St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

What Child Is This?

Christmas Day Sermon on Hebrews 1:1-9

Text: In the past God spoke to our ancestors 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 also 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.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father”?
Or again,
“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son”?
6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
7 In speaking of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels spirits,
and his servants flames of fire.”
8 But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

How many babies do you think were born in the United States in 2019? According to the CDC, there were 3,745,540 babies that were born in 2019. That’s a lot of babies. Each little one came into the world unique from all of the other babies that have been born. At first, you may not be able to see what makes that baby different from the others. There may be some minor differences, but you really can’t tell much about the child until they have grown. This Christmas morning, we focus our attention to a baby that was born over 2,000 years ago. As we gather in spirit around his manger, we want to think about what makes this baby so unique. Using the words of the familiar Christmas carol, we ask WHAT CHILD IS THIS? We see that 1. This Is God’s Son, Through Whom God Speaks To Us and that 2. This Is God Himself, Working Our Salvation.

The writer of this epistle to Hebrew Christians wrote this book at a time of persecution. Apparently, there were some Jewish Christians, who were tempted to return to Judaism, because that was a legal religion. The purpose of this letter was to show the people that Jesus was the fulfillment of and superior to any of the Old Testament sacrifices and ceremonies that these people had grown up knowing. To go back would mean abandon all that Jesus had come to the earth to do.

We see this superiority already in the first verses of our text: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways.” (Verse 1) God had raised up many prophets throughout the Old Testament. There were men such as Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, and John the Baptist to name a few. One after another, in continuing succession, the prophets preached, taught, lamented, sang, warned, promised, and comforted. This shows us that God wanted to speak with his people. He could well have left mankind in the dark after Adam and Eve fell into sin. However, God had so much love in his heart that he wanted to tell the people what was going to happen. His great desire from the time of the fall into sin onward was to speak to his people about his Son and the salvation he would accomplish.

All of these prophets were getting people ready for the ultimate Prophet, Jesus Christ. “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” (Verse 2) Right away, you can see the superiority of this prophet. All of the other prophets were speaking what God had told them to say. Because this Prophet is God’s Son, he speaks of his own accord. There is great significance to the fact that this is God himself speaking. First of all, it means that there are absolutely no errors in what he says, because God is perfect. Secondly, it means that you can count on everything that he says. If Jesus makes a promise to you in his Word, you know that it will happen. It’s not just a wish or a hope, such as when you wish someone a “Merry Christmas.” That individual may or may not have a merry Christmas. You can do nothing to ensure that one way or the other. However, when Jesus tells us that something will happen, you can count on it. He promises to take care of you. You can be sure that he will. He promises that he will hear all of your prayers. You can count on it. He promises that there is a heaven to which he will take all believers. You can be as sure of that as if you were already standing on those streets of gold. When this Baby in Bethlehem grows up and speaks, you can count on those words, because they come from God himself.

There is one other thing of note. The writer to the Hebrews says, “In these last days.” (Verse 2) These words indicate that there is no further need of revelation from God. We shouldn’t look for any new revelations or prophecies from God. We don’t need any further information. Nor is God going to communicate with us in new and different ways, other than the Scriptures. Jesus Christ, in his person and in the record he caused to be set down in the New Testament is God’s last and fullest word to us. What Child is this? This is God’s Son, through whom God speaks with us.

The next verses highlight what truly makes this baby in Bethlehem unique. They remind us that this is no normal baby lying there on the hay. This is a truly unique individual in that he is both true man and true God. This teaching gives us great comfort and joy at Christmas and beyond. When we see how God exalted the human nature as the attributes of the Son of God were communicated to the man born of Mary, we rejoice. This shows us that God didn’t give up on humanity because of sin. Instead he found a way to raise us up from our sin and decay to give us the sure hope of a glorious and holy life.

First of all, we read in verse 2, “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.” As God, Christ had no need to be appointed heir of all things; he was the original owner. However, as true man, he was appointed heir of all things, which is to say, “All creation.” We take note of the fact it says, “Through whom also he made the universe.” This reminds us of the opening verses of John’s Gospel. In speaking of Jesus, it says, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3)

Going on in verse 3, we read, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory.” Jesus possesses the glory of God in and of himself and also radiates that glory in order to make it known to us. In Jesus the shining holiness, the bright wisdom and power, the glowing love and mercy of God light up the world so that we can see what our God is like. Jesus is “the exact representation of [God’s] being.” When we look at Christ, we see God and everything about God in perfect detail. When we want to see how merciful God is, we look to the Scriptures to see the mercy of Christ. If we want to see God’s power over Satan, look at Jesus’ dealings with him. If we want to hear the wisdom of God, we listen to the teachings of Jesus. This Baby in Bethlehem is not just a cute little infant. He is also true God, from all eternity.

The reason that this is so important and why we celebrate Christmas is found in verse 3, “He had provided purification for sins.” Jesus was exactly the type of Savior that we needed. He had to be a human being so that he would be subject to all of God’s law, as you and I are. He had to be true God to keep the law perfectly, which we could never do. Jesus had to be a human being, so that he could die. After all, God has made it clear that the wages of sin is death. Jesus had to be a human being so that he could die, but he also had to be true God so that his suffering and death would count for all people.

What was the ultimate result of Jesus’ work? He “provided purification for sins.” Jesus did not clean up our will, our reason, or our abilities so that we could earn God’s favor and blessing through some sort of second-chance effort on our part. Jesus’ work purified us from sin. He washed away the filth of our sin. Now, when our holy God looks at us, he only sees the perfection of his Son. As a result, we have the eternal joys of heaven to look forward to. This really is the heart of the Christian message. The Son of God took on human flesh and blood for one purpose: to provide purification from sin. This is the Good News of Christmas. It highlights God’s love for us. The almighty Creator of the universe favored all people with a love that was greater than their sin. What Child is this? This is God himself, working our salvation.

Verse 6 of our text highlights the nativity of Christ: “When God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’” When we read those words, we cannot help but be reminded of the angelic chorus singing out across the Bethlehem countryside, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14) As we have been reminded of God’s love for us this Christmas morning, we cannot help but add our voices in praise. We thank God that we know exactly what child this is. “This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.” Since we know this to be true, “Haste, haste to bring him laud, The babe, the Son of Mary!” Amen.