Sermon, Text: What Child is This? Christmas Revisited, Text: Hebrews 1:1-3, 2:14-18


You have sung the hymn, “What child is this, who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet while Shepherds watch are keeping?” Now isn’t that sweet? What a beautiful scenario. However, I fear that most of us have missed the point of the perceptive author’s second line. When he says that Jesus is the one whom angels greet with anthems sweet he is saying something about Jesus. And when he adds that Shepherds watch are keeping, he is saying something else about Jesus. The ultimate question is, “Who is this child?” “What child is this?” If you do not know who this child is, you have missed the entire message of the Bible. When the hymn writer says that He is the one “Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,” he is referring to His divine nature, When he says that “Shepherds watch are keeping,” he is referring to His human nature as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Shepherds keep sheep and protect them and their tender lambs. I propose that we should consider who this child is under two headings. Whom do the Seraphs worship and Whom do the Shepherds keep? These truths are set before us in the book of Hebrews, Chapters 1&2. You would do well to read all of those chapters, but we shall only consider selected verses.

I Whom do the Seraphs worship?

Isaiah 6:1-3 They worship the triune God almighty. Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit Holy Holy Holy the triune Creator, In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” This is exactly what the author of Hebrews says in 1: 1-3, In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. And he adds a quotation from Psalm 97, “Let all God’s Angels worship Him.” The sole reason why the angels greeted Jesus with anthems sweet was that he was their creator. These are the same angels that stand by the throne of God and sing “Holy, Holy, Holy,” both day and night. Does it not strike you as odd that the angels who persistently worship God should appear at a manger in Bethlehem and sing the same song? The story began a long time ago. God promised Abraham that his seed would inherit the earth.. Hebrews 1:2 says that Jesus is the seed, or heir. Paul adds in Galatians 2: 16 That that seed is Christ. Then God said to David that he would have an heir to sit on his throne forever in Psalm 84. Doesn’t the promise imply that the heir is eternal? Old Testament prophecy carries this promise forward. In Isaiah 7:14 we read that The virgin will bear a son and his name shall be called Immanuel which means God with us. Isaiah 9 says Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and He is the mighty God, the everlasting Father. Micah 5:2 says that the one born in Bethlehem is the ruler of Israel who has origins of old, from ancient times. Could the witness of Scripture be missed? And yet you might say this is great theology, but what does it have to do with me? In Colossians 2: 9 Paul says, In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. In Paul’s day false teachers had infiltrated the Colossian church and were teaching that Jesus was far from unique. They claimed there were many mediators who could build a bridge between earth and heaven. Each possessed a slice of divine fullness, they said, a spark of deity that could connect mere mortals with God. This lie lives on in modern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, but also in post modern America where one man’s way to God is as good as another. Paul disagreed. He declared that in Christ the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. Paul used a word for “live” that means “take up permanent residence.” In Jesus Christ, the eternal Son has taken up permanent residence as God “in the flesh.” So whom do you worship? Not the Father, not Jesus, not the Spirit, but all three. The diversity of the created world is a constant witness to the fact that the true and living God is not bare unity but contains diversity in his nature. And also our salvation is planned by the Father, accomplished by the Son and applied by the Spirit.

II Whom Do the Shepherds Worship?

At Christmas our Pastor taught us that the shepherds were one of the least likely candidates to receive this message. They were despised and looked upon as untrustworthy. But there is a reason why the angels bring the message to the shepherds of Bethlehem. In Psalm 80:1, we read, Hear us O shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. God is a shepherd. He chose as his prototypical king a shepherd named David who wrote for us that beautiful Psalm, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. And when the one who was to sit on David’s throne forever came, He said, in John 10, I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. Please recognize that this was all planned. Thus when God sent the seraphim to Bethlehem he sent them to shepherds. He did this because the one whom they worshiped was not only a shepherd, he was the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It is probably easier to think of Jesus as a shepherd than one of the sheep. But you see that is exactly what he became. So when the prophet Isaiah speaks of his atoning death in Isaiah 53, he says, He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. As a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. The shepherd became the sheep, the sacrificial lamb. In Hebrews 2:14-18 the author of Hebrews is preaching to Jewish converts to Christianity who are under severe persecution, Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. He wants them to understand the marvel of God’s redemptive plan so that they will be stalwart and not turn away. The way to understand it is the angels and the shepherds. This teaching is the central scandal of the Christian faith. There is no way to minimize this shocking news at the gospel’s core. The Christian faith teaches that God has “moved into our neighborhood” in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the incarnate Son, knows what it means to be dead tired at the end of a full day of work. He knows the misery of the flu and the shooting pain of a toothache. He experienced all that and more so that, in his own person, he could bridge earth and heaven. Here is the good news: Jesus Christ is able to bear our guilt because he is fully human! And he is able to carry that load of sin because he is fully God! Come near to Jesus in faith. After all, in his incarnation he has drawn near to you.