Year A – Christmas Day – Hebrews 1:1-4

Hebrews 1:1–4 -Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Overview – God is not silent. He speaks to His people. In the Garden He walked with Adam and Eve. After the Fall, God spoke through signs, wonders, stories, and prophets. From a burning bush to a man robed in camel’s hair, God continued to speak. From a donkey to educated men to a shepherd and a fruit-picker, we learn that God does not leave His people alone. Standing on the shoulders of these men, John the Baptist linked their words to Jesus. He prepared the way of the Lord by calling Israel to “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is near.” Jesus, he declared, was the mighty victor—one so mighty that John felt unworthy to even untie His shoes. Now the writer of Hebrews tells us that God still speaks. To that of the prophets God adds the voice of his Son. Jesus repeats and then fulfills their words—a messenger better by far. Let us rejoice in the Advent prophecies for they stand fulfilled. And as Jesus goes forth victoriously, let us heed the Father’s command, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him.”

Insight – These signs, wonders, and prophets speak the word of God, the gospel of the coming Christ. Each repeats the Proto-Evangelion, the message heard from the beginning that a victor would arise to crush the serpent. With Moses this repetition took the form of, “The LORD God of your fathers… will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt…unto a land flowing with milk and honey…and, you shall not go empty.” Isaiah declared that “unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.”

 

Discussion  – Discuss with your family how the Living Word is made known through the written and spoken word. Discuss how sermons, studies, and readings strengthen our faith. Discuss Jesus’ authority as the Living Word of God and the surety of His word’s fulfillment.

Prayer – O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

 

From Pastor Todd Davis, Christ Church, Searcy, Arkansas

Year C – Fifteenth Sunday in Pentecost – Hebrews 13:1-16

Hebrews 13:1-16

Let mutual love continue. 2Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. 4Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. 5Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” 6So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”

7Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food, which have not benefited those who observe them. 10We have an altar from which those who officiate in the tent have no right to eat. 11For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. 13Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. 14For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. 15Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Summary – Hebrews was written to a group of Jewish believers who were tempted to go back to Jewish practices and worship, and leave the new way of Jesus Christ behind. Paul encourages them to keep on believing in Jesus and to not leave the New Covenant Church for the Old ways which were about to perish. He explains to them that Jesus is far better than Moses and the Priesthood, and that the Heavenly Jerusalem is far better than the earthly Jerusalem. In Jesus we have better promises and the fulfillment of all God’s promises.

Chapter 13 focuses on how Christians, who have received an unshakable kingdom (Heb. 12:28), should live amongst each other. Christians are to continually live in brotherly love, showing hospitality, remembering those wrongfully imprisoned for the sake of the gospel, living sexually pure, and content with what God provides. Christians should imitate the faith of their leaders, and have their hearts strengthened by the grace of the preaching of the Word of God, and not on sacrificial food from the Temple altar. Rather, our food is from the Heavenly altar, and so we offer sacrifices of praise to God, and we share what we have with one another, in a sacrificial way. For these are the sacrifices that are pleasing to God.

 Insight – Jesus instructed us in Matt 4:4 that we are to not live by bread alone, but every word of God. Here in Hebrews 13:7-10, we have a similar teaching. Paul encourages the Jewish believers to not put too much of their trust in the food they were eating from the altar. The true food that strengthens the heart, is the grace of the true Word of God. Only those who devote themselves to God’s word will receive the benefits of what the altar food symbolized, which is saving grace. When you come to the Lord’s Table, are you coming with an expectation that your heart will be strengthened by the bread and the wine? Or is your heart strengthened by the grace of God’s Word? Show God you believe His Word by offering Him the sacrifices of praise with the fruit of your lips, and with thanksgiving in your heart.   This is what pleases God. Eat, and be thankful.

Catechism – Q. What is the true food that strengthens our heart? A. The Word of God.

Discussion – Discuss the relationship between God’s word and food. What is more important, physical or spiritual food?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we praise you for sending your Son Jesus to be our true Bread and Wine. Grant to us your Spirit, so that our body and soul would be preserved unto everlasting life, by feeding on the Body and Blood of Jesus in our hearts by faith and with thanksgiving. Amen.

Submitted by Michael J. Shover

Year C – Fourth Sunday of Advent – Heb 10:5-10

Consequently, when Christ[a] came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:5-10 ESV)

Summary—In our text today, the author of the Hebrews quotes from the words of David in Psalm 40 to explain why there is a Christmas. and why Christ came into this world.  “I have come to do your will, O God.”  When Jesus came into the world he changed everything.  Old Testament sacrifices were fulfilled in Christ.  The Old Covenant sacrificial system was replaced with a better sacrifice once for all.  The author explains this by saying, “He sets aside the first to establish the second.”  By offering Himself as sacrifice, Christ marked the end of the sacrifices of the Old Testament and ushered in the accomplishing something that no one else in the whole world to do.  He came to show the way to salvation through His perfect sacrifice.

Insight—When you look under the Christmas tree, what do you see?  Why were they put there?  To some, these presents are nothing more than presents, wrapped with sheets of paper and secured with sticky tape.  They are just material objects, purchased as an offering for the enjoyment of their families.  We get so wrapped up (pun intended) in getting the perfect gift that we lose sight of why they are put their in the first place.  During the time of Christ, Jews lost track of why they offered their presents to God.  Day after day, they brought animals to the alter as sacrifices so that they would make God happy and receive his favor and reward.  They thought the sacrifice alone would earn God’s salvation. They were wrong.  Although God told Israel to offer sacrifices, he took no pleasure in these offerings.  Listen to the words of I Samuel 15:22, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice the the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”  God is not satisfied only with sacrifices.  They are just substitutes.  They are shadows pointing to the reality of something better.  If you put presents under the tree to earn favor with loved ones, than you are missing the point of the gifts.  We aren’t earning anything that way.  Christians give gifts because we have already received the best gift of all.  Only Christians can give presents in the right way.  We know, by faith that God gave Christ to His people once and for all to make us holy.  That means he gave us Christ out of love.  Those gifts under the tree represent that perfect gift.  So give with a cheerful heart, with the right attitude of giving, with the love that Christ already showed us in His present to us.

Child Catechism—Q: Why did Christ come into the World? A: To do God’s will.

Discussion—What is the difference between giving and grabbing presents during Christmas?  Why can Christians alone give presents in the right way?

Prayer—Father God in heaven, we rejoice in your present to us this Christmas season.  We humbly thank you for sending your Son as a sacrifice offered for our salvation.  You have made us a people who can rejoice in your gifts.  Help us to reflect that joy to others in our giving by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Use our gifts and joyful obedience to bring the nations into glad service of our Lord Jesus.  We ask this in name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Contributed by Mike Fenimore