God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake
in time past unto the fathers
The news hit a little closer to home than usual last year at this time.
Usually I’m far, far removed from any news story – and that’s oftentimes a good thing. Last year, however, as the nation held its collective breath as searchers hunted feverishly for stranded mountain climbers on Oregon’s Mount Hood, I could fashion my prayers a bit more personally. After all, the brother of one of the lost men was a professor at our seminary.
Everyone – especially their dear families – waited, prayed and hoped for a word from the men. If only the searchers and the climbers could have communicated, could have established some line of communication! Regrettably, neither side managed to communicate a word to the other, and those climbers soon succumbed to the harrowing conditions.
Google the name “God,” you’ll get 562,000,000 hits. Five-hundred sixty-two million! Apparently human beings are interested in God, and apparently we’re not bashful about talking about Him either.
But now that the gifts have been unwrapped and the world has gone through the motions of what it calls Christmas, humans yet in solemn stillness lie. The wrapping paper has been discarded and, as a friend of mine says, folks are lining up at the doors of Wal-mart hoping to exchange that Salad Shooter for what they thought they really wanted for Christmas – but they (you?) are no closer to possessing Christmas joy than they were before Advent began.
You and I like to talk about someone we call “God.” Yet we refuse to hear Him talk about Himself, because while we see the importance of mountain climbers “getting the word,” you and I deny the importance of hearing God’s Word.
His Word, however, is the only communication you and I truly need.
Generally speaking, St. Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews sets forth the superiority of Jesus Christ over all the Old Testament laws and ceremonies. Study the epistle and you’ll note the numerous comparisons Paul makes between Jesus and the Mosaic Law, between Jesus and the angels, between Jesus and the old covenant priesthood (to name a few). The message of our text this morning is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures and is superior even to the angels in heaven.
God has been pleased to reveal Himself to man through the ages, as Paul notes in our first verse. The Lord in times past spoke to Moses from a burning bush and to Elijah in a still, small voice and to Job out of the whirlwind. He spoke here and there, always giving a true and increasingly detailed revelation of His character and will – but sometimes God went centuries without speaking to man.
Jesus, Paul writes, is far superior to those Old Testament revelations, not because they weren’t true but because he is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Word. He is the Word of the Father, late in flesh appearing, and is the brightness of God’s heavenly glory among us. Jesus is the “character,” or express image, of the invisible God, declaring God the Father to us.
But you and I won’t hear Him.
We think we’ve got God figured out. We think that with all our erudition and scientific advances we can make God in our own image. We don’t need His Word, we think.
And yet this world lies in death and sadness, and all the gifts in the universe can’t help.
Jesus declares the invisible God to you and to me, and in particular Paul says Jesus declares God’s perfect and final forgiveness of all our sin. The Jews were used to offering sacrifice after sacrifice, creating a bloody pool in Jerusalem; Jesus, the true Lamb of God, offered the final sacrifice and sat down in the seat of authority and honor in heaven. If Paul’s original hearers would have taken his word to heart, they would have been freed from their guilt before the Lord God.
But they would not hear the Word, and neither will you and I.
We hope the gifts will ease our consciences. We try to appease the “God” we have created with our own words by doing good deeds and – for a time – refraining from sinful habits.
Yet you and I have no peace. And we never will, Paul says, so long as we neglect this great salvation.
Just one word. That’s all the families of those lost mountaineers wanted. That’s all the searchers needed in order to find them. Just one word.
You and I are fascinated with such news stories, and we’re fascinated with communication, given all our cell phones and e-mail accounts. Hearing and speaking words seems so easy to us that we are floored when something such as the Mount Hood disaster occurs.
You and I employ words all the time. We talk a lot, and we talk about God.
Only the Son, however, has sent the Father – the One for whom your soul longs. Only he can speak the Word of forgiveness, of grace and of peace.
This Christmas, will you hear Him?