Everything was written down, you had priests and rabbis to tell you how to worship, there were established traditions and rituals. Really, when you think about it, it all made perfect sense. They had centuries of traditions that established how they worshipped God complete with men who had visions and dreams, prophets who had spoken with God, and angels of the Lord who had personally brought them messages from the All Mighty. And now they were being asked to break with tradition and embrace and accept the fulfillment of God’s promise. It’s not that they didn’t believe in the coming of the Messiah. It’s just that they were entrenched in thinking and worshipping in traditional, familiar forms. Being asked to follow this Jesus of Nazareth who, by the way, only had a short three-year ministry and was unceremoniously put to death by the Romans really seemed to fly in the face of their marvelous heritage and scriptures. The argument was being made by many that this Christ had not returned to establish his kingdom as he had promised. The people needed to be reassured that Christianity was true and that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
The writer of Hebrews starts right out by stating: In the past, God spoke through the prophets to our ancestors in many times and many ways. In these final days, though, he spoke to us through a Son. God made his Son the heir of everything and created the world through him. The Son is the light of God’s glory and the imprint of God’s being. That’s a pretty bold statement. He or she is saying that you can have no clearer view of God than by looking at Christ, and that Jesus Christ, the writer is saying, is the complete expression of God in a human body. This is a tradition the Hebrew readers could understand as in the Jewish tradition it was the firstborn son who took over the family business and represented the father’s interests. Here, God’s Son is described as one who will inherit everything, who participated with the Father in creation who reflects the brilliance, fame, and honor of God, who is the imprint of the Father, and who holds everything together with his powerful word. God has put the son in charge of the family business.
Change has come but the writer does say that He, meaning the Son, maintains everything with his powerful message. The writer reminds the Hebrew readers that after the Son carried out the cleansing of people from their sins, he sat down at the right side of the highest majesty. And, he or she says, the Son became so much greater than the other messengers, such as angels, that he received a more important title than theirs. The Son, the writer, is saying is the perfect representation of God, and that he is greater than the angels. To make his or her point, the author makes several references to the Old Testament such as: You are my Son. Today I have become your Father, and I will be his Father, and he will be my Son, along with several others the readers would be familiar with, points that couldn’t be disputed, meant to show that God was placing Christ above all others.
What the writer of Hebrews realized was not that the Hebrews were getting a mixed message, but that the message was not a clear and unified message. It was time for God to get personal. Through Christ God’s incomplete and scattered communication through the prophets came together in one decisive word, uttered in the Son, and not just in what Christ said, but in who Christ was and is. What the book of Hebrews does is to offer encouragement in two ways. First, the author encourages his or her audience by showing that Jesus is the perfect human; God’s Son, appointed as the perfect high priest, who offers himself to God as the perfect sacrifice in order to overcome sin and make possible an eternal covenant relationship between God and humanity. Second, the author encourages the audience to remain faithful and to overcome the temptation to turn asway by holding fast to the hope of salvation. The message of Hebrews is that Jesus is better, a change for the good, his way is the far more superior way, the only way. Christ and Christ alone is supreme and completely sufficient for the salvation we so need.
Christ’s character will never change. He persistently shows his love to us in so many ways. He is always fair, just, and merciful to us, a people who are so undeserving. Be thankful that Christ is changeless, our constant in a world of uncertainty and turmoil. He will always help you when you need it and offer complete forgiveness when you fall. So, as we continue to celebrate the birth, life, and ministry of Jesus Christ we need to understand and acknowledge that Christ is our only security in a changing world.
Let us pray.
What child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping? This is the child who has brought us salvation, a better way of doing things, a change that brings us closer to God. What a blessing it is to have Christ, the Son of God, forever in our lives to be with us during those difficult times when we are worried and troubled. And what a joy it is to have such a friend and companion who celebrates with us when we experience the highs of a life spent in service to God the Father. We praise you Father for sending us the light of your glory and the imprint of your being so that we may know you like no other God. This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing; haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary. To God be the glory, great things he has done. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.