Christmas is a difficult season for listening. Every commercial, every wish list, every TV special, and every gathering shouts a different message regarding what the season is “about.” Typically the white noise amounts to a nondescript, heavily commercialized sentimentality that drowns out the gospel narrative we hold dear. So in this season we must be intentional about what we hear.
Our Advent sermons this year will come from Hebrews, a sermon-like letter sent to a struggling house church of Jewish believers in Jesus. They did not have red-nosed reindeer or shopping lists ringing in their ears, but they definitely had a hearing problem. The preacher pulls no punches: “you have become dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11). In particular, they were not listening to what God had spoken by his Son, the Word become flesh.
Thus the first three chapters of Hebrews make repeated references to voices these floundering believers do perk up to hear: prophets and angels. The sermon opens by affirming that “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1). The remainder of Hebrews 1 concerns angels, since “the message declared by angels proved to be reliable” (Hebrews 2:2). In Hebrews 3:5 Moses’ faithfulness “to testify to the things that were to be spoken later” is commended. Prophets, angels, and Moses were all messengers whose words were deeply respected by the recipients of this written sermon. And in each case the author goes to strenuous lengths to show that God’s loudest, definitive message was “spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2), Jesus, who is “superior to angels” (Hebrews 1:4) and “counted worthy of more glory than Moses” (Hebrews 3:3).
Thus our focus this Advent season will be “Listening at the Manger.” It is not enough only to acknowledge that Christmas is about Jesus. We must turn down the volume of our consumeristic culture and listen to what God is saying to us through the one born in Bethlehem. It is a powerful, life-changing word, and I look forward to listening with you.