2011 12 18

Jesus Is the Radiance

Reverend Anthony R. Locke

December 18th, 2011  www.FirstPresTucker.org

at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker


Fourth Sunday of Advent 2011


Hebrews 1:1-2:1 English Standard Version

1    Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,

2    but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

3    He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making 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.

5    For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?

6    And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

7    Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

8    But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

9    You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

10  And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;

11  they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment,

12  like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”

13  And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

14  Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

1    Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.[1]

Celebrating Christmas Day on December 25th was decided by the early church sometime before the 3rd century.

Origin was against celebrating the birth of Jesus. He reasoned that pagans celebrated the birth of the Egyptian Pharaohs. Pagans celebrated Herod’s birthday. Why be like the pagans?

Clement of Alexandria disagreed. He wanted to celebrate Christmas on May 20. He wrote extensively on the subject. He had friends who argued for April 18, April 19, and May 28. One of those friends was on the right track, Hippolytus, who argued for January 2.

Polycarp had a unique opinion. He concluded that Christ’s birth and baptism most likely occurred on Wednesday, because the sun was created on the fourth day of creation.

So after years of speculation and various solutions, the Church chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. In 273 we have the earliest written affirmation of this tradition.

December 25th already hosted two other worldwide festivals. The Roman “birth of the unconquered sun” which was celebrated by men, soldiers and macho guys. And others celebrated the birthday of Mithras the “Sun of Righteousness.”

And the church placed their celebration on the same day to compete with these false religious traditions.

You might say that the church commandeered the universal celebration of the Radiance of the Sun, and transformed it into the universal worship of the Radiance of the Son of God.

And this is good advice for any community of believers. If your town parties for ungodly purposes, then schedule a church party on the same night. It keeps your members from doing something they might regret and allows the believers to get out and have community fellowship.

Even the Americanized Christmas isn’t a problem. Don’t let extra religious people make you feel guilty for stringing lights, exchanging presents and decorating a tree on Christmas. The early Church transformed December 25th into something beautiful. These traditions are redeemed for Jesus sake.

Embrace Christmas as a testimony to the power of the Christ Child to transform our broken world for God’s glory, and not a testimony to the power of false religion to infiltrate the church.

There is another good reason to celebrate the coming of light into the world during the winter season. The Winter Solstice occurs Thursday the 22nd of this week.

The Winter Solstice occurs exactly when the axial tilt of a planet’s polar hemisphere is farthest away from the star that it orbits. In layman’s terms, that means that Thursday is the shortest day and longest night of the year.

It’s a great time of the year to celebrate the appearance of the unconquered Son of God, the Son of Righteousness, who is the Radiance of the Father’s glory!

The long nights and short days provide a visual reminder of our spiritual condition. Without the radiant appearing of Jesus Christ in the manger of Bethlehem we will remain in the cold darkness of our sin and misery.

While pagans celebrated the appearance of light during the darkest time of the year, now the church has transformed the day to celebrate the true light of God.

Silent Night speaks of Jesus as loves pure light. How do we understand that Jesus is the light of the world?

The first chapter of Hebrews provides four descriptive labels to understand Jesus.

In verse 2 Jesus is appointed the Heir of all Things according to the will of the Father.

In Genesis, God the Father delegated the details of the Creation to the Second Person of the Trinity, that being Jesus. And when the Creation fell into a curse and was stained by sin, there was no longer a holy purpose for the Creation.

But God the Father sent Jesus the Son to redeem the Creation by His blood shed on Calvary. And now the Creation is good enough to be listed as a primary asset from the Father to His heir. And Jesus is the heir of all things, including the redeemed Creation.

Second, Hebrews next labels Jesus with the title to our sermon. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God. That’s in verse 3.

All people of the creation desire to see Jesus shine!

Shine, Jesus, shine, Fill this land with the Father’s glory

Send forth Your Word, Lord And let there be light!

All people are created with a yearning to see Jesus glorified. It is our highest purpose: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Jesus is the hope of the nations. Jesus is the light of the world!

But these are not just the claims of the Church. Jesus said John 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The Baby in the Manger is the light that shines when hope is at it’s lowest. And when we place our faith in Jesus as our Savior, then the Hope of the World fills our soul with the light of the Father’s glory.

Now in case that was a little deep, God provides a second label that is equal to the first. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and Jesus is the exact imprint of the Father’s nature.

John 14:9 Jesus said Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

All over the Mall of Georgia are images of baby Jesus in the manger. Often there are beams of light coming out of the manger. The unbelieving world can make toys and nativities that show the brilliant glory of the Father that shines from Jesus, but they don’t believe? Why?

2 Corinthians 4:4 says, The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

To believe in the light of the Gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ is conversion. That’s salvation. A person comes to faith when they see and confess that Jesus is Lord. He is sovereign. He is the image of the Father incarnate, full or grace and truth. And Christmas sets this truth before the world once a year. The Devil works extra hard to redirect our focus to Santa, presents and the holiday season. May God help us not to be blinded by the god of this age.

God has sent us His image in the person of Jesus Christ. The exact imprint of the Father’s nature. How else can we say this?

  • The soul/heart of Baby Jesus is the exact imprint of the soul/heart of God the Father.
  • The personhood of Jesus contains the same personal attributes of God.
  • While the flesh of Jesus is the flesh of His mother Mary, the blood of Joseph does not transfer the curse to Jesus for He was virgin born.
  • The will of Jesus is in exact agreement with the will of the Father.
  • The mind of Jesus was born a blank slate, and He had to grow in wisdom and stature just like us, but the Word of God implanted itself into the soul of Jesus and found perfect agreement with the One who is also known as the Eternal Logos, the Personified Eternal Word that became flesh and dwelt among men.

This is what it means that Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.

Jesus is the Creator wrapped in swaddling clothes. And Jesus holds it all together by the word of his power.

Our next big label to understand the glory of Jesus is in verse 5. The Father said to the Son, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.”

Jesus is the only Begotten Son of God. The word “begotten” is an English translation of a Greek word Monogenes which means “being the only one of its kind or class, unique in kind.”

This is the meaning in John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Jesus is the only one of His kind. He is unique in His classification. Only one human child has ever been born who is equal to God in glory and honor.

  • Only the Christ Child has life in Himself like God.
  • Only the Christ Child is infinite in being and perfection like the Father.
  • Only the Christ Child is most wise, most holy and free.
  • The Christmas Child is most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth.
  • Jesus has glory and goodness in and by Himself.
  • Jesus is the Anointed, the Only Begotten Son of God.

And all these qualities are displayed in real life, within a family, within a community for us to see the full glory of God in human terms. This is the light Jesus brings.

And God the Father declares of Jesus Hebrews 1:8 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

It reminds me of Philippians 2:9-11 God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And the ultimate begetting of Jesus is not in the manger, but on the Cross. The Father sets Jesus before the world to see His glory through meekness and brokenness. All the creation beholds the perfect Lamb of God.

And as Jesus hangs in our place we see loves pure light.

Hebrews 2:1 we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. And this is true for us. We must pay closer attention to Jesus during Christmas or we drift back into celebrating nothing better than the pagan rituals that the church intended to replace.

Let’s keep the light of Jesus center stage this Christmas. Let’s lift up Jesus before our children.

And as we keep this festival we keep the faith that Jesus is the radiance of the Father’s glory. Jesus is the exact imprint of the Father’s nature. Jesus is unique and the heir of all things. May we worship Him with these truths in mind this Christmas Season. Merry Christmas.



[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.



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