The Gospel Christmas Teaches

I designed this quotation of Hebrews 1:1-3 as the front of the Christmas card that John and I are giving to our Personal Care Attendants this year. I wanted something unexpected — something a little more difficult for them to gloss over. Something that pointed to the deity of Christ in a way they may have never considered before.

As I worked on the graphic, wrestling with it for about an hour to keep the darker areas of the gradient from blending into the background, I read the passage several times. Although I’d originally intended on emphasizing the first and second verses, verse 3 captivated my attention. Amid testing colors and printing out samples to check how the graphic looked on paper, I grew increasingly amazed by how the writer of Hebrews moved from the sufficiency of God’s Word to Christ’s Incarnation to the atonement and resurrection in three verses. What a wonderful way to present the Gospel in a Christmas card!

The more I thought about this little fragment of God’s Word, the more I wanted to write a blog post about the rich teaching it contains. The writer’s economy in condensing the Gospel message into just three verses encourages me to remember the simplicity, and yet the profound magnificence of our Lord and Savior. We celebrate His birth precisely because He is the glorious One described in this beautiful introduction to Hebrews. So let’s spend a few minutes enjoying the teaching in this small portion of God’s Word.

The writer starts out by establishing that Jesus is God’s final Word to His creation. God did speak in a variety of ways in the Old Testament as He formed the nation of Israel and prepared it for the coming Messiah. In each circumstance, He spoke with a purpose well beyond the immediate concerns of the individuals. But all He spoke to His Old Testament prophets finds its completion in the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle John, in fact, said that Jesus is God’s Word (John 1:1-3, 14). God speaks to us through the Person and work of His Son.

During His earthly ministry and after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples (including Paul, through in a unique manner) and taught them everything He wanted His people to know. In years following, the Holy Spirit brought those teachings to the minds of men who would write the New Testament books. Finally, He appeared to John on Patmos, giving him the last revelation to be recorded. He charged John to solemnly warn future generations against adding or subtracting from His Word (Revelation 22:18-19). Therefore, God has indeed spoken by His Son.

The text exalts Christ by naming Him as God’s “appointed heir,” which isn’t a particularly surprising statement. But it follows this remark by saying that He created all things through Him. By so saying, the phrase intimates that Jesus Himself created the world. John 1:3 and Colossians 1:15-16 substantiate this claim. Since Genesis starts out with the bold proclamation that God created the heavens and the earth, we correctly conclude that verse 2 broaches the idea of Christ’s deity.

Verse 3 clarifies that Christ’s deity is most assuredly what readers must understand from this passage. The writer of Hebrews identifies God’s Son as “the radiance of His glory.” Christians, of course, automatically think back to John 1:14, as well we should. In addition, however, we might consider God’s emphatic proclamation that He will not share His glory (Isaiah 42:8). Reason dictates that the Son could not be the radiance of God’s glory without actually being God Himself.

Next, the writer of Hebrews doubles down on Who Jesus is. As “the exact representation of His nature,” Jesus couldn’t be anything other than God Himself. At another time, perhaps I’ll write about His distinction from God the Father and God the Holy Spirit — that important discussion goes beyond the intent of the writer of Hebrews. The writer here wants to emphasize the divinity of Jesus. Thus he asserts that the Son, by being the exact representation of His nature inherently possesses all the attributes of God. He will, in later verses, elaborate on this point by quoting extensively from the Old Testament.

Notice that verse 3 moves quickly to mention the atonement and resurrection of Christ. The apostle Paul calls these events the essential elements of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Is it a fully orbed presentation of the Gospel? Of course not! Yet it certainly directs the reader to basic Gospel truths, hopefully planting a seed that can be watered at a later time.

Celebrating Christmas goes much deeper than a Baby’s miraculous birth to a virgin. His Incarnation had the purpose of redeeming all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ from sin. Without that message, December 25 means nothing more than food, family and presents. Ah, but with the good news that God Incarnate died for our sins and rose again, Christmas means everything!

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