The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Hebrews 10:5 “Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me;’ 6 In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.’ 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.’ 8 After saying above, ‘Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will.’ He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (NASB)
Over the next 48 hours, five out of six of my kids, one son-in-law, one fiancee, a friend or two, and two dogs will descend on the house to celebrate Christmas. Here’s the problem. The house is 20′ x 30′ and over the years the parsonage has become a bit of a storage unit. I have stuff from three sons and one daughter stored in various places throughout the house and in the garage.
Over the past three weeks, I have spent a lot of time making not only making Christmas things, decorating, shopping, unpacking Amazon boxes, and doing my share of wrapping gifts, but I have spent a lot of time organizing, cleaning out, and up.
We do this because that is what it means to be the host. The host doesn’t expect the guests to do the cleaning, even when the guests are our own adult children. Yet, this is what our Holy Guest did and does when He comes to dwell among us. This is what the Epistle lesson is teaching us.
We’re about 39 hours away from Christmas. We are all suppose to be at the apex of the “Christmas spirit.” So a reading from Hebrews 10 on the 4th Sunday in Advent right before Christmas seems a little strange. Micah 5:2 “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.” Now here’s a Bible reading that starts moving us all in the Christmas direction. Then there’s the Gospel lesson. 42 “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? . . . 46 And Mary said: ‘My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.’” That’s certainly moves the more liturgical and theological Christians among us toward the Christmas event.
But Hebrews 10 hardly seems like an inspiriting Christmas reading 6 “In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.’ 8 After saying above, ‘Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the Law).” Nothing says Christmas like that, now does it? Now I admit that reading doesn’t invoke in the mind of the hearer images of Christmas the holy nativity, Christmas cheer, and joy to the world. In fact the whole of chapter 10 is all about a sacrifices and bloody atonement for the sins of the world.
But then when I read the Epistle lesson from the lectern over there a little bit ago you might have missed something. Now the translation I used began with the word English word “therefore” in verse 5. But the word “consequently” might be a better translation. It certainly makes it easier to understand, “Consequently, when He [Christ] comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering You [God] have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me.’”
Now there is it. Did you hear it, the Christmas part of the assigned reading for this 4th Sunday in Advent? God made flesh. “But a body You have prepared for Me.”
In Hebrews 10:5ff the Son of God acknowledges that a body had been prepared for Him and that the sacrifices of a faithless and lazy people never pleases the Lord God.
That’s why it’s a 4th Sunday in Advent type of reading. Here we have from Son of God’s perspective what is and has happened in the Annunciation from the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary when the Son of God was conceived in her and would nine months later be born into the world.
In a chapter dedicated to blood sacrifices, atonement, and what they do and don’t do in regard to sin, we God’s Word tells us the “when [Christ] comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me.’”
The last half of the verse is a quote from Psalm 40, written by King David about the promised Messiah and what He would come into the world to do. The writer of Hebrews puts those words into the mouth of the pre-incarnate Son of God.
“A body You have prepared for Me.” It’s a quote from the Greek version of the Psalms. Both Psalm 40 and in Hebrews here the Savior goes on to say “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. 8 I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.’”
In a chapter about blood sacrifices, we have these verses about the incarnation, about the Son of God taking on flesh. In order words, a reference to Christmas–Immanuel–God with us and what He would do, namely do “house” cleaning, make us clean in the blood of the Lamb. The Son of the Most High God visits us from on high. He comes to dwell among us.
The world and most Christians have it backwards. They think Christmas is about the Son of God coming into the world to show bring out our better angels. They think Jesus has come to inspire us to be better, kinder, and more giving people. Unbelievers think Christmas is one of the leftovers from days gone by when more primitive and superstitious people believed in myths, yet still find it helpful in trying to get people to be kinder to one another.
When the Son of God took on flesh, He knew that He stood on enemy ground and among people who sought and still seek to kill Him. John 1:5 “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
While the darkness rejected the Light and shed His blood and put Him to death on the cross, He rose on Easter morning breaking apart eternal darkness by making His people clean. So what was written in Leviticus 19:2 would be our reality. “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”
Holiness is the standard. The standard isn’t that a person be a “good person” or do “good things.” The standard is to be holy, perfect, righteous in the sight of God. Jesus even said that. Matthew 5:48, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” From God’s words to you ears. Anything short of perfection disqualifies you from being in the presence of God.
In order to atone for sin, which made us imperfect, that is unholy (unclean) God commanded the children of Old Testament Israel to shed the blood of animals to pay for sin. The blood sacrifices brought forgiveness of sins and restored holiness when offered by the faithful.
Hebrews 9:2 tells us “According to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” The blood sacrifices of animals in the Old Testament atoned for sins because they were connected to blood of the Lamb of God.
In the Lord’s Supper you receive the remission of your sins because the body and blood (the person and work of Jesus) join the elements of bread and wine and produced the remission of sins for the worthy recipient of the Lord’s Supper. It is not the bread and wine that produces remission. It is the Word of God joined to the bread and wine that produces the body and blood and the remission of sin for the worthy recipient. And who is the worthy recipient? The Small Catechism summarizes that rather concisely. “Fasting and bodily preparation is, indeed, a fine outward training; but he is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins. But he that does not believe these words, or doubts, is unworthy and unfit; for the words For you require altogether believing hearts.”
Hebrews 10:9-10 teaches that “He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” He took away the first delivery system of grace and forgiveness, that is the animal sacrifice and established the second, the body and blood (person and work of Jesus Christ), which is delivered through the Word and Sacrament Ministry of the Church. The old has passed away. The new testament has come. It dawned on Christmas morning.
In order for there to be forgiveness and the restoration of holiness so that we’d have fellowship with God, we needed to be cleansed with the blood of Christ. 1 John 1:7 “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (Eph 2:13-14, 16) “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, … and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross…”
Christmas is about the Son of God taking on flesh to live and dwell among us in perfect faithfulness and obedience to the heavenly Father. Christmas is about the Savior, the Promised Lamb who came into the world to take our sin unto Himself and to make atonement for it.
Hebrews 10:10 “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” And, He did! Our coming King came to make us clean with His holy life, innocent suffering and death, and glorious Easter resurrection. That work began in earnest on Christmas morning
So as you go about your final preparation for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as you go about the tasks of hosting or of being a guest, listen to real Christmas hymns and carols that sing of our Lord nativity and work and remember as you clean and prepare to the event, remember Christmas Day is coming but the Lord God has already made you clean. 10 By this [the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ] will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.