SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
DECEMBER 23, 2018
Title: “Christmas Means Listening to Jesus.”
Text: “In these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (Hebrews 1:2 RSV).
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 1:1-4.
The first four verses of Hebrews 1 serves as an introduction to the whole epistle. These verses set forth major doctrines of Christianity. The different ways in which God spoke through the prophets bring to the fore a major theological theme in Hebrews, namely, the relationship between the Old and the New Testament. It talks about God’s prophecies about the coming of Christ communicated through the prophets. God communicates through Jesus Christ in our day and time. What does the coming of Christ means for us? What does Christmas means for us? Christmas means many things. Christmas means giving, sharing, loving, singing, and fellowship. But Christmas also means listening to Jesus Christ, to what God has to say through His birth. The big question is, “ do you listen when God speaks through Jesus?
The faith of the Old Testament and the faith of the New Testament is that the God we worship is the God who communicates with his creatures. The Bible is a record of God’s events of self disclosure in which he has sought to communicate with his people. One way in which he communicates is through his natural creation (Psalms 19:1-4). Another way God communicates is through what we call conscience. People have a sense of “oughtness.” God communicates through a universal moral law to people’s consciences.
The writer of Hebrews declares that “in many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1;1 RSV). God spoke through holy men moved by the Holy Spirit. Through Moses, God gave the Ten Commandments, ten great principles by which an ordered and stable society can be regulated, maintained, and perpetuated. These laws are self executing laws in that to ignore or to violate a single one of them is to break oneself on them (Exodus 20).
Through Elijah, God called the nation of Israel away from the waste and desolation of idolatry and urged them to worship the one true God (1 Kings 18:21-22). Have you listened to the challenge of God through the prophet Elijah? Have you forsaken the false gods that always disappoint? Are you worshipping the one true God the one true God with all of your heart?
Through Isaiah, God spoke concerning his sovereign holiness. Isaiah went into the temple to pray at a time when his mind was filled with thoughts of an empty throng because of the death of King Uzziah (Isaiah 6:1). As Isaiah bow in reverent worship, God opened the eyes of his soul and let him see the eternal king sitting sovereign and supreme, majestic and holy, on the throne of the universe. God revealed to the frightened young man that even though Uzziah was dead, Israel’s God was still on the throne. The God whom Isaiah saw was a holy God who could not tolerate sin. Isaiah acknowledged his own sinfulness and unworthiness, and immediately one of the seraphim came and purged away the filth of his soul by the means of a hot coal taken of the altar. With cleansing there came a call to God’s service, and Isaiah volunteered. He heard what God was saying. Have you heard what God was saying through his prophet Isaiah?
Through the rustic shepherd prophet, Amos, God spoke to northern Israel concerning his own moral character and of the absolute necessity of his people being committed to righteousness and justice. It was Amos who declared that a moral God places moral demands on his people, that a God of integrity requires integrity on the part of his people (Amos 7:15). Have you heard God speak through Amos?
Through Hosea, God spoke to the nation of Israel concerning his suffering, seeking love. Hosea is the evangelist of the Old Testament, the prophet through whom God revealed that there is hope in God’s grace when all hope seemingly has disappeared. In Hosea’s domestic tragedy, God revealed his compassionate love for the wayward nation in the person of Gomer, the prophet’s wayward wife (Hosea 1:2; 2:5) How do you listen when God speaks? Have you heard what God was saying through the prophets of old?
The message of Christmas and the message of our Hebrew text declares that in these last days God has spoken through his Son, who was born of a virgin in Bethlehem. Christmas means that we should listen to Jesus Christ as he speaks about God, for it is in Jesus Christ that God has made his full and final self-disclosure. Kindly walk with me this morning as we examine this passage in Hebrews, and understand how God is speaking to us through Jesus Christ this Christmas season. So why should we listen to Jesus Christ?
Reading Hebrew 12, you will find out that God appointed Jesus Christ “the heir of all things.” Jesus Christ is declared the goal of history. The kingdom belongs to Jesus Christ. John declared, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15 RSV). It is important to know also that victory belongs to Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:6-11). Jesus Christ has fought the decisive battle of history through his coming in the flesh, assuming the form of a servant, taking on himself our guilt, and dying as a sacrifice for ur sins on the cross. God exalted him by raising him from the dead and has lifted him to the position of supreme authority in this world and the world to come. It is through this One who is “the heir of all things” that God speaks.
People listen to people of power. Powerful political and military leaders can command a crowd. Those who have power in the world of finance can command the attention of businesspeople. The inspired writer tells us that in Jesus Christ lied the creative power by which the universe was literally called into being, John declared. “He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:2-3 RSV). In Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, he declared, “All things were created through him and for him” (1:16 RSV).
One other reason you should be listening to Jesus Christ is because Jesus Christ reflects the glory of God. The word translated reflect is a strong word also translated “effulgence.” It refers to the radiance shining forth from a source of light. Just as the radiance of the sun reaches the earth, so in Jesus Christ the glorious light of God shines forth to illuminate the heart and the way of humankind (Isaiah 49:3;1 Corinthians 4:6).
Jesus Christ is the very image of the substance of God. We see the images of great people on our coins. Just as the image on a coin exactly correspond to the device on the die used to make that coin, so the Son of God bears the very stamp of God’s nature. To see Jesus Christ is to see what God is really like. Paul said to the Colossians, “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (1:19 RSV).
Jesus Christ upholds all things in “the universe by the word of his power.” Jesus Christ upholds the universe not like the mythological creature Atlas who supported the dead weight of the earth on his shoulders but as one who carries all things forward on an appointed course. Jesus Christ keeps the universe on schedule (Colossians 1:17).
Jesus Christ, the baby of Bethlehem lived his life, rendered his service, and finally sacrificed himself as an atonement for our sins on a cross. For us to neglect to hear him speak concerning our need for the forgiveness of our sin is to miss what God is saying through Jesus Christ at this and every Christmastime.
As the perfect High Priest, Jesus Christ has entered into the most holy place as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. He has borne the penalty for us all. On the basis of his sacrificial death for our sin, he is able to offer us the gift of eternal life..
As the One who has conquered death and who is alive forevermore, Jesus serves as our advocate, making intercession for us (Hebrew 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2). It is not enough for us to sing beautiful Christmas carols and rejoice in a baby who was born long ago. Let us listen to what he has to say about God and let us respond to what he has to say about humankind’s deepest need.
Jesus Christ was born to be our King. He merits the place of lordship in our hearts and lives. Jesus Christ alone can be our Savior from sin. He has come offering forgiveness and a new life. Have you heard his invitation “Come unto me” and respond by making him the Lord of your life? Jesus is a worthy and competent leader who says, “follow me.” Have you listened and heard him as he invites you to become acquainted with God?
How do you listen to what God has to say through Jesus Christ? Are you in some pain that makes you too uncomfortable to listen? Have you been too injured or have you become too angry to listen? Are you a fool who is too stupid to listen? Are you a self-sufficient, sophisticated, conceited person who feels no need to listen? Are you preoccupied with things that you are too busy to listen? Are you too fearful and uncertain to listen? Or are you willing to listen to Christ now as he speaks words of assurance concerning the greatness of God’s love for you and the wonder of God’s plan for your life? Let the Christ of Bethlehem become your King and Lord of your empire. Make him Lord so that you can experience the joy of being what God meant for you to be. I wish you a Merry Christmas. Happy Holiday. God bless you!