Sermon for Christmas Day, December 25th, 2022
The Lessons: Isaiah 52:7-12; Hebrews 1:1-12; John 1:1-18
The Text: Hebrews 1:1-12
The Topic: The eternal Son by whom God the Father has spoken to us.
When the Moravian Christians of Europe launched Protestant missions, they did it at a cost. Many of them had to leave their children behind in boarding schools across England and the Continent.
And so it was that the Montgomery family reluctantly placed six-year-old James in such an institution as they shipped off as foreign missionaries to the West Indies. When they later perished, James, left with nothing, spent his teenage years drifting from pillar to post, writing poetry, and trying his hand at one thing then another.
In his early twenties, he began working for a British newspaper, the Sheffield Iris, and there he found his niche. When his editorials proved unpopular with the local officials, he was thrown into jail and fined twenty pounds. But he emerged from prison a celebrity, and he used his newly acquired fame to promote his favorite issues.
Chief among them was the Gospel. Despite the loss of his parents and all his hardships, James Montgomery remained devoted to Christ and the Scriptures.
As the years passed, he became the most respected leader in Sheffield, and his writings were eagerly read by its citizens. Early on Christmas Eve, 1816, James, forty-five, opened his Bible and was deeply impressed by Luke 2:13. Pondering the story of the heralding angels, he took his pen and started writing. By the end of the day his new Christmas poem was being delivered to England in the pages of his newspaper. It was later set to music and was first sung on Christmas Day, 1821, in a Moravian Church in England.
Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth;
Come and worship, Come and worship,
Worship Christ the new-born King.
Instead of a scene of angels appearing suddenly to shepherds in the fields at night, today’s Epistle presents a comparison between the glorified, ascended Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the angels, who are described as “a flame of fire” and “ministering spirits.”
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ, and all the readings show what a great difference God made to the world by becoming incarnate in the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE EXCELLENCE OF GOD’S SON
In the opening statement of Hebrews 1, the writer declares that God spoke in different ways and at different times to the fathers by means of the prophets, but he has in these last days spoken to us though his Son, whom he has appointed heir to all things, and through whom he created the worlds. This means that there is a great distinction between the various ways in which God spoke at different periods of history through Israel’s prophets, from Moses to Malachi, and the definitively clear way in which He has spoken to Israel and to all mankind through His Son, Jesus Christ the Lord.
In words which mirror the opening verses of the Gospel according to St. John, the writer of this Epistle describes God’s Son as “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power.” In these expressions of the identity of the Son, his eternal deity and relation to the Father, as well as his creative, sustaining power, are revealed. There can be no doubt that the same Son is the Lord Jesus Christ, since the writer adds immediately after this, that the Son, after purging our sins, sat down at God’s right hand.
The Lord Jesus Christ is more excellent than all the angels since he has inherited a name more excellent than theirs. Elsewhere, St. Paul affirms this when he writes, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The writer further clarifies the supremacy of the Son by quoting Scripture verses which emphasize the Son as begotten by the Father, and God the Father’s eternal relation to the Son. To show the superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ to the angels, the writer relates how God told the angels to worship him when God brought his first-begotten son into the world. More evidence of the angels’ inferiority to the Son is shown by the fact that they are spirits and a flame of fire, whereas the Son has an eternal dominion and throne, and shared in God’s creation of all things, and will live forever, and God will subdue his enemies before him. By contrast, the angels are ministering spirits sent out to minister to those who will inherit salvation.
The theme that thunders through all this exposition of the contrast between the eternal Son and the angels is that God has spoken to us clearly through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because He is God’s Son, we must pay the more attention to what God has said through Him. This theme is taken up with more urgency in the second chapter of the Epistle.
WHY WAS SO MUCH MADE OF THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE ETERNAL SON AND THE ANGELS?
Why is it necessary we remember this great distinction between the Lord Jesus Christ and the angels of God? Let us remember that the Jewish leaders of the time could not tolerate the truth that Jesus Christ was the eternal Son of God. However, some of the Pharisees would rather believe that an angel or a spirit had spoken to Paul. They could believe this since they believed that angels and spirits exist. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was declaring the truth that it was not through a mere angel or spirit that God has spoken to mankind in this age, but through the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son.
Even today it is easier for people to believe in or worship angels, than it is to believe in and accept Jesus Christ for who he is, the only Begotten Son of God, and Lord of all.
But the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s fullest revelation of His divine nature and character to the world. The angels themselves worship Him as Lord, and it is only false angels, or demons, who would lead us to worship them, or to believe a different Gospel from the one given to the Church by the Lord Jesus Christ.
The message of God to us through the Lord Jesus Christ’s birth is one that calls us back to God, and commands us to listen to His beloved Son.
Will you listen to Him and live your life in obedience to Him?
 p. 113, , Robert J. Morgan: Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007.