We are on the “fast track” to finish reading the Bible before the end of the year, as over the next nine days we will read Hebrews, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, and Revelation! I remember listening to a podcast once of a speaker who spoke VERY slowly, so I turned up the speed to a better pace for my comprehension (and patience 😊). I feel like someone has turned up the speed on our reading pace!
Today’s read was Hebrews 1-6. Bible scholars don’t agree on the who wrote this letter. It sounds a LOT like Paul’s writing to me, but some believe it was written after his death. Apollos, Barnabas, and Luke are suggested as possible authors. In any case, it is written to Jewish believers, as it quotes heavily from the Old Testament and explains the preeminent, once-for-all substitutionary sacrifice of Christ as the fulfillment of all the sacrifices.
These first chapters contain some timely encouragement. This week we are celebrating Christmas when the Son of God became human flesh. In order to conquer death, He had to be made human and share in our flesh and blood. That’s not a concept that’s easily understood, but by faith, accepting it can change your world. Christmas can be a lonely and unhappy time for many people. Instead of joy, it can remind us of all we’ve lost – a loved one, a dream for our lives, a career that provided things we enjoyed and wanted. We can look around and observe everyone else’s happiness and be a little resentful toward God that things didn’t turn out so well for us…either this year, or in all ways.
How different life would look if we truly accepted that Jesus came to make us family? “Both the One who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says, ‘I will declare Your name to My brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing Your praises.’” (2:11-12) Later, the writer tells us that Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house, and “we are His house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” (3:6)
Did you get that? As Christ-followers, we are family! It doesn’t matter if our own earthly families have abandoned us, or rejected us, or simply been taken from us, we still have family in Christ. It doesn’t matter what you’ve lost, or what you never gained in this world. You are related to the highest royalty there is. The Son of God, Creator of the universe, calls you and me His brothers and sisters!
How does this help us? How can it take away the pain of loss and regret? Quoting from the Old Testament, three times the writer urges His readers, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (3:7, 3:15, 4:7) Then he reminds us we have a great High Priest who suffered and was tempted just like we are, and can empathize with our weaknesses, so we ought to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.” (4:15-16)
If you’re a believer, and you’re lonely, or hurt, or feeling a little bitter this Christmas, do not harden your heart. Instead, come home to your family. Jesus will be there for you. He has exactly what you need; you only need to ask. We must decide if we want to spend this Christmas thinking about what we don’t have, or if we will soften our hearts and turn our minds to what we do have in Christ. That will make all the difference in how we spend Christmas this year.